Appropriately chosen for Halloween, October’s topic for The Session is Frankenstein beer. This topic for The Session #44 was chosen and is hosted by Ashley V. Routson (@TheBeerWench) on her blog Drink With the Wench. The guidelines for the topic of “Frankenstein beers” were given as follows:
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a blog post on “Frankenstein Beers.” There are no rules about how to write about this topic — feel free to highlight a Frankenstien brewer, brewery, beer tasting notes … or just your opinions on the concept.
In the story, Frankenstein was a scientist of sorts who had brought to life a creature made from both human parts and non-human parts. The creature was also larger than life at about eight feet tall. If I were to consider this an analogy for specific beers, I would look at the beers that are crafted from both typical beer ingredients and non-typical beer ingredients. I would also consider big, experimental beer. Sometimes these beers will be characteristic of the brewery and sometimes they are a special release, an experiment.
One brewery that comes to mind for being particularly experimental and almost downright crazy at times is BrewDog in Scotland. Many of their special release beers are not only experimental and pushing the limits but so is the marketing that goes along with it. On the mild end of the spectrum, the offer a lager, 77 Lager, hopped with Amarillo hops, not something typically used with lagers. On the extreme end of the spectrum is The End of History, a beer containing 55% alcohol by volume and bottled inside of a taxidermy-squirrel. Somewhere in between are beers like Dogma, which is an ale brewed with honey, kola nut, poppy seed, and guarana, and measures in at mere 7.8% alcohol by volume. Just like Frankenstein, BrewDog is pushing the limits, and also like Frankenstein, the intention was to create something beautiful. BrewDog, however, sometimes falls short of this. By creating monstrosities of beers, sometimes the flavor is sacrificed. I’ve heard second hand that Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismark are not very good. From my experience with Dogma, the beer was interesting and I could appreciate the concept but it didn’t blow me away. On the other hand, many of the beers produced by BrewDog get very good ratings on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.
Another approach to Frankenstein beer is to take two different beers and blend them together. Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood, NY has done this with their Gemini Imperial Blended Unfiltered Ale. This beer combines two big beers from this brewery, Hoppe & Unearthly, to produce a very tasty Frankenstein beer. It is a wonderfully balanced strongly hopped beer with flowery citrus aromas and sweet malty flavors with a snap of intensely wonderful hop bitternes. For more details, I have an upcoming review of this beer.
Another was to make you beer monstrous is to experiment with color. Magic Hat Brewing in Vermont has a beer called Wacko, a beer made with beet juice color. Why beets? It makes the beer red and South Burlington, VT is the beet juice capital of New England and the home of Magic Hat. Unfortunately, by the time I opened my bottle, maybe due some shipping or storage mishap, the redness was out of the beer, it was just a slightly orange-pink color when I tried it the other night.
There are numerous other experiments with beer that could classify them as Frankenstein beer. For instance, creating new styles like India Black Ale (a.k.a. Cascadia Dark Ale, a.k.a. Black IPA), or Belgo IPA certainly started off as experimental but has eventually come to be accepted as an “official” style.
Beer inoculated with Brettanomyces, made with fruit or vegetables, aged with various types of wood, made with hrebs and spices, or even all of the above; all of these beers could be considered Frankenstein but unlike Frankenstein’s monster they all have an accepted place in the craft beer world. You or I may not like a particular experiment but we can appreciate the creativity and the craftsmanship used to construct the beer and we also that somebody else probably enjoys it. But, for the most part, I’m enjoying all of this wonderful experimentation and creativity in the craft beer world to create these so called Frankenstein beers.