Today we are talking about beers from the sea, and no, I don’t mean seaside breweries, but instead beers made with algae, lobster, and even whale testicles. Sadly Budweiser Clamato did not make the list, though I did plumb the oceans depth looking for a craft brewed clam beer to no avail. Here are 10 strange beers made in some part from ingredients found in our rivers or oceans that will have you rethinking the limits of brewing.
Dogfish Head: Choc Lobster
Once an exclusive small batch beer limited to Dogfish Head’s brewpub in Rehoboth, Delaware, Choc Lobster Porter is now entering wider distribution. With a dry porter base at 5.6% ABV, the Choc Lobster uses local lobsters from Ebenocook Oyster Farm near Boothbay Harbor in Maine. As if the crustacean wasn’t strange enough, the beer also is brewed with cocoa and basil.
“Choc Lobster provides an amazing, decadent, seaworthy beer-drinking experience,” says Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione. “It tastes like summer to me, and we’re happy to be getting some beyond our borders for folks to enjoy.”
Stedji Brewery: Hvalur 2
Iceland is a fascinating country. From whale jerky and beer made with whale fin, the Stedji Brewery has made a beer brewed with whale testicles that were smoked with sheep shit. Seriously. Both beers were made for the Thorri month-long festival, a tribute to the Norse god Thor. Stedji brewery co-owner Dabjartur Arilíusson told Beverage Daily that his beers showcase “the freshness of the Icelandic water” and “We work the testicle by the old traditional way–we smoke it with dried sheep shit. This method gives it a unique smoked flavor, and we also get a bit of the meaty taste in the beer.”
Upright Brewing: Oyster Stout
The Oyster Stout is a historical style that is experiencing a minor renaissance thanks to beers like Upright Brewing’s Oyster Stout that uses dozens of actual whole fresh oysters in the brew kettle and oyster liquor in the fermenter. The finished product doesn’t taste like oysters, and you would be hard-pressed to find that flavor; what it does add is a slick mouthfeel and a subtle briney and salty quality that complements the stout flavors and goes well with food. Upright Oyster Stout is released as a seasonal in bottles every February and lots of other breweries such as Fort George Brewing, Magnolia Brewing and others have tried their hand at the style. Read all about the history of the style here.
Burnside Brewing Co.’s Uni Sea Urchin Ale
Burnside brewer/owner Jason Mcadam has always been one of the most adventurous brewers in Portland, from collaborating with Upright on the Oyster Stout to this Uni sea urchin beer which was the brainchild of Mcadam and Ken Norris (then the chef/owner of Riffle in NW Portland). The beer is inspired from a menu item on the late Riffle NW’s Raw Bar menu: a quail egg and urchin shot. The beer uses not only sea urchin but also carefully extracted tomato water and Jacobsen sea salt. Read all about it here.
Williams Bros Kelpie Seaweed Ale
As the story goes, at least four hundred years ago, farmers on the coast and island of Scotland used seaweed beds to grow their cereal hops, i.e. barley used in whiskey and beer. This barley produced unique flavors in the ale and whiskey as you would imagine. Williams Brothers of Scotland use bladderwrack seaweed in the mash tun along with organic barley to give this wholesome dark ale a distinctive flavor. A rich chocolate ale with an aroma of sea breeze, a distinctive roast flavor, and a crisp salty finish. Perfect with seafood and breads. Drink lightly chilled in a wine glass. 4.4% abv. Kelpie isn’t the only seaweed ale though; in the U.S. we have Maine’s Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. from Maine’s Seaweed Beer and probably many more.
Lost Rhino Brewing Co.: Bone Dusters
Is it a sea beer or a bone beer? Either way it came from the sea, but even weirder, this beer was brewed with a 35 million year old yeast found on fossilized whale bones…from the sea. The beer that came from this experiment between a fossil hunter and a microbiologist brewer is called Bone Dusters Paleo Ale from Lost Rhino Brewing Co. in Ashburn, Va. Jason Osborne, amateur fossil hunger of Paleo Quest, a beer fan himself, had an idea to swab old whale bones to see what might still be living on them and found a wild yeast subspecies he named Saccharomyces cerevisiae var protectus that was then used in the brewing of the beer.
Breakside Brewery Umami Savory Stout
Perhaps the strangest beer I have ever tasted is from Portland’s Breakside Brewery called “Umami Stout” or “Savory Stout.” Brewed with wheat, wakame seaweed, shiitake mushrooms, and miso with a salted rim with dried, chopped anchovies, it’s one of the most conceptually interesting beers around. So this one uses both seaweed as well as fish from the sea, and both the thought and brewing process was chronicled by brewer Ben Edmunds for The New School in 2011.
Dogfish Head: Verdi Verdi Good
Another beer from the ever adventurous Dogfish Head Brewing, Verdi Verdi Good a Dortmunder Lager with green algae called spirulina. It’s inspired by a type of beer brewed in both Myanmar and Thailand that is a regular lager with spirulina. Dogfish brewed its verson to a pale golden, biscuity lager inspired by those of 19th century Dortmund, Germany, only with a fun green color and subtle aroma of Spirulina. Spirulina is a blue green algae prized for its high nutritional protein content.
3 Sheeps Brewing: Squid Ink IPA
3 Sheeps Brewing from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, has a love for brewing beers never attempted before. The brewers wanted to make a Black IPA/CDA without using roasted malts and diminishing the hoppiness. Thus, they tried real squid ink to get the character right. The brewers made an earthy IPA to compliment and enhance the hop profile while darkening the beer and adding a subtle briney character.
Rogue Eugene City Brewery: Dungeness Crab Porter
There is not much written about the Rogue Eugene City Brewery’s Dungeness Crab Porter, except that it was brewed with live crabs. Its delicious and unique flavor makes it the perfect beer to pair with seafood, but especially with the fresh, whole Dungeness crabs that Rogue is serving on Sundays during Oregon’s crab season. This is how Dungeness was meant to be eaten–chilled, served with lemon, warm butter made with Rogue Brutal IPA, a bib, a crab cracker, and–for the truly adventurous–a Dungeness Crab Hat.
And those are not the only ways breweries are getting into seafood. While I couldn’t find any clam beers, Dogfish Head does sell its own Hard Tack Clam Chowder infused with 60 minute IPA, order a 15oz cans for only $4.
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.