Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Every once in a while, gazing out at the world of beer, it’s hard not to throw one’s hands up in the air and cry, “Good gracious, what wild fantasies these madmen have wrought!”How, for instance, is one supposed to choose between a beer made with yeast cultured from prehistoric whale fossils (Lost Rhino Brewing Company’s recently announced Bone Dusters Paleo Ale) and one that includes bull testicles (Wynkoop Brewing’s Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout)?
In Oregon, an intrepid brewer has supposedly fermented a concoction using yeast culled from his own beard (Rogue’s Beard Beer; no offense to brewer John Maier, but, blech). In Canada, a clutch of intergalactically-minded marketers have launched a crisp Klingon brew for Star Trek kooks (Federation o Beer’s Warnog).
Faced with all this, it’s important to remember that beer, when you come right down to it, only requires four ingredients. Organs from unfortunate bulls or prehistoric whale bones really don’t come into it. Water, a starch (typically malted barley), yeast and hops are all you need. And if you ask me, the coolest of that quartet is the hops.
So, before diving into the weirder depths of the beer world - like smoked-goat-brains ales (Dock Street Brewing’s new Walker Pale Ale) - you might want to check out the range of influences that hops, one of beer’s basic ingredients, can have.
Anchor Brewing: Brekle’s Brown Ale
Deschutes Brewery: Fresh-Squeezed IPA
Weyerbacher: Double Simcoe IPA
Anderson Valley Brewing: Hop Ottin’ IPA
Brooklyn Brewery: Sorachi Ace
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