According to the Reinheitsgebot, a.k.a. the German purity law of 1516, beer should contain nothing but water, barley, and hops. Today's brewers, however, are nothing if not a creative bunch, and archaic laws don't sit well with them. Every year sees new experiments in flavor, from the truly innovative to the downright strange. In general, you can expect these inventions to lean toward the sweeter side of things—cookies, pancakes, and other baked goods aren't entirely unexpected. But when beer goes savory, as is the case in a couple examples below, things get weird.
But we've done the hard work of sorting out the beers that are nothing but bad-tasting gimmicks from the ones that actually push flavor in new directions—just maybe not the directions anyone was expecting, or ever wanted. Nevertheless, these out-of-this-world beers are worth putting on your radar, especially if you have an adventurous palate.
This saison, which is brewed with real Maine lobsters, has been around for a few years, but Matt Osgood got the story behind its origins. "“It’s the best lobster I’ve ever eaten,” says Oxbow founder Tim Adams. “That’s why we are so psyched to brew it every year. It’s an excuse to eat the damn lobster.”
Aaron Goldfarb expected to hate IHOP's Pumpkin Pancake Stout, brewed by Keegan Ales, which he had to track down at a charmless hotel in Downtown Brooklyn. Spoiler alert: "If this wasn’t a gimmick beer, you wouldn’t know it was a gimmick beer," Goldfarb writes. "I quite enjoyed it. And maybe that’s the biggest gimmick of them all."
Planters, the biggest brand name in the peanut game, decided to try its hand at beer this year, in collaboration with Noon Whistle Brewing. Our reviewer Jerard Fagenberg gave it high marks, writing, "Mr. IPA-Nut manages to capture, in a single can, what makes the combination of cold beer and salty peanuts such a time-tested pairing."
Collective Brewing Project got plenty of headlines when it dropped this instant ramen-infused gose last year. Skeptics be damned, it's a fine beer, says our reviewer Nathan Matisse. "Even if the idea seems like it came from dorm room, the result lets craft beer enthusiasts know innovation in imbibing remains alive and well."
This could've gone so, so wrong, but in the masterful hands of Prairie Artisan Ales, this stout—made with 700 pounds of Oreo cookies—drinks like a dream. According to our reviewer Tucker Anders, "If you like Oreos and you like beer, you will love Double Dunk.”
There are plenty of doughnut stouts out there, but thankfully Harpoon Brewery decided to use Dunkin's coffe in its porter instead. "Harpoon has done justice to the coffee porter, and in the process created a dream of a fall pairing beer," says our reviewer Tom Thornton.