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August 12, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Beer’d: Extremophilia

The ultimate goal of any good brewer when they set out to create a new beer is balance. The subtle interplay of hop and malt, of bitterness and sweetness, of alcohol and yeast; these are the hallmarks of great brewing. But you know what? Sometimes as a drinker, I don’t want a beer that’s going to soothe my taste buds. I want a beer that’s going to casually reach out and rip my face off. With flavour.

You see, I’m an extremophile. I like crazy, weird and unusual beers. The ultra-strong, the uber-hoppy, the pitch-black, the smoked, and the sour: I like beers that push the very boundaries of what beer can be.

Extreme beers are often maligned by drinkers and brewers as ‘out of balance’, or ‘stunt beers’ intended to impress beer geeks. And this is kind-of true (but also kind-of the point). There is, however, a virtue that extreme beers have: because they can be so unusual and ‘out-there’ in flavour, they can occasionally be excellent gateway beers.

A gateway beer is a beer that ‘converts’ the non-beer-drinker into an enthusiast. And usually they tend to be fairly innocuous beers: low in strength with unchallenging flavours. Emerson’s Bookbinder is the classic example.

But sometimes, the other end of the spectrum can be just as effective at getting people hooked on beer. I’ve had friends and customers converted to beer by the fruity, bitter bite of a big IPA, the intense roasted coffee and chocolate of an Imperial Stout, or the palate-stripping acidity of a Sour Ale. It’s the beer equivalent of learning to swim by diving in the deep end, and it can be quite effective. So what extreme beers might be good for the uninitiated to try?

Extreme Hops – 8 Wired Superconductor IIPA. This is a bitter and ultra-fruity beer, like an angry fruit salad, made by adding more hops than is sensible.

Extreme Dark – Liberty Never Go Back. A silky-smooth stout, so dark that light cannot escape its surface. It’s like an iron fist, wearing a velvet glove.

Extreme Malt – Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude. A deceptively pale beer, that smells like burning tyres. Rex is made from peat-smoked distillers malt (like Islay Whisky). You’ll probably hate it, but it might just be the best beer you’ve ever tasted.

Extreme Sour – Mussel Inn Lean Lamb. Now this is a weird beer. The sourness comes from a mixture of wild yeasts and bacteria. I find it odd but surprisingly refreshing.

Start here and keep exploring. You may find the beer-love of your life, or it may be a disaster. Either way though, it won’t be boring!

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