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11 Obscure Beer Styles That Are Worth a Try

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Sure, stouts, India pale ales, and hefeweizens are tasty, but if you want to venture away from the beaten path for your next beer, give one of these styles a shot.

1. Grodziskie (Grätzer)

A smoky wheat ale that originated in Poland, Grodziskie is a long-lost cousin of Berliner weisse. Like Berliner weisse, it is low in alcohol, occasionally tart, and highly carbonated, but it also features a unique smoky twist thanks to the oak-burning kilns used to malt the wheat. Lichtenhainer is a very similar German take on the style that historically tended to be wilder and sourer in character.

Examples to Try: The Monarchy Grätzer, Professor Fritz Briem Grodziskie, Lichtehhainer Freigeist Abraxxxas

2. Gose

This medieval German style is currently enjoying a renaissance in the United States. Gose is a top-fermented wheat beer brewed with salt, coriander, and souring cultures. While gose originated in Goslar, it became the regional specialty of Leipzig and as such was allowed an exemption from the Reinheitsgebot (the German purity law). A traditional gose showcases notes of lemon, spice, and salt, but modern takes have added quirkier ingredients like cherries, yuzu, and dry hops. Some examples have even been aged in tequila barrels.

Examples to Try: Bahnhof Liepziger Gose, Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose, Westbrook Gose and Gozu, Off Color Troublesome

3. Chicha

The official beer of Peru is literally made with spit. Traditional chicha brewers chew on maize to allow natural enzymes from their mouths to unlock the grain’s fermentable sugars. While this practice may sound unsanitary, the grains are then boiled and sterilized of wild yeast and bacteria. Although there are very few commercial examples available in the U.S., there is a thriving culture of homebrewed chicha in South America, with variants ranging from unfermented, sweetened chicha for children to more adult-friendly chichas brewed with spices, fruits, and chiles.

Examples to Try: Dogfish Head Chicha, many unlicensed chicherias in Peru

4. Sahti/Gruit

Beer has historically been defined as a beverage made from hops, malt, water, and yeast. How do drinkers deal with a climate that won’t support hops? They improvise, of course! Sahti is a traditional Finnish ale style that is bittered using juniper twigs. It generally features rye malt and estery yeast, giving it notes of spice and banana. The Gruit style is more varied in execution and can combine numerous bittering herbs, the most common being sweet gale, yarrow, and heather.

Examples to Try: Lammin Sahtia, Off Color Bare Bear, Professor Fritz Briem 13th Century Gruit, Upright Special Herbs

5. Dampfbier

Before there was steam beer, there was dampfbier. This Bavarian style uses a wheat beer yeast strain without actually including any wheat in the grain bill. Brewed mainly in the summer and fermented at high temperatures (70 degrees Fahrenheit or more), a classic dampfbier will feature notes of clove and banana.

Examples to Try:  Dampfbierbrauerei Zwiesel Dampfbier, Surly Dampfbier, Local Option Dampf Loc

6. Kottbusser

Another German beer that defies the German Reinheitsgebot purity law that restricted the definition of beer to only including barley, hops, and water, kottbusser recipes include adjuncts like oats, honey, and molasses. While this style originated in Cottbus, roughly an hour’s drive southeast of Berlin, it was essentially extinct until North American breweries revived it. A kottbusser drinks like a sweeter, smoother, nuttier altbier.

Examples to Try: Off Color Scurry, J Wakefield Kottbusser

7. Joppenbier

Another historical style rescued from the grave, Joppenbier is a high gravity, spontaneously fermented Dutch beer that combines elements of English barleywine and Belgian lambic. While the only commercially available example is a speculative recreation, historical sources describe the beer as having a port or sherry-like sweetness followed by a vinous acidity and sourness from the wild yeast.

Example to Try: Witte Klavervier Joppenbier

8. Burton Ale KK

What’s old is new again! Originating in Burton-on-Trent, the Burton ale was a popular English ale before being supplanted by pale ales and IPAs. The KK designation denotes that the beer was for “Keeping,” meaning it was high in both alcohol and hopping. When Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project attempted to recreate the style using a historical recipe from 1901, the brewers discovered that the combination of roasty, dark malts and aggressive hopping was a dead ringer for a more modern beer style: the Black IPA.

Example to Try: Pretty Things Once Upon a Time 1901 KK

9. Faro

If you find lambic too wild or sour, you might be interested in its kinder, gentler cousin. Faro is sweetened with candi sugar and may also include common Belgian spices like orange peel and coriander. A true historical faro would never have been bottled, as the added sugar would ferment and cause the bottle to explode, but modern versions are pasteurized to avoid this problem. Faro has historically enjoyed a poor reputation that continues to this day—Charles Baudelaire likened it to sewer water, calling it the “beer that you drink twice.” You’ve got to be at least a little curious after reading that description.

