Have we reached the point when beards or at the very least not shaving for a week or so is no longer confined to the hipsters. Perhaps we’ve reached a tipping point in the way that beards used to be associated more with trade unionists than trendiness. As someone who’s averse to fashion, this was a welcome development when I found myself not shaving for a week or so. It was certainly more convenient but eventually I got fed up with it.
Having a beard is not for me. I can certainly see why a fair few brewers have them, due to the early morning starts. Or in the case of Rogue’s John Maier it can be useful to cultivate a yeast strain. Instead, I’m happy sticking with a beer or two from Weird Beard.
The brewery is yet another one of those from London that is producing interesting beers. I’ve had a few of these over the past year or so and was impressed with Fade to Black (black IPA) and Black Perle (milk coffee stout). A recent beer I had from theirs is in keeping with my brief separation from my razor, Five O’Clock Shadow.
It’s a big IPA in terms of strength. At 7% abv it tips it at the higher end of the style. It pours a hazy, copper and orange. There’s grapefruit, pineapple, mango and a hint of passion fruit on the nose. However, the tropical aromas are perhaps more reminiscent of a sweet tropical fruit syrup. On tasting, you’re hit with the carbonation first with the topical fruits notes growing in the flavour. It’s as if this beer is determined to clean the palate before appreciating every sip. A chewy, sweetness develops as you drink before leading to a bitter and warming finish. It’s a subtle reminder of the beer’s strength.
Hit the Lights is a 5.9% abv is billed as a “mixed up IPA”. It presents a golden orange colour in appearance. There’s rich orange and citrus on the nose thanks to the hop bill of Target and Aurora (bittering, flavour and dry hopping). It was slightly watery at first before a fresh fruit bitterness taking hold. The malt backbone lends a certain amount of sweetness to the flavour. There’s a sticky, bitterness to the finish that is reminiscent of a rich marmalade.
Weird Beard is a brewery that I will continue to look out for and hopefully more of their beers will find their way over here. Actually as I write this, I am reminded that a trip to London is long over-due.
Brewers are constantly pushing the boundaries in coming up with new ideas for their beers. We’ve seen every type of wooden barrel chocolate, tobacco, coffee (civet coffee for example) used. Given that it’s October pumpkin beer is commonly expected. A decade or so ago I tried a beer containing actual shamrock from Strangord Lough Brewing Company. This took inspiration from old-school brewing that can be best tasted in the form of Fraoch heather ale from Williams Brothers. But what I’m talking about here is the addition of unique ingredients that seriously try to push credibility factor.
The production of sours is “wild”-spread (pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist). They may not be called Lambics for legal reasons but they are produced nonetheless by similar methods. But what about one produced by yeast cultivated for a brewer’s very own beard. That’s what Rogue Ales did. Taking natural yeast from John Maier’s beard (it had been present for over 15,000 brews), they produced Beard Beer.
Is pushing the boundary with such brews a sign of just how competitive it is out there amongst craft breweries? Or is it means of generating free media attention? I’m not necessarily accusing people of being gimmicky. Brewdog’s Never Mind the Anabolics anyone? Produced to coincide with London 2012, the beer that could genuinely get an athlete kicked out of the Olympics.
However, the latest has to be Dogfish Head’s Celest-jewel ale. The Oktoberfest-style beer was brewed lunar meteorites that have been crushed into dust (in addition to the German malts and hops of course). According to the brewery, the resulting product is 5% ABV with 25 IBUs has “notes of doughy malt, toasted bread, subtle caramel and a light herbal bitterness” and in particular the lunar particles contribute a” subtle but complex earthiness. (Or is it mooniness)”. Unfortunately, it’s a beer that will be confined to annals due to its rarity, some of the raw materials cannot be cheap.
Nevertheless, these beers show that creativity is alive and well and that brewers are constantly on the look out for breakthroughs in addition to making incremental innovations in existing styles. Some of them might not be favourites or even drinkable but one thing for sure is that they certainly raise the interest level in beer. I can’t wait to see what’s next.