There was a time when the term “craft beer” conjured images of four elemental ingredients born of the earth, plied with seasoned hands, and expertly combined into a beverage both familiar and satisfying. Variations between brands were subtle; preference was more a matter of loyalty than of the palate.
That time is long gone.
Nowadays, brewers search for ingredients everywhere, from outer space to beards to, yes, the ocean.
Here are seven bizarre, intriguing, and aquatically-inspired beers from breweries across the country. (And one in Iceland. Let’s not forget about Iceland.)
Saison Dell’Aragosta, Oxbow Brewery
We all know Maine is synonymous with lobsters. And Newcastle, a town about an hour north of Portland, is quintessential coastal Maine. So it’s no surprise that Oxbow’s foray into the ocean-forward beer world is centered around the beloved crustacean. Dell’Aragosta is a 4.5 percent “gose-inspired seaside saison” that’s brewed with a healthy dose of sea salt, along with live Maine lobsters tossed in for good measure. Bonus: no dorky bib required.
Verdi Verdi Good, Dogfish Head
Dogfish founder Sam Calagione is known for brewing out-of-the-box beers. (He recently produced an IPA with a face-melting 658 IBUs.) So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when he dipped into the sea for a new brew, it was different, weird, and perhaps a bit off-putting. Verdi Verdi Good is a Dortmunder greened with spirulina. Got any questions? Of course you do. A Dortmunder is a pale golden lager popularized in nineteenth-century Germany. And spirulina is an ocean algae known for its high protein content. Combined? Pure magic—at least if you ask Calagione.
Harborside, Night Shift Brewing
You can’t talk about the ocean without shucking some oysters. This gose-style ale is brewed with coriander and Island Creek oysters, a staple in Massachusetts cuisine. Clocking in at just 3.6 percent ABV, it’s the type of beer you could drink all day–assuming briny beer is something you’re really, really into. But it works, and it’s worth trying at least once. (It’s hardly the only oyster-infused beer out there. Another notable participant is Shuckolate from Foolproof Brewing Co. in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.)
Volume 3, 3 Sheeps Brewing Co.
Black IPAs are cool and all, but 3 Sheeps Brewing Co. felt the style, with its hop-crushing roasted malts, could use a bit of fine tuning. They found that squid ink not only darkens the beer to the desired hue, but in fact works to enhance the very hop character they were hoping to champion in the first place. How did they find this? We have no idea. What we do know is the result is an earthy, 6.2 percent IPA that’ll definitely stand out at your next dinner party.
Sea Belt, Marshall Wharf Brewing Co.
Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. has teamed up with Maine Fresh Sea Farms and the Sea Grant Institute of Maine to offer this Scotch ale brewed with dried Maine sugar kelp. At 8 percent ABV, it’s not a subtle brew – which makes sense, since one strand of this kelp is typically about the size of a Chevy Suburban bumper.
Chocolate Lobster, Dogfish Head
Yes, another lobster beer. And yes, something else from Calagione. But bear with us, because this is a masterpiece. Not only does this 5.6 percent porter feature a horde of two-clawed arthropods, but more than six pounds of dark cocoa powder are added to the whirlpool in addition to healthy dose of basil tea. We don’t know why any of this makes sense, but it does.
Hvalur 2, Steðji Brewery
Lobsters and kelp and oysters are cool and all, but if you’re going to round out a list of beers showcasing ingredients from the sea, you’d be hard-pressed to find a ballsier one than Hvalur 2. This beer from Iceland’s Steðji Brewery is brewed with whale testicles smoked in sheep dung. Apparently, an entire whale testicle is used in each batch. And in case you’re wondering, just one of those things is about the size of a holiday ham. So there’s that.