Examples to Try: Cantillon Faro, Girardin Faro 1882

10. Koyt (Kuit)

Before this Dutch ale was driven to extinction by the rise of lager, it was mainly brewed with oats and wheat. There is some debate among beer historians on whether koyt was lightly hopped or bittered with herbs and spices like gruit. While we may never know the truth, modern interpretations come across as a creamier take on the pale wheat ale.

Examples to Try: Witte Klavervier Kuit, Jopen Koyt, Reuben’s Brews Koyt, Beau’s Dubbel Koyt

11. Kentucky Common

A pre-Prohibition ale brewed in the Louisville area, the modern version of the Kentucky common is a distant cousin of bourbon that also uses corn and rye in a sour mash. The result? An easy-drinking brown ale with a slight tartness and acidity.

Examples to Try: Local Option Kentucky Common, Against the Grain Kamen Knuddeln, New Albanian Phoenix, Lervig / To Øl Kentucky Common

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Big Questions
If Beer and Bread Use Almost the Exact Same Ingredients, Why Isn't Bread Alcoholic?
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If beer and bread use almost the exact same ingredients (minus hops) why isn't bread alcoholic?

Josh Velson:

All yeast breads contain some amount of alcohol. Have you ever smelled a rising loaf of bread or, better yet, smelled the air underneath dough that has been covered while rising? It smells really boozy. And that sweet smell that fresh-baked bread has under the yeast and nutty Maillard reaction notes? Alcohol.

However, during the baking process, most of the alcohol in the dough evaporates into the atmosphere. This is basically the same thing that happens to much of the water in the dough as well. And it’s long been known that bread contains residual alcohol—up to 1.9 percent of it. In the 1920s, the American Chemical Society even had a set of experimenters report on it.

Anecdotally, I’ve also accidentally made really boozy bread by letting a white bread dough rise for too long. The end result was that not enough of the alcohol boiled off, and the darned thing tasted like alcohol. You can also taste alcohol in the doughy bits of underbaked white bread, which I categorically do not recommend you try making.

Putting on my industrial biochemistry hat here, many [people] claim that alcohol is only the product of a “starvation process” on yeast once they run out of oxygen. That’s wrong.

The most common brewers and bread yeasts, of the Saccharomyces genus (and some of the Brettanomyces genus, also used to produce beer), will produce alcohol in both a beer wort
and in bread dough immediately, regardless of aeration. This is actually a surprising result, as it runs counter to what is most efficient for the cell (and, incidentally, the simplistic version of yeast biology that is often taught to home brewers). The expectation would be that the cell would perform aerobic respiration (full conversion of sugar and oxygen to carbon dioxide and water) until oxygen runs out, and only then revert to alcoholic fermentation, which runs without oxygen but produces less energy.

Instead, if a Saccharomyces yeast finds itself in a high-sugar environment, regardless of the presence of air it will start producing ethanol, shunting sugar into the anaerobic respiration pathway while still running the aerobic process in parallel. This phenomenon is known as the Crabtree effect, and is speculated to be an adaptation to suppress competing organisms
in the high-sugar environment because ethanol has antiseptic properties that yeasts are tolerant to but competitors are not. It’s a quirk of Saccharomyces biology that you basically only learn about if you spent a long time doing way too much yeast cell culture … like me.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Health
Attention Moscow Mule Fans: Those Copper Mugs May Pose a Serious Health Threat
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Even if you can’t list the ingredients in a Moscow Mule, you may be able to recognize one from across a bar: The simple combination of vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer is traditionally served in a copper mug. But that trendy vessel could pose a serious health threat, according to public health officials. As CBS News reports, the potential for food poisoning from those iconic cups is severe enough that the state of Iowa is taking a stand against them.

Copper is commonly used to make kitchenware like pots and pans, but when it comes into contact with certain foods, it can be unsafe. Foods and liquids that have a pH lower than 6.0, and are therefore acidic, can erode the copper and copper alloys and cause them to mix with whatever’s being consumed. The pH of lime juice falls between 2.0 and 2.35 [PDF], so the chances of copper contamination from a Moscow Mule sloshing inside a copper mug all night are high.

Symptoms of copper poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and yellow skin or jaundice. Even if you feel fine after a night of Moscow Mule imbibing, long-term effects like liver damage can occur over time. In response to these hazards, Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverages Division released a statement [PDF] advising against the use of Moscow Mule mugs. “The recent popularity of Moscow Mules, an alcoholic cocktail typically served in a copper mug, has led to inquiries regarding the safe use of copper mugs and this beverage,” it reads. “The use of copper and copper alloys as a food contact surface is limited in Iowa.”

If you’re hesitant to put your Moscow Mule obsession to bed, there are ways to enjoy the drink safely without sacrificing the classic look. When stocking your bar at home, make sure to include copper mugs lined with food-safe metal like nickel or stainless steel. And when you’re ordering the drink elsewhere, you can check with the bartender to see if they have similar containers. If not, asking for the drink in a boring old glass is your safest bet.

[h/t CBS News]

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