Off the top of my head I’ve had beers made with cherries, raspberries, peaches, plums, lemon, lime, pineapple, pumpkin, heather, rimu, spruce, elderberries, bog myrtle, coriander, cumin, thyme, lemongrass, chilli, honey, cinnamon, kawakawa, candy sugar, wheat, oats, rice, rye, peat smoked malt, chocolate, liquorice, coffee, caffeine, caramel, bourbon, whisky, wild yeast, guarana and Food Acid 330.
Of course, just because you are able to put an ingredient into a beer doesn’t mean that it is a necessarily a good idea. I don’t think I will ever understand America’s strange love of pumpkin ales around Halloween. Yanjing’s sickly Pineapple Beer cost less than 30 cents a can and I still felt ripped off by it and Budweiser shows what happens if you use far too much rice. Don’t even get me started on nicotine beer or pizza-flavoured beer. I wish I was making those last two up.
Caffeine, guarana and Food Acid 330 were key ingredients in the now-discontinued MASH Energy Lager, a clear contender for worst New Zealand beer ever made. In one of my more popular reviews I wrote:
“This beverage (I am loathe to call it beer) contains caffeine, guarana, Food Acid 330 and ‘flavourings’. Yummo. It has the nose of a plastic mug filled with raspberry Raro cordial. It is so thin it makes Bud Light feel like Guinness and it finishes with the stomach-churning kick that only good old Food Acid 330 can provide. On a (somewhat) positive note, it certainly does give your gag reflex a good workout. It is probably best drunk cold, very cold, but no fridge I know can get it cold enough.”
Of course, well-chosen exotic ingredients can help create some very special beers. This certainly happened when the Three Boys brewery in Christchurch decided to revive the old Oyster Stout style for their annual winter brew. Oyster Stout is actually a very old and respected style of beer. The Victorians argued that if drinking beer was good for you (and it was certainly safer than drinking the water) and oysters were good for you, then surely a combination of stout and oysters would be a veritable health tonic. While less scrupulous brewers of yore would sometimes substitute mussels for oysters or, even worse, oyster shells for oysters, the Three Boys version is made with genuine Bluff oysters.
The beer is only released at the start of the Bluff Oyster season and is available now at Malthouse in its distinctive 500ml bottle. It pours an oily black with a firm tan head. The nose is outstanding with notes of coffee, figs and smoke. A generous use of specialty malts contributes to a smooth, silky mouthfeel. Three Boys Oyster Stout is a rich and complex beer with hints of coffee, chocolate, smoke, molasses and even leather. Drinkers often say they pick up a little saltiness too but that is probably because their palate is expecting salt from the oysters.
This is one of the country’s most fascinating beers. It only comes out once a year and stocks are limited.
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine
MASH Beer Review – http://www.salient.co.nz/columns/the-worst-beers-of-the-year
Three Boys – http://www.threeboysbrewery.co.nz/
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz/blog/blog.html
Beer and Brewer Magazine – http://www.beerandbrewer.com