Five Weird Beer Styles From Long Ago

Beer is a pretty comforting beverage for a lot of people. It can be used to deliver some of humanity’s favorite flavors. But sometimes beer can be as much of an art as it is a science. So no wonder brewers can get a little creative. And sometimes that creativity gets pushed too far.

If you are into weird or unusual beer flavors try out How to make Boozy Butter Beer.

1. The Oyster Stout

A can and a glass of oyster stout beer placed in a tray with fresh oysters.

An oyster stout sounds like a concoction made by some crazy modern American craft brewer. But this style actually has its roots all the way back in Victorian England. Back then many pub-goers would eat oysters while sipping their favorite beer which at that time meant porters and stouts. These bitter-sweet beers paired great with oysters.

It seems that in the late 1800s a couple of brewers discovered that oyster shells are rich in calcium carbonate and make a great clarifying agent for their beers. Eventually, one brewer got the bright idea of adding the shells during the boil. Later they just included the whole oyster as well.

Oyster stour was very popular when it was first brewed. But as pilsners and pale ales begin to sweep across the British Empire people begin drinking fewer porters and stouts. Making the oyster stout became a group of obscure styles. Fortunately, craft brewers across the former Commonwealth are reviving this tasty and slightly salty beer.

2. Cock Ale

An advertising poster for a Cock Ale style of beer.

Cock Ale was a popular style of beer in the 17th and 18th centuries in England. It has a distinct two-part brewing process. First, you must brew a typical English-style ale and let it begin its primary fermentation. Then you need to get a chicken. Gut it, clean it, hardboil it and mash it all up. You have to put it in a sack with some raisins, clove, and maize and add it to beer when it’s already halfway fermented.

According to records kept at the time, the result is a very fine ale. It was even said that King William the Third preferred cock ale to wine. Which is no small statement back then.

3. Danzinger Hoffen Beer

Close up of the boiling wort during beer brewing process.

This beer often involves taking an insane amount of malt and very few hops and boiling it for hours on end. So you get every bit of fermentable sugars out of the malt. After an 18 to 24 hour boil, the brewer will take pretty syrupy wort and put it into a moldy cellar. Allowing it to be spontaneously fermented for months.

In that time the beer is going to take a moldy cap of its own. But that mold is where the crazy amount of flavors comes from. In bout 3 months the mold is filtered out of the beer and the beer can be bottled.

This beer was especially popular in England where it was used as a fortified beer, or sometimes a flavoring syrup. And some records show it was used as a restorative tonic and was even prescribed by doctors.

4. Braunshweiger Mumme

Products from Braunshweiger Mumme brands with some tomatoes, mushrooms and spring onions in the background.

This beer has its own set of strange ingredients. Amongst those herbs and other things that found their way into Mumme were sunflower seeds, spruce buds, thyme, juniper berries, marjoram, cardamom, bay leaves, and various other prices. After adding all the crazy number of herbs and spices to the wort most recipes then called for 10 eggs to be added to the brew.

The beer aged for a period of up to 2 years. After the aging beer was usually topped off with some parsley, black burgundy, and fresh horseradish.

For centuries it was an alcoholic beverage of choice for many sailors and all the additives were very helpful in combating scorbutic. It was thick, syrupy, high in alcohol, and kept for years on end. However, in the late 1700s, this beer became a nonalcoholic beverage. And it eventually evolved into a malt tonic with numerous health benefits. Later and in its current form serves as a multip purpose sweet food additive.

5. Devon White Ale

Old historic photograph of Devon.

Devon White Ale or West Country White Ale ingredients included water, malt, hops yeast, flour, and eggs. It’s a naturally fermented ale that was drunk when it was remarkably fresh and made from ingredients that were readily available.

Most recipes call for wort made from very light malt. They are minimally hopped and then they are mixed with a blend of flour, eggs, and grout which was a slurry of common spices. This beer was quite popular throughout Cornwall. It remained popular until the 1860s amongst the Cornish people. It was one of the last holdouts in the tradition of light hopped or naturally fermented English beers.

Its often said that we live in a pretty crazy age when it comes to brewers pushing the boundaries of what beer can be. People have always been trying to figure out new and interesting ways to brew their favorite drinks. Cheers.

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