Posted: 24 Apr 2014

A brewer’s top 5 guide to
weird beer ingredients

Moon Dog Brewing Company's Jake Uljans, Josh Uljans and Karl van BuurenFive of the Best has stumbled across some truly odd beer ingredients. Oyster stout anyone?

Craft brewers love pushing flavour boundaries, often creating beers that are much greater than the sum of their parts.

As Melbourne celebrates Good Beer Week 2014, and in the spirit of creating weird and wonderful brews, Moon Dog Brewing Company‘s Josh Uljans has shared his five favourite ingredients that make beer taste strangely better. Josh is the bloke in the middle, pictured with his Jake Uljans (left) and Karl van Buuren (right, looking perplexed).

1. Truffles

Black truffles - Photo: marketiqAs one of the world’s most expensive ingredients, truffles are held in the highest esteem within culinary circles for their pungent, complex and earthy characters. So it makes perfect sense to put them into our fanciest beer Jumping the Shark 2013 – a 15.4% Cognac barrel-aged imperial stout. It wasn’t just about sticking some truffles in beer and hoping for the best. We macerated black Tasmanian truffles and steeped them in alcohol to extract the oils and sterilise them, before adding this “truffle vodka” to the beer. The earthy flavours of the truffles beautifully enhance the chocolate, oaky and alcohol infused flavours of the stout.

Newtown’s Young Henrys has also play with truffles in beer, featuring them at multiple stages in the brewing process in Young Henrys Few of My Favourite Things, a Belgian IPA that also featured brewery-smoked bacon and was, perhaps remarkably, absolutely delicious. Look out for Young Henrys launching a new collaboration with Frenzal Rhomb at the Corner Hotel during Good Beer Week. Early rumours are that it may feature a yeast cultured from the lead singer’s dreads.

2. Watermelon

WatermelonIf anything screams summer more than a pint of cold beer, it would be a watermelon helmet on a hot day at the cricket. To make our Bjorn to Boogie Watermelon Weizen, we chop up 200kg of fresh watermelons per batch. Many of these become helmets. The freshness of the watermelon is subtle but complements the clove, bubble-gum and banana flavours that embody a classic German Weizen. We then throw in some fresh lime and mint and voilà!. You’ve got yourself a crisp summer bevy.

WA’s serial award-winners Feral Brewing have also dabbled in melon with the Watermelon Warhead, a decidedly sour Berliner Weisse style beer featuring large amounts of the aforementioned fruit. It took the People’s Choice Award at the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular during Good Beer Week in 2012 and is now an irregular release.

3. Cherry plums

The first beer we ever brewed at Moon Dog was a black wild ale with cherry plums called Perverse Sexual Amalgam. The dark wheat beer was aged in ex-bourbon barrels for six months with a number of different bacteria and wild yeasts, which build up a funky and mouth-puckering acidity. We then added 20kg of stewed cherry plums from my mum’s garden. We brew the same beer every year to coincide with the cherry plum season. The results are funky, fruity, tarty and delicious. This is a seasonal beer you simply can’t miss.

4. Chipotle

These smoke-dried jalapeños pack quite a punch, but with a surprisingly sweet twist. They made an appearance at Melbourne’s iconic Cherry Bar at last year’s Good Beer Week. They were just one ingredient in a dark red pilsner created by Young Henrys with Melbourne rockers My Dynamite.

Chipotle was also used in our Cock-Sockin’ Ball-Knockin’ Chipotle Stout in 2011. This exotic beer was passed through a chipotle-filled “randall”, a device on a draught beer system that you can stuff with tasty ingredients to allow the beer to take on some of the distinctive flavour, before being poured on tap. The result was a very tasty beer.

We used chipotle again in a dark lager called Bock Naked. Bock itself has a big, smooth, rich, malty character and flavours of coffee and chocolate. By adding chipotles, it gives the lager a bit of smokiness as well as a spicy tingle that builds up over the course of the bottle. Definitely a beer we’d like to do again.

5. Apricots

India Pale Ale is a style of beer that is all about big hop flavours and bitterness. It has taken the craft beer world by storm, particularly in the US where beers are being created with diverse flavours such as tropical fruits, citrus, pine and stone fruits. We brewed a 9.2% India Pale Ale called Mustafa’s Dancing Helmet, that was fermented with rehydrated dried apricots that had been pureed. The use of apricots generated a similar flavour to some of the celebrated American IPAs. It keeps you wanting more.

But the most well known beer to feature apricots is ApriHop, an IPA brewed by Dogfish Head in the US. The brewery doesn’t send its beers to Australia yet (although some have arrived here in unknown condition via parallel imports), but you can get hold of another apricot beer locally, the St Ambriose Apricot Wheat Ale.

Look out for Josh at no fewer than FIVE events at Good Beer Week, which runs from May 17-25.

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