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Nov 14, 2008 10:46 AM

2 exceptionally unique beers

I live on the west coast and just visited chicago. I used to drink Bell's AMber all the time when I lived tehre and really rediscovered it this time - a totally unique beer. I don't know anything else that tastes like it.

And 3 Floyd's gumballhead - it says wheat but that is one unusual beer - sweetness and hopppiness and somehow light. amazing beer

i know every beer is unique, but i don't anything else even in the styles of these two.
and i can't think of anything on the west coast, except for some extreme hop creations, that possess such uniqueness

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  1. The first beer that came to mind for me was Lost Abbey's Cuvee de Tomme. Lost Abbey describes the beer as: "A massive brown ale base that is made from four fermentable sugars including Malted Barley, Raisins, Candi Sugar and Sour Cherries, this beer is fully fermented before being placed in Bourbon barrels where the beer ages for one year with the Sour Cherries and the wild Brettanomyces yeast that we inoculate the barrels with". It is not available all the time but definitely worth trying at least once.

    1. Gumballhead is the best session beer I've ever had.
      Low ABV, but fantastic taste.

      1. there's a big article in the current new yorker about the rise of "extreme beer" and profiles dogfish head brewery in detail. just to clarify - none of the beers they make are exceptional in the sense i'm talking about. These two beers are not extreme beers, brewed with all sorts of wild ingredients: they are just magnificently unique beers using the same ingredients other beers use.

        10 Replies
        1. re: mr mouther

          Well if your qualification is unique but not "extreme" then I dont know if this one would qualify but it certainly needs to be high on the list of any "unique beer" category and thats Stone's Arrogant Bastard which the brewer himself will tell you started off as a complete mistake which they decided to bottle anyway and see what would happen. It is now considered in the "extreme beer" family because of the hop and grain bill but back then it was just a brewing error that worked well. When they first tasted it they came this close to just pouring the whole batch down the drain. And now look how popular that beer is...

          Also you may want to give consideration to Rogue's Dead Guy Ale which is really a kind of halfbreed Maibock that somehow became their signature brew and is now fairly ubiquitous. How many other mutant Maibocks do you know that can say that.

          By the way, I absolutely agree with you on Three Floyd’s Gumbalhead. It’s a fantastic and rare session beer that has a great hop signature unusual to its style. I liken it to Victory’s Prima Pils in that way which has a particular hop taste that is unique for a Pilsner, in this country at least.

          1. re: Insidious Rex

            Well, since it's damn cold in NY, I offer up Bell's Third Coast Old Ale. Not many make an old ale, and fewer make a great old ale. Bell's Old Ale, a great unique brew for the mean short days of winter. Worth a detour. I know, I've mail ordered this brew many a time.

            1. re: Insidious Rex

              dead guy is exactly the kind of thing i'm talking about. since that's the only one i can actually pick up here in LA, i should do it more often. nice reminder.

              stone's AB is awesome (i recently played in a frisbee tourney where they had a keg of it - yum!) but to me there are a lot of beers that are kind of simliar with amped hops and grain

              1. re: mr mouther

                Well then you should probably add Magic Hat's #9 Ale to that list since its a true hyrbid being a "not quite pale ale" somewhere between a lager and a true pale ale. Whatever that means... It also has apricot in it to make it even querkier but its very subtle. Ive never been a big fan of the stuff but it certainly fits your definition of unique and its pretty easy to find.

                1. re: Insidious Rex

                  I don't think it's part lager; rather it's not quite a standard pale ale due to the apricot.

                  1. re: Jim Dorsch

                    Oh? I never knew what they were getting at when they called themselves a "not quite pale ale". To me that just makes it sound like a weak pale ale.

                    Then I guess we can substitute beers like Anchor Steam and Flying Dogs Old Scratch for beers that rest somewhere in that nether land between Ale and Lager. Not very common a style on this side of the Atlantic at all.

                    1. re: Insidious Rex

                      I was under the impression that Anchor Steam was no longer a true steam beer (lager yeast at ale temps). Perhaps that's wrong.

                      Also, as far as #9 goes, doesn't Magic Hat use the Ringwood yeast? That's an ale yeast and I don't know how well it'd respond at all with lager temps (Wyeast describes the low end of the fermentation range as being 64F).

                      1. re: jgg13

                        I hadn't heard that Anchor has changed its method...somehow I doubt that, although it hardly's still a great beer and has maintained its distinctive profile.
                        Some ale yeasts work well at lager temps. Not sure about the Ringwood..but then again, with the right treatment, you can make excellent lager beer with many ale yeasts and conversely, fine ales with lager yeasts. Any means to an end, and if the end result tastes good, that's ok by me.

                        1. re: The Professor

                          err, how do you go about making a lager beer with top fermenting yeast? lagers use bottom fermenting yeast, by definition. if you mean that it could be fermented at lager temps, that's a possibility - and even going to the lower ends of an ale yeast's spectrum will help pick up some of the aspects of a lager (e.g. altbier). Nothing that I've seen about Ringwood suggests that it can be used down at true lager temps though.

                          Who knows, perhaps they were referring to the diacetyl issues, for which Ringwood is notorious?

                          1. re: jgg13

                            Well you are right technically that a _true_ lager, specially by modern definition, should be made with bottom fermenting yeasts, though technically, the term "lager" literally means to "store". Much of lager's character comes from the cold storage/aging, during which the yeast continues to work slowly. The yeast strain that creates Sierra Nevada (BRY95, which was the strain used by the Ballantine brewery in Newark NJ) is a very clean top fermentor that can also work at lower temps, and achieve very lager-like characteristics if that result is desired. I have tasted beers made in the lager style using this ale yeast that were so dead on that one would swear a bottom fermenting starin were used. Ringwood I suppose really is a different story bow that you mention does indeed produce some can be tamed somewhat, although to what degree I don't know since I haven't experimented with it much. Of course, in some ales a bit of diacetyl is certainly not a defect, but rather a desired result. Really though, my original point was that a number of yeasts offer some leeway as to the results you get and can be manipulated to some degree to achieve results resembling or even matching the opposite style. Some very good ales, especially, have been made in the US using lager yeasts.

          2. if you can find it, pannepot gran riserva (by de struisse) is pretty damned interesting. has a lot of the dried dark fruit flavour of a good dubbel or quad, but a slightly tart finish, like a flemish sour. intriguing stuff.