The craft beer market has grown sufficiently and beer lovers have become sophisticated enough that beer and food pairings are now very common. However, sometimes the food isn’t just an accompaniment for the beer, but a key ingredient in the brewing process. Now, habanero and jalapeno peppers are pretty common, as are fruits, berries and other rather conventional foods. No, we’re talking about something else completely.
More and more breweries are experimenting with foods in their beers, particularly meat. If you’re like most, that doesn’t sound all that appetizing, but they’re actually tastier than you may suspect. Let’s take a look at some of the beers out there that use meat, as well as a few other things that might surprise you (such as the actual type of meat being used).
Not a New Thing
It might come as a shock to learn that using meat in beer brewing isn’t just the province of new, forward-thinking experimental brewers. In fact, it dates back a very long way. Oyster ales are brewed using oysters, and have been for a long time. “Cock ale” is a historical style that uses chicken. There’s also a type of cider called scrumpy that dates back several centuries, which was sometimes made using beef.
Why Use Meat in Beer?
Apart from the obvious notoriety and shock value, there are a few different reasons that breweries might decide to toss meat into the mix when brewing their next concoction. For instance, smoked meat can lend not only a definite meatiness to a beer, but also some earthiness. Of course, there’s the novelty factor, but there’s also the fact that some breweries are creating actual historically accurate beers as one-off offerings. With that being said, it’s doubtful that meat-beer is really going to catch on as the go-to option for most drinkers. Even as meat-crazy as we are in the US, there’s just not that much demand for these brews.
Oysters pair very well with stouts, and in the late 1920s, New Zealand brewers decided to try to combine the two into a single package. It was a hit, and today, you’ll find a number of brewers out there (many of them in the US, but also in Ireland, the UK, Australia/New Zealand and elsewhere) using oysters in their stouts. Oysters don’t really flavor the stout as much as you might think, but they do help impart a smooth, full mouthfeel, something akin to what you’d find with a milk stout, but without the usual sweetness that most milk stouts have.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
No, these aren’t actual oysters. They’re bull testicles. While not particularly common, there are examples of using bull balls in beer. Wynkoop’s Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout is probably the best example of this. It started as an April Fool’s joke, but the response was so positive that the brewery actually went through with it and brewed the beer. Those who’ve sampled it have reported that it is actually pretty good, although it definitely isn’t for the faint of heart.
Ah, bacon. Sublime and salty, crunchy and chewy – who doesn’t love it? But in a beer? Yes. There are plenty of examples of bacon being used in beer, with Rogue probably being the most visible. However, there are many others, including Georgia’s SweetWater Brewing. Depending on the brewery, the type of bacon and the amount used, the results can range from slightly salty to downright bacon-y. Other examples include Brooklyn Brewery and Uncommon Brewers.
Pulled pork is not just for sandwiches and Sunday afternoon barbeques anymore. Nope. Now it’s a confirmed ingredient in a handful of beers across the US. Check out Exit 7’s Pork Roll Porter to see just how savory (pun intended) this mix can be. And really, who doesn’t love a little pulled pork every now and then?
As mentioned, cock ale is an old recipe going back quite a long way. However, modern breweries are experimenting with using chicken in their beers (without the bones and such, which are required in historical recipes). Willimantic Brewing puts out their “Hand Pulled” Cock Ale, for instance. While there are relatively few commercial brewers using chicken in their beers, it actually seems to be a popular ingredient with home brewers looking to experiment and have some fun.
The best example of this meat being used as an ingredient in beer is in Conwy Brewery’s The Sunday Toast. To be clear, though, they don’t actually use the meat. Instead, they use the juices from a slow-roasted lamb in the beer.
These are only a few of the many ways that animal meat is being used in today’s brewing world. There are plenty of other examples out there. Consider Earth Eagle’s Porter Cochon, which used smoked pig’s head. Or Sam Adam’s short-lived Burke in the Bottle, which used beef heart. Dock Street even put out a beer that used goat brains smoked with cranberries, called Walker (a nod to the impending zombie apocalypse).
Have you sampled any of the meat-infused beer offerings on the market today? What were your thoughts? Love it? Hate it? Wish someone would come out with a bacon cheeseburger beer, or one brewed with New York strip? If you haven’t yet sampled a meat beer, would you be tempted to try? Maybe you’re a home brewer and have used meat in your own creations. Share your thoughts and experiences with us below.