Our 68th Session is hosted by Tiffany Adamowski who writes at 99 Pours. The topic she’s chosen is “Novelty Beers,” those oddball beers that range from interesting idea to what the fuck were you thinking:
With the onslaught of even weirder beards … erm … beers … than before, I can’t help but wonder if novelty beers are going too far. Or maybe not far enough? LOL! As a merchant of beer, I can see the place for novelty beers, as I am choosing for some customers who say, “I want the strangest beer you have.” We’ve even seen some novelty beers in our top-sellers. But beer traditionalists sometimes frown on these new and bizarre concoctions. And I can’t help but wonder if Martyn Cornell will participate, sharing bizarre but notable historic brews.
And what better time for novelty, than the month that holds Halloween? That’s six weeks from now, so get out and explore the novelty beers out there. Publish your Novelty Beer Session on Friday, October 5th, then share your posts here.
What novelty beer comes to mind when you think: Is this beer just to strange to stay around? Why in the world would they choose ingredients most beer drinkers have never heard of …what the heck is a qatar fruit? If it’s okay for beer to taste like tea or coffee, why not pizza? If wild yeasts are allowed to ferment beer, then why not beard yeast? If oysters, why not bacon? If pumpkin’s good enough for pie, why not beer? Since hops are flowers, why not brew with actual flowers?
I’ve had beer out of a bottle in a taxidermied stoat, pizza beer, beer containing Sam Calagione’s spit, beer that was 30+ years old (and not built for aging), beer with redwood tips instead of hops and who knows what else. If they brewed it, I’ve tried it. I guess I have no scruples about what I’ll at least try, beerwise, anyway. I tell myself it’s the job, that I should at least taste every beer that someone took the time to make and market. But the truth is I’m keen to try them, often just because of the novelty. As a result, I’ve had my fair share, perhaps more than my fair share, of novelty beers.
Novel, of course, means new, which is why we still call many books of fiction novels, a throwback to when the idea of writing fiction was, well … novel. Novelty, likewise, is also something new, unique and, ultimately, transitory, fleeting, ephemeral. Many people once thought craft beer was a passing fad. Hopefully, that notion no longer holds any weight outside the wishful thinking of many larger beer companies.
Novelty beers are meant to come and go. That’s what makes them novel. If they stick around, and are accepted, they lose their novelty status and become part of the canon. Did anyone except perhaps Vinnie Cilurzo think Double IPAs would take off they way they did? I doubt it.
For me, one of the novelty beers that I seek out is one that few people I’ve talked to share my passion for, which is why I thought it a good topic for this Session. I love peanut butter; always have. Creamy, that’s the only way. You crunchy fans? You’re wrong. Such is my passion for creamy peanut butter.
I lived in the south for a few years, where I discovered peanut butter pie. Somewhat like cheesecake in texture, and decadently rich, and often made even better with the addition of chocolate. I became obsessed, and would not only order it every time I’d find it on a menu, but even started actively seeking out new restaurants just to see if they made one. After I moved to California, it became much harder to find, and I only occasionally found any PBP. So far, most are not nearly as good as the ones I had in North Carolina, sadly.
But I did find a restaurant here in the Bay Area — Spettro’s in Oakland — that has a peanut butter specialty that I also love: peanut butter pizza. They take a thin layer of pizza dough, coat it with a layer of peanut butter, then add another layer of dough on top. Next, they make the pizza normally, with just one topping, the perfect choice to pair with peanut butter: bacon. It’s rich and delicious. Yum.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered that people were making peanut butter beer. A few years ago at GABF, someone was talking about it, but they couldn’t remember who made it. I was on a quest. Eventually, I hit pay dirt. It turned out to be, surprisingly enough, a Blue Moon product, and draft only, I later discovered.
So how was it? Pretty good, to my way of thinking. Most of the peanut butter flavor was in the nose, though it lingered through the flavors, too, just not as intensely. A light colored golden beer, it’s brewed with pale, caramel and munich malts; Chinook and Saaz hops (but only 12 IBUs); and weighs in at 5.4% a.b.v.
I later judged with Keith Villa, Blue Moon’s founder who came up with the peanut butter recipe. Apparently, they use jars of creamy peanut butter — JIF, I think he told me — right off the grocery store shelves, and the brewers hate having to spoon it into the kettle by hand. I can only imagine the clean-up afterwards is a nightmare, as well. And so, they don’t make it very often, he told me.
I later discovered that they weren’t the only ones, either. Short’s also made Uber Goober, and I’ve heard that Ohio’s Willoughby Brewing makes a Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter, also on draft only. A few others have tried their hand at a Peanut Butter Porter or Stout, too, and a search for “peanut butter” on Beer Advocate turns up 19 different efforts, of which two are retired. A similar search on Rate Beer found 25. So apparently I’m not alone in my love for all things peanut buttery. I just printed out the list to take with me to GABF next week. Fingers crossed, maybe I’ll find a few more peanut butter beers. Now all I need is a raspberry or strawberry beer to pair with it.