There are thousands of different beers in the world, macro-brews and craft beers, ales and lagers, stouts and pilsners, etc. But all of them are essentially made of the same few ingredients, concocted in different quantities: water, a starch such as wheat or rice, yeast, and hops. The place where a brewer can make their beer truly stand out from the others on tap or in the refrigerated case is flavoring ingredients. Hops give beer its tangy, bitter, beery taste, but so do everything else they throw in there—a little bit of lemon for a shandy-style beer, for example, or a coffee stout, or some pumpkin because everything has pumpkin in it these days. Some brewers get truly creative, if not adventurous or just plain mad, and create beers flavored with things that beer just should probably not be flavored with.
1. Whale Testicle Beer
If you’re a regular beer drinker, you’re probably sick to death of beers that taste like whale testicles. It’s like, get a new idea, craft brewers, we’re sick of beers flavored with that distinctive taste of a giant mammal’s reproductive parts. But really though, there’s a brewer in Iceland called Stedji that produces Hvalur 2, a beer that gets its taste from the addition of fin whale testicles. But not just any whale testicles: whale testicles that have been previously smoked in fires fueled by sheep dung.
2. Beard Beer
Hey, look, it’s the most Oregon thing ever. Oregon is basically a giant Portland, and both state and city are known for two things: drinking lots of beer, and how all the dudes have beards. One of those Oregon dudes with a beard is Rogue Brewery brew master John Maier, and somebody at the company joked that John’s impressive beard was so dark and dank it would make a great place to grow yeast. “Challenge accepted,” said John. Some hair was plucked out of his face and were used to cultivate yeast. That yeast strain is now used to produce Rogue’s Beard Beer.
3. Chocolate Oyster Beer
Good news: You no longer have to choose between a beer that tastes like chocolate and a beer that tastes like oysters. Rhode Island-based Foolproof Brewing Company made a beer that answered some weirdo beer lover’s prayers and brewed up Shuckolate, flavored with local oysters and local artisan chocolate. The company says it’s got a “creamy silk mouthfeel” (because of the chocolate) and “slight brininess” (because of, you know, the oysters).
4. Bacon Beer
If you’re reading this, you are a dude. This has nothing to do with your identified gender—being a dude is a way of life. Dudes like beer. And dudes like bacon. And, presumably, Holy City Brewing’s Notorious P.I.G. It’s a smoked porter, and its production involves the addition of 40 pounds of “flat-top cooked bacon” and “bacon-grease-soaked wood chips” tossed into the fermenter. The fat is skimmed off to create this beer, the ultimate beer for dudes, except for vegetarian and kosher dudes.
5. Pizza Beer
Beer pairs great with pizza, but if you’re not hungry or watching your lactose intake, you could just skip the pizza and drink Mamma Mia, a beer that’s meant to taste like the pizza. The brewing process involves the addition of Italian spices like basil and oregano, and also garlic, and also tomatoes.
6. Balsamic Vinegar Beer
If they were going to make a beer that tastes like salad dressing, at least it tastes like a balsamic vinegar-based one instead of, say, ranch dressing, or blue cheese. The Emielisse Brewery in the Netherlands has created the Aceto Balsamico, a hefty 7.5% ABV beer that’s aged in the barrels used to make balsamic vinegar. The beer itself reportedly takes on the sweet and fruity flavors of the vinegar but without the acidic taste (because that would be gross).
7. Ghost Pepper Beer
Those crazy hot ghost peppers (or Bhut jolokia) are in everything these days, from hot sauces at the farmer’s market to fast food burgers. It’s kind of terrifying to have it in a beer, as beers are supposed to soothe and refresh, not draw comparisons to Satan’s backwash. South Carolina’s Palmetto Brewing Company’s Ghost Rider is sadly free of any association with Nicolas Cage, but is spiced with ghost peppers, which have a ranking of 1 million units on the Scoville scale. (For comparison’s sake, that’s 1,000 times as spicy as a Poblano pepper.) Palmetto says this beer pairs best with a glass of milk.
8. Squid Ink Beer
Squid ink is often used as a natural food coloring agent—it doesn’t really add much flavor but it can be used to make cool stuff like black noodles. Or you could have it in a beer and really taste that squid’s ink sac on your tongue with Pacific Brewing Laboratory’s Squid Ink IPA. It’s a dark beer—like it’s literally dark. Because of all the squid ink.