Well, I promised weird beers, and trust me, there were loads of them – so many that I can’t possibly fit all of them in one post. So here are a few of my favorites!
Our first off-the-charts beer must have been Carton Brewing’s Gilded Lily, a 10.6% Belgian style tripel with honey and white truffles. The tripel really showcased Belgian yeast well with lots of clove/banana phenols. The honey taking place of Candi sugar really helped to dry it out where a tripel can all too easily end up super sweet. The truffles showed up exceedingly well.
To our great joy, one of the brewers from Carton stopped to take a minute to talk to us about the process (as Justin and I had tried to produce a truffle beer a while ago with limited success). While we spoke with the brewer, we also tried the Irish Coffee imperial cream ale, which is their Regular Coffee golden cream ale aged on Irish oak with some peppermint. It really did taste like a great cup with a shot of Jameson’s, some crème de menthe and whipped cream on top. What an exciting experience!
If we’re talking about completely off the rails, how did they do this beer, culinary WTF-ness, Funky Buddha from Florida wins. We managed to try three, unfortunately missing out on the French Toast brown ale, which has received rave reviews. First up was the Key Lime Berliner, a Berliner Weissbier, traditionally a fairly tart style of wheat beer. The initial taste of it went as follows: “Well, there’s some lime tartness, there’s the graham cracker crust, holy S*** how did they get meringue into a beer? That’s frothy egg, right? This doesn’t make sense!” A truly amazing experience that felt more like eating key lime pie rather than drinking a beer. Mind blown.
As if that wasn’t enough, they were also serving a Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, at 6.4% that is everything it claims to be. You know those moments on a road trip, say, and you find yourself stopping at a roadside diner that looks a little dirtier than you would like? You order breakfast – bacon, eggs, a coffee. The coffee is mediocre, maybe even a little burnt. The bacon is, well, bacon. That’s fine, but you probably want some maple syrup on there for good measure. You get that experience, exactly, in your beer.
At this point, I was quite frankly dumbstruck by Funky Buddha, and I wasn’t sure my brains would stay inside my head if I had anything else from them. Lo and behold! They had a PB&J beer! What is this? Their No Crusts American brown ale, again at 6.4%, is another culinary experience in a glass. The aroma is heavily leaning towards peanut butter (creamy, no chunks here), with a little bit of raspberry. On tasting, you get peanut butter up front, with the raspberry jam pulling up the rear, a little bit of bready malts really sells the sandwich. I simply cannot say enough good things about this quite frankly insane brewery offering memories by the glass.
Peanuts are an ingredient I had long dismissed as not belonging in beers, but Funky Buddha’s PB&J beer completely changed that opinion for me. As it turns out, there were four beers at EBF that contained peanuts, and I was on the hunt!
The next one I came by was from Trophy Brewing, from Raleigh, NC. Aptly named The King in honour of Elvis, who REALLY liked peanut butter and banana, it was a Belgian style dubbel at 6.5% made with peanuts. A dubbel is typically a fairly bready beer, so I knew immediately this was going to be another sandwich in a glass, and the yeasts regularly used in Belgian styles is known for producing banana-like esters. Another smashing success! Heavy, bready malts carried the thick, unsweetened (gotta say chunky this time) peanut butter flavour, and the yeast had a very pronounced banana characteristic.
There was a third peanut beer that I had been looking forward to ever since they posted the beer list for the festival online, Right Brain Brewery’s Thai Peanut. A chilli forward beer, landing at 7.9%, it was fermented with coconut, a blend of peanut butters, and Thai chilies. It’s Pad Thai in a glass, rich and creamy. You get some peanut creaminess and it finishes with a little bit of heat, but the spice is by no means overwhelming. Right brain had another interesting nut beer, Pecan Piewhole, an American amber at 6.3% that really did taste like pecan pie!
Honestly, there were so many out-of-the-box beers to be tasted that I wasn’t too upset to have missed 7venth Sun Brewery’s Hand At The End Of My Arm American wild ale with dragonfruit and cactus pears (okay, I was pretty upset). I could go on and on about all the beers I had, but I won’t do that to you guys. I also managed to do lots of things on my “beer bucket list” (it’s a working title). While visiting the Dogfish Head stand, I got to say hi to Sam Calagione, the founder, briefly. I didn’t want to stop him from pouring for long enough to get a photo with him (though many people were).
From the Dogfish Head tent I tried Choc Lobster, a chocolatey porter that actually gets live lobsters boiled in it. I also tasted their Beer for Breakfast, a milk stout with maple, Applewood smoked barley, coffee and scrapple (scrapple being a Delaware classic – a pork patty with cornmeal and spices). I got to try Stone Brewing’s collaboration with brewers from Baird and Ishii, a Japanese Green Tea IPA. And here I am, already breaking my promise to stop talking about all the beers.
All in all, EBF is an amazing experience for anyone who is tired of the run-of-the-mill standard styles that every brewery worth its kettles is producing, and even for those who are just breaking into the beer world. My sister Viktoria had a blast and she has a record of drinking (in my opinion) very mediocre beers (what a snob I’ve become).
It has been a pleasure to be a guest on this page. From Ottawa, this has been Nick, thanks for having me. Now go pour yourself a beer, preferably the weirdest one you can find!