At about 1:30am on January 1st 2011, as I sat in a living room with the remainder of the beers that had been part of an exquisite New Years line-up, (including the aforementioned Dark Island Reserve), unaware of the proverbial Pandora's Box that sat inconspicuously on the table in front of me. Earlier in the day, as Dave and myself had spent the early hours of the evening on a bottle shop crawl, we had just called stumps on the day's purchasing when the brew in question called out to us, serenading us like a siren at sea. Dave and I both examined the bottle; Southern Tier Imperial Creme Brulee Stout... I recognized each of the individual words on the label but somehow when combined in this order in front of me, I was confounded... The language might has well have been some ancient scrawled text, transcribed from a leather-bound Necronomicon by arthritic church-tower bell-ringers.
"If its 20 bucks or under I'll grab it." I muttered at the time, unaware of the spell that was to be cast. The shop keeper brought it up on the till. $20. I looked at Dave as a feeling of unease came over me... That was too easy... way too easy... Fast forward to 1:30 am. Three gentlemen sit in an Elwood apartment, a stones throw from the beach. Three fresh glasses sit on the table, I open Pandora's Box. It pours like velvet, (well... if.... if velvet had liquid properties... like a fine, furry cream... no, lets just stick with velvet...) the colour is a rich toffee brown... like a forgotten chocolate éclair that has been melt on the dashboard of a car in the sun. I grasped the glass firmly in my hand, looking down into the creamy elixir and I can almost feel the devil's eyes staring back at me, once again, the Siren's song is strong, willing me to take a sip, seducing me to taste its fiery passion. (I... think I may have just invented Beerotic Fiction... sweet)
What I tasted in the wee small hours of that morning will probably stay with me for life. This was not a beer, this was a wild landscape of flavour on a level of surreal absurdity that would have given Salvador Dali an inferiority complex. It was creme brulee, liquefied and bottled, labelled and distributed and then cleverly hidden amongst beers to disguise it. It was the David Bowie of the beer world, with an approach so flamboyant and outlandish it confuses the older generations with its ambiguity.
So, after a rather long, drawn out introduction... I bring you the Top 8 "um... what?" Beers, a collection of maverick beers with outlandish flavours that will leave you staring into your glass saying "um.... what?". A collection of beers so absurd and ambiguous yet so genius in their intent, that I was originally going to call it the Ziggy Beerdust collection, but thought it may have been lost on a few people.
8. Kinshachi Nagoya Red Miso Lager
We commence the countdown with a confounding and complex combination of not only words, but flavours. The first thing that should naturally jump out is that there is a lager that has a flavour attached to it, completely going against the "tastes like licking sanitized walls" thing that lagers so proudly have "going on. The second thing that should be noted is that this is a flavour that doesn't promise a pleasant beer blend. I mean, chocolate stouts, coffee porters, raspberry wits... these all sound appealing, if not appropriate... but Miso Lager? Having said all that, I was actually fortunate enough to come across this one in a Japanese restaurant in Melbourne, and was actually quite taken back by the delicate flavour and blending with the overall body of the beer. Kind of like spilling miso soup into Fosters, but in a pleasant "actually that's not bad" way.
7. Cave Creek Chilli Beer
Ok, so the whole chilli beer thing is not overly new, outlandish or flamboyant, but... look at the photo. Each bottle has an individual whole chilli inside. This is chilli beer actually doing what it says on the label. Its been likened to drinking a bottle of carbonated Tabasco Sauce, such is the fiery heat of the beer. I can't imagine anything more confusing, to be honest, I mean, nothing soothes the mouth after, say, a Vindaloo or a Chilli con Carne quite like a cool refreshing lager, so imagine the drunken juxtaposition of trying to battle the heat of an Indian meal with one of these? It'll be a double pronged attack. You won't know where to turn. Only wasabi in the eyes could make the situation worse.... speaking of which....
