I recently visited Yallingup’s Bush Shack Brewery. For those who haven’t been it’s just south of Dunsborough and it’s a small operation, as the name rightly suggests, and their beers are probably not what you would expect. The core range of beers includes Strawberry Blonde, Chili Beer, Chocolate Beer and Twisted Lemon Lager.
As I sipped on a Strawberry Blonde I thought about beer and flavour and what preconceptions we have about certain additions.
When you read the words “strawberry”, “chocolate”, “chilli” and “lemon” I’m sure you had some kind of reaction. It might have been positive and it might not have been. I have to confess to a “ugh” reaction when I saw the words “strawberry blonde”. My brain immediately feared a Chupa Chup in beer form. Instead I sipped on a lightly malty beer with hints of real strawberry, not lolly strawberry, and it was fresh and clean and it surprised me.
Acid Freaks – a Baltic Porter that’s been infused with a Shiraz barrel aged balsamic vinegar, a weirdly stunning brew that I highly recommend.
In contrast to my initial reaction to strawberry, when I heard about Melbourne brewer Steve “Hendo” Henderson and his Brew Cult beer called Acid Freaks, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on in. A balsamic vinegar baltic porter?! I was as excited as a kid who’s high on red cordial.
We all know that flavours in craft beer are practically limitless; on any given day we can sip on a Cantillion lambic, traditionally brewed with raspberries, or a Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale made with smoked bacon and pure maple flavouring.
Apricots, raspberries, cherries, bacon, tea leaves, balsamic vinegar, chilli, cacao husks, beetroot, honey … these are all additions that can be found in beers today. The list goes on.
But why does one flavour make you think “that would be amazing!” and another make you think “ugh”
I know a lot of our preconceptions come from our own taste preferences and encounters but over my years of beer drinking I’ve noticed there’s certain flavours/additions that are universally cringed at.
I start with strawberries because I had rolled my eyes at the idea of strawberries in beer. I had to then roll them back in the other direction as I found myself enjoying Bush Shack’s Strawberry Blonde. Chris and Merideth from thebeergeek.com, their website documenting their global beer travels, had a similar surprise when they were in Margaret River in March last year.
“Frankly, we were a bit worried. A chili beer, a lemon lager, a strawberry beer; these all raised red flags in our minds. But we couldn’t have been more wrong.”
You can read the full run down of their Margaret River adventures here. From someone closer to home, the great Tipples blog (which is no longer but it’s author hasn’t left us totally – see Drink, Pluck Yell) also had a similar “not sure about this” moment at Bush Shack before coming away happy after a few beers.
Of course there are moments when you’re totally forgiven for rolling your eyes …
Oh chili, many of us love and adore you and keep punishing ourselves by overindulging in you but I have yet to have a really positive experience with chill beer. Much like Melbourne beer blogger Glen Humphries aka Beer is Your Friend I’ve found the couple of chili beers I have tried have been either unpleasantly hot or it’s added nothing at all.
“I’d truly given up on chili beers because they are the dumbest things on Earth (…) then I tried Garage Project’s Death From Above and I went, “aha, so that’s how to make a beer with chili that tastes good”.”
Then Glen tried Garage Project’s Death from Above, a beer with Vietnamese mint, mango, lime and chili, and found himself enjoying it. I hope to get my hands on some of this one day, if you like you can read more about it here.
Braggot – a blend of mead and ale dating back to the 12th century
Once upon a time my go-to beer was Matilda Bay’s Beez Neez but as my craft beer journey continued I left it long behind. It was many sips until my next honey beer which was The Bear by Red Duck Brewery, a honey braggot. It was stunning with soft smooth honey sweetness combined beautifully with biscuit, fruit and a little spice. You can read more about my braggot discoveries here.
Have any flavours/additions in beers surprised you? I’d love to know ..