5 weird beers that don't involve elephant dung
April 22nd, 2013
12:00 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Sometimes, when it comes to beer, the question is not "how?" but "why?" Take, for instance, Sankt Gallen Brewery in the Kanagawa region of Japan. In the past they’ve been modestly known for flavored beers: sweet orange ale, pineapple ale, orange chocolate stout. As of this week, though, they are abruptly widely known (at least among beer news followers) for their Un, Kono Kuro, a coffee stout made with coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of an elephant.

Now, right about here is where I run into all sorts of problems. Let’s just bypass the question of whether this beer tastes good or not. The real question is this: Why on earth would you ever want to eat or drink anything that was excreted by an elephant?

You might also ask a similar question, for instance, about Wynkoop Brewing Company’s Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, which, according to the brewery’s website, is made with “Colorado base malts, roasted barley, seven specialty malts, Styrian Goldings hops, and 25 pounds of freshly sliced and roasted bull testicles.” To the brewery's credit, the whole thing started as an April Fools’ Day joke, but the joke got so much attention that they decided to go ahead and make the beer anyway.

Because I am entirely in favor of pushing the boundaries of human experience, I did try it, and to be honest, it's pretty darn good; the testicular character is very subdued, if present at all. Regardless, I remain skeptical about the entire realm of meat-infused beers, much less those infused with roasted bulls’ balls.

There is, however, a long and ultimately much less alarming tradition of making beer with odd ingredients. Undoubtedly, the first time a Belgian brewer put coriander and orange peel in a white ale some 400 years ago, some local skeptic looked at it and said, “Really? Coriander? Are you nuts?”

With that in mind, here five unusual-ingredient beers that really are worth searching for.

Dogfish Head Brewery - Sixty-One
Delaware brewer Sam Calagione takes his popular 60 Minute IPA and brews it with Syrah grape must (crushed grapes and their juice) for this new, rose-colored IPA, which has classic citrusy hops notes together with a light tangy fruitiness - a great warm-weather, sit-on-the-porch beer.

Flying Dog - Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout
Actual oyster stouts (as opposed to Wynkoop’s version) have a long tradition, going back to the Victorian era in England. And yes, they are actually brewed with oysters. Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery makes a lightly briny version using local Chesapeake Bay oysters, and a percentage of the profits go to the Oyster Recovery Partnership - a nonprofit dedicated to oyster restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay).

Lazy Magnolia - Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale
There’s an idea: Make a nut brown ale (a traditional English style) using actual nuts. And, if you’re based in Mississippi as brewer Mark Henderson is, that would be pecans. Though it sounds a little gimmicky, the pecans actually give a very appealing, nutty (what else are you going to call it?) note to this rich brown ale.

Rogue - Chipotle Ale
This adventurous Oregon-based brewery has experimented with a range of unexpected ingredients—hazelnuts, soba (buckwheat), juniper berries. Rogue Chipotle Ale is a spicy variant on the brewery’s popular American Amber Ale, using smoked chipotle peppers.

Baladin - Nora
Teo Musso, who’s either the Johnny Depp or Willy Wonka of Italian craft brewing—I’ve heard him referred to both ways—was inspired by an ancient Egyptian beer recipe for this spiced ale. He uses unmalted kamut (a grain which was used in ancient Egyptian brewing) in the mash, then adds ginger, myrrh and orange peel. It’s complex and unusual, and would be terrific with the sweet-sour-spicy flavors in a lot of Asian cuisines.

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. blatherbeard

    You have obviously never had the beers made with Kopi Lupak coffee which are very good stouts. 512 pecan porter is much better than lazy magnolias pecan ale as well.

    Id try all of em =)

    April 25, 2013 at 9:30 am | Reply
  2. Old Enough

    Although traditionally I don't prefer "flavored" beers, I would try all of them.. never know, might find somethig unexpected! I was just in Old Town Alexandria enjoying some fresh local oysters... Would have been great to try the Oyster Stout with them!

    April 24, 2013 at 7:50 am | Reply
  3. V'rie

    Now I must pour myself another glass of Jalepeno Heff

    April 23, 2013 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  4. Adam4x4

    I've had beer made from cherries and a beer made with Jalapeno. Both very good. Dung and animal meat products? I don't think I will go there.

    April 23, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  5. Nunya

    So many nuts, so little time...

    April 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  6. space chimp

    The Flying Dog and the Lazy Magnolia beers are both good stuff. Haven't had the others though.

    April 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Reply
  7. Rob

    Poop beer and poop coffee? No thanks. I like my rotting drinks poop free.

    April 23, 2013 at 11:09 am | Reply
    • Old Enough

      I would hope that the beans are cleaned before used for brewing.. I wonder what the "process" does to the beans, that you don't get with "unprocessed" beans?

      April 24, 2013 at 7:53 am | Reply
  8. Shirley U Jest

    Drinking something made from coffee beans passed through and elephant. It doesn't sound so weird after the worlds rage in coffee. Coffee drinkers can't get enough of Kopi luwak, coffee beans passed through a civet.

    Now rotting oysters in my beer? Nah, I'd rather eat them fresh

    April 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Reply
    • Geoscba

      Well, except that the "oysters" they refer to (Rocky Mountain Oysters) are fresh bull's testicles.

      April 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Reply
      • Rob

        I think he was refering to the Flying Dog – Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout that's mentioned further down in the article.

        April 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Reply
        • Shirely U. Jest

          Aye.

          April 24, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • BeerBrewerDan

      Rotting?

      April 24, 2013 at 8:42 am | Reply
      • Shirely U. Jest

        Technically, beer is created by a rotting process. Similarly, so are the various kinds of kimchi. Which reminds me, a great kimchi includes oysters in it, good stuff. Oh dear lord what have I said? Okay, put that oyster beer in front of me and I'll probably like it. But there had better be some on the half shell as well.

        April 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Reply

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