6. Miyamori Wasabi Ale
I mean... ok. I can imagine this would have some sort of amazing novelty value, kind of like those bottles of beer than when they were cold enough the lady on the label's underwear would go see-through, much to the delight of 15-85 year old men everywhere. I just can't imagine a situation where I would want to drink this for leisure purposes. Maybe it'd be useful if... I don't know, work with me here... you're out of wasabi peas, but you've just realized that you have a packet of stale dried up peas that fell down the back of your freezer, and you'll serve this beer with the stale peas and hope no-one notices the difference... but... in... logical thought, a lot of serious planning would go into this happy contingency plan, deeming it unlikely, if not impractical. Speaking of Japan, impractical and novelty... its....
Ok, I apologize, this should have probably come with a "Do Not Attempt to Comprehend After Eating" warning... This "beverage" can only be described as the unholy matrimony of star-crossed lovers, beer and milk, if the portmanteau hadn't already given that away. Blended with 30% milk, I can only fathom that this beer has been released to help Japanese men overcome that terrible affliction known as No-Man-Boobitis. Initial reports from the brewer suggested that they would scope out the local market before looking to promote this beer overseas. That was nearly two years ago, and very little has been heard of since. Rumour has it that it is being looked after by top men... top men.....
4. Kidsbeer - Tomomasu
D'you know what there's not enough of in the world? There's not enough products that encourage the pre-teen demographic to binge drink, and at the risk of seeming like I'm serving up an Enola Gay-like hammering its Japan again. I can't think of anything better than coming home after a hard day's slog as an astronaut superhero on the climbing-frame at primary school, knocking the top off a frosty cold, refreshing Kidsbeer and sitting down to watch an evening of programming on ABC3.
Brewed by Tomomasu, this soft drink/beer hybrid is a lager-coloured, foaming cola beverage and is promoted as the responsible alternative to beer for the younger generation, replacing alcohol with guarana.... oh, well... I guess that IS responsible then, because for a moment there.... wait WHAT? Another key note, is the drink's slogan. "Even Kids Cannot Stand Life Unless They Have a Drink". Pretty brave for a nation with one of the world's highest suicide rates... Bravo Tomomasu.
3. Shenandoah Brewery's Chocolate Donut Stout
I have to admit, when I saw this, my initial reaction was to rant aimlessly at the ever-expanding, collective girth of the average cheeseburger guzzling, up-size demanding, eating contest entering, bacon-in-a-can purchasing, prescription pants-wearing citizens of the United States of thisiswhyyourefat.com. But then I kinda got thirsty, and fancied quenching my thirst with a chocolate donut. Part of me really wants to experience this beer. Reading reviews on BeerAdvocate.com, it seems to have quite a strong following and when I eventually get down to the logistics of this beer, its a chocolate stout, with raspberry undertones. It actually sounds positively delightful. But the initial image of a Homer Simpson-like slob killing two birds with one stone will probably be the one that stays with me. Much like this one... its...
2. Tom Seefurth’s Mamma Mia Pizza Beer
Ok, I thought that this had some real potential, brewing a flavoured ale with hints of oregano, basil, olive and tomato. Why not, I mean, coriander seems to be entering the brewer psyche recently, and pumpkin ale had its moment in the sun, although that moment went all "pumpkin-two-weeks-after-halloween" pretty quickly. However.... this is pretty much a beer brewed with that flavouring powder you get on pizza shapes, leading it to be referred to as the Bacon Bits of the Beer world. Don't get me wrong, I freakin' love pizza shapes, but... I don't know, its kinda like opening a packet of mi goreng noodles, throwing the white curly stuff away and throwing the rest into a fermenter... Actually.... might have to give that a go... Something I will definitely not be giving a go though is this....
1. Hondenbier Kwispelbier
Oh how I wish I was making this up... It's a steak flavoured beer for dogs. No clever writing necessary, the Dutch have beaten me to it, with their comedic poetry in brewing. At zero percent alcohol, this literally beefy ale is one to crack open when you want to share a beer with man's best friend. The problem is, after 3 or four Kwispelbiers, (not something easily ordered whilst intoxicated, but unlikely any bar would serve anyway) man's best friend starts eyeing off anything around the room that remotely looks like another dog, and before you know it, ol' rover is pulling the moves on that teddy bear you won on that duck shoot game at the local fete. He's in for a rude shock in the morning.