I think we can all agree: 2019 was a weird-ass year, permeated by a creeping dissolution of societal norms and structures. We’re not going to talk about the larger ramifications of that here, but we are going to talk about beer.
Beer didn’t just get weird; it got downright existential. While sipping on our hybrid spontaneously fermented wild ales made with Champagne yeast and aged in gin barrels, we found ourselves wondering what even is beer anymore. This was the year that beer became natural wine, when craft brewers started churning out hard seltzer by the keg, and when it suddenly became totally cool to order sparkling hop waters, non-alcoholic THC-infused beer, and CBD kombucha in a bar.
As outlandish as some of 2019’s debuts may be, it only makes sense that when there are more than 7,000 craft breweries in the United States, some would go to extra lengths to stand out from the pack. Brewers felt free to make beer with bagels, beer with carrots, beer with celery, beer with mushrooms, and beer with off-brand Lucky Charms.
Some might say that the craft brewing industry jumped the shark, but to be honest, we’re here for these weird-as-hell beers. Yes, certain attempts were more successful than others, but we’d rather see someone go out on a limb than churn out another snooze-worthy hazy IPA. So without further ado, here are the strangest brews of the bunch. Some are beer, some are kind of beer-like, and some we don’t know what to hell to call.
This Goat Farmer’s Hybrid Superbrew
What do you get when a neuroscientist and a goat farmer join forces? It might sound like the start of a joke, but it’s actually part of the unlikely origin story of this most unlikely of beverages. We’re not even really sure how to classify Willie’s Superbrew—it’s a little like a ginger beer, a kombucha, and a hard seltzer had a slightly spicy, 4.5% ABV baby.
This Estonian Wild Foraged Beer
Yes, there’s craft beer in Estonia. For a country with a population of only 1.3 million, this nation on the Baltic Sea has a surprisingly robust brewing movement. What’s more, some of the leaders of the scene are putting a decidedly local spin on their creations by incorporating foraged ingredients like cloudberries and sea buckthorn.
This Kombucha Made with a Didgeridoo
Sound-infused kombucha may sound like something your vegan, ayahuasca-tripping yogi friend dreamed up, but the brewers behind this unusual product swear that their SCOBY is listening. By using instruments ranging from singing bowls to a didgeridoo (yes, really), they claim that they can dramatically alter the final product.
This Eco-Friendly Beer Made with Recycled New York Bagels
Keto and low-carb diets have never managed to quell New York’s love of bagels. Nevertheless, the city’s bakers still produce more doughy rounds than the local population can consume. To reduce food waste, one iconic baker teamed up with a brewery to produce a Berliner weisse using some of the leftovers.
This Celery Juice Beer
Celery juice was having a bit of a moment as a health fad this year and whether or not you buy into the panacea-like claims, it suddenly started appearing everywhere—even in beer. While it might sound gross, sea salt, celery juice, and celery seeds actually make for a refreshing twist on the classic gose.
This IPA That Tastes Like Your Childhood Breakfast Cereal
For definitive proof of the powers of millennial nostalgia, look no further than the fact that an IPA loaded with knock-off Lucky Charms drew four-block lines before the brewery responsible even opened. Not surprisingly, dumping a bunch of marshmallows into the boil won’t actually allow you to relive your Saturday morning cartoon watching days, but that didn’t seem to stop it from selling out instantly.
This PBR Hard Coffee
The internet lost its shit over this unholy hybrid. As they used to say in the 1980s, back when espresso martinis were cool, it’ll wake you up and fuck you up, which apparently struck a chord with frat bros everywhere. At 5% ABV, you could even chug several of these, if that’s your thing.
This Mushroom Dessert Beer That Magically Tastes Like Maple Syrup
Please don’t ask us how the makers of Fungus Shui managed to make a beer out of mushrooms that tastes like something you’d pour over pancakes. There isn’t a whiff of actual maple in here or even a maple syrup barrels used for aging. We’ll chalk this up to science, or possibly wizardry. Either way, it’s a shockingly delicious, totally unexpected dessert beer.
This Cult-Hit Pickle Beer
Martin House Brewing’s gose infused with tangy, briny, pickle-y goodness caused something of a frenzy this year. It took our review team several months to get their paws on a can, but when they did, it was worth the wait.
This Jet-Black Beer Made with Oysters and Squid Ink
Down in Brazil, Three Monkeys has been brewing up some seriously weird concoctions, including a gazpacho-flavored beer and Al Mare, which owes its oceanic flavor profile to a squeeze of lemon, oysters, and squid ink. The latter ingredient makes for a disturbingly dark beer to match the funky can art.
This Beer Brewed with Real Corpse Flowers
It might sound macabre, but the flowers traditionally associated with burials in Mexico have a haunting, intense perfume that makes for a curiously compelling schwarzbier. Made with real rosita de cacao, this aromatic beer is the result of a collaboration between breweries in Mexico City and Denver.