Wynkoop Brewing Company
More eateries than ever now offer cuisine based on, or inspired by, local ingredients. And the farm-to-table trend has been adopted by breweries, too -- though the primary goal is more about showcasing favorite flavors above all else. Using everything from seasonal fruits to local produce to state standouts, many brewers are embracing their surroundings and creating beers that highlight regional staples. Ingredients that include lobster, poppy seeds, and bull testicles all go to show that one can make beer out of pretty much any beloved local favorite.
Here are eight standouts that employ some of the most unique adjuncts ever to grace a brew kettle:
Colorado Rocky Mountain Oysters
Wynkoop Brewery Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout
When Wynkoop's prior brewmaster Charles Andrew Brown (now at C Squared Ciders) came up with the idea to spike a stout with Rocky Mountain oysters (i.e. bull testicles), it was meant as an April Fool's joke. But, as can happen, some jokes become reality. When the brewery's current brewmaster John Sims first saw the YouTube video below, he, too, assumed it was just a goof. "But it wasn't,” he assures us. “It was the strangest start to a brew day I have ever had. I was grilling testicles in the kitchen." Every barrel of beer gets three of the locally-sourced, roasted bovine balls, each about the size of a large potato. "At this point, it's a phenomenon and people from out of town come in to try it," he says. As far as the flavor profile goes, it's a robust foreign-style stout that’s strong like bull, but (perhaps thankfully) without any distinct gonad flavor.
Vermont Maple Syrup
14th Star Brewing Company Maple Breakfast Stout
First brewed in 2011, this flavorful beer’s recipe originally came from 14th Star brewmaster Dan Sartwell's homebrew catalog. "I made it with the idea of doing a Vermont breakfast as a beer," says Sartwell, who brews an oatmeal stout with malts that give the beer pancake-like flavors, and doses it with cold brew coffee and local Vermont maple syrup from a farm about 20 miles away. "We’re trying to get the full flavor of maple syrup, which is hard in brewing,” says Sartwell, who uses about one gallon of maple syrup per 80 gallons of beer. He adds the syrup at the beginning of the boil so it can caramelize and become un-fermentable. Apparently this alleviates some of the sweetness, but allows the woody notes of the syrup to come out in the brew in a smooth and pleasing way.
New Mexican Green Chiles
Sierra Blanca (Rio Grande) Brewery Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza
The green chile is king in New Mexico, and you can find it all over the state. Heck, they even have a green chile festival in Hatch, the "Chile Capital of the World.” Given that the ingredient shows up topping burgers, in baked goods, on pizza, and even mixed into ice cream, it's not surprising that a brewery has used the capsicum staple in beer. Enter Sierra Blanca Brewery's Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza, a liquid homage to green chile. Packing a mild, meaty heat that doesn’t overpower the beverage, even those who don’t like spicy food will enjoy this refreshing concoction that actually tastes like the freshly-roasted green chiles with which it’s brewed.
credits:"Sierra Blanca Brewing Co."
Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company Southern Pecan
If one ingredient screams "Southern," it's the pecan -- a smooth, buttery brown nut that shines in trail mix and chocolate chip cookies. While often used to make a tasty Thanksgiving pie, Lazy Magnolia's owner Mark Henderson had other plans for the local nut: incorporating it into an English-style brown ale. Hence, the brewery's Southern Pecan beer is made by adding 120 pounds of roasted pecans to each batch. The result is a truly nutty beer with a full-bodied, malty profile and touches of sweet caramel.
credits:"Lazy Magnolia Brewing"
Uncommon Brewers The Golden
Inspired by the nutty fruitiness of the California poppy seed, Uncommon Brewers founder and brewer Alec Stefansky started using the ingredient in beer. "The poppy seeds came out of a few months of experimentation with other spices," he says. "I found that they brought the best match to a traditional Belgian-style golden ale." That was when he was doing homebrew-scale batches back in 2002. Today, the volume needed to continue to make this Trappist-style ale at his Santa Cruz operation far exceeds the amount of local poppy seeds available (they need about 25 pounds per 30 barrel batch). Hence the switch to standard blue poppy seeds sourced from Spain. Though the complex, yellow-hued brew no longer employs native seeds, it still speaks to the nuances of California's state flower and pays homage to the ingredient that inspired it.
Great Northern Brewing Company Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager
If you’ve ever been to Montana -- especially up by Glacier National Park -- you know that huckleberries are all the rage, both for tourists and the bears. While the bears like them fresh off the bush, Great Northern brewmaster Joe Barberis prefers them in a beer. More specifically, in Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager, a semi-sweet wheat beer that proves fruity, refreshing, and perfect for whatever adventure the Big Sky Country affords you. To flavor the brew, Barberis uses juice from local berries that he gets at Huckleberry Haven, right down the road from the brewery.
credits:"Due South Brewing"
Due South Brewing Co. Hopicana
When one thinks of Florida, what immediately comes to mind (after sunshine, of course) are oranges. The brewers at Due South clearly agree. In this Boynton Beach brewery's Hopicana rye IPA, you can really taste the citrus -- thanks to the addition of 80 pounds of the fruit per 500 gallons. Each orange gets lovingly zested and juiced by hand, so you know every ounce of this flavorful beer is quality stuff. Beyond the fresh orange essence, one can also taste notes of the local honey with which this dry and brisk brew is made.
Oxbow Brewing Company Saison Dell'Aragosta
Beer has apparently been brewed with just about everything under the sun -- and apparently, live lobsters are no exception. The folks at this Newcastle, Maine-based brewery have added the state's most famous critter and some local sea salt to this very unique saison. The gose-inspired farmhouse ale is part of a collaboration with Birrificio del Ducato of Parma, Italy. The strange beverage was created in 2015 after Ducato’s Giovanni Campari dined on lobster rolls with Oxbow’s brewmaster Tim Adams, and announced his desire to brew with the crustacean. To do so, they toss live lobsters into the boil until they’re cooked through; then the meat is removed (and enjoyed by the staff) while the shells remain to further flavor the beer.