Call them a gimmick. Call them strange brew.
Or call them delicious — shockingly so, in some cases.
As the Treasure Valley brewery scene grows, Boise beer drinkers are being exposed to creative concoctions that go far beyond traditional styles such as IPA, pale ale and pilsner.
What — bizarre brews don’t get you hot and bothered? Here, sip an aphrodisiac beer ...
LEGGO! WAFFLE BEER
Woodland Empire Ale Craft, 1114 W. Front St., Boise
Finally, an indisputable argument for breakfast beer. Of course, at 11 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), you might head right back to bed. A special release in honor of the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” Leggo! was created using waffles from Downtown Boise restaurant Waffle Me Up. To sweeten the deal, Woodland Empire sauce boss Rob Landerman poured in “a s---load of maple syrup,” he says. “Real maple, not that corn syrup crap.” Leggo! will debut on tap at Woodland Empire during a “Stranger Things Season 2” party Friday, Oct. 27. It also will be sold in 22-ounce bottles at the brewery — at least until they’re toast. (Waffles? Toast? Get it?)
Also try: Boule sourdough beer
Boule (5.6 percent ABV) is “a tart, doughy beer that essentially tastes like sourdough bread,” Landerman says. “This baby is spontaneously fermented with two sourdough cultures, one from small local baker Sable Baking, and the other we started from scratch.” Boule will be widely available on draft and in 22-ounce bottles starting in late October or early November.
Cloud 9 Brewery, 1750 W. State St., Boise
If the idea of bizarre beer makes you horny, lock lips with a pint of Aphrodite. Sold around Valentine’s Day at this certified organic nanobrewery, it contains six supposed aphrodisiacs: maca, ginseng, saffron, honey, vanilla and tongkat ali. Golden-colored and about 5.7 ABV, this gruit is a bit like a vanilla cream ale with saffron. But don’t expect Aphrodite Ale to really make you amorous — at least any more than other craft beer. “I don’t think it does anything,” Cloud 9 head brewer Jake Lake candidly admits. But, but ... what about the saffron and tongkat ali? “I don’t think there’s any scientific proof that any of those things are powerful,” Lake says. “Otherwise, why would we have Viagra?” (Hey, Viagra ale! Now there’s an idea for a strange brew.)
Also try: Salted Caramel Stout
This unusual beer is a top seller at Cloud 9. Co-owner and chef Maggie Lake came up with the idea. It’s an oatmeal stout, Jake says, so it’s smooth, creamy and 6.2 percent ABV. But then it gets an added bump of real salted caramel. “We house-make the salted caramel personally, every batch, in the kitchen,” he says. “We take it right from the stove, right into the boil kettle. It hisses and pops.” Sound tasty? It is. And it’s available on tap year-round.
SIN TAX IMPERIAL PEANUT BUTTER STOUT
Mother Earth Brew Co., 1428 Madison Ave., Nampa
Spooning Jif into your beer might get sticky. So when Mother Earth owner Daniel Love first experimented with adding peanut butter taste to beer, he tried flavored bodybuilding powder. “It was a nightmare,” he remembers with a chuckle. Nowadays, the Reese’s-tinged vibe of Sin Tax is added through natural flavoring — a tincture. “So it’s also non-allergenic,” Love adds. “That’s the great thing about it. A tincture does not pull out the allergens from the peanuts.” Widely available in bottles, cans and on tap, Sin Tax (8 percent ABV) isn’t as viscous as other stouts. It’s chocolatey. It’s a little peanuty. And it has just enough sweetness — not much —to please the masses. “I’m not a big roasty, coffee, bitter stout guy,” Love says. “I wanted it to be approachable.”
Also try: Four Seasons of Mother Earth Barrel Aged Imperial Peanut Butter Stout
Mother Earth’s head brewer, Chris Baker, took Sin Tax, aged it in bourbon barrels for 10 months and produced a 10.2 percent ABV dessert. A limited autumn seasonal release, it’s on store shelves now in 22-ounce bottles. “Barrel-aged Sin Tax becomes a more complex offering,” Baker says, “with notes of toasted marshmallow, chocolate peanut butter and graham crackers.” Baker describes it as an adult version of a s’more. That’s right on — especially if you cram an unsalted nut roll candy bar into the s’more and chase it with a sip of bourbon.
BLU SNO WHITE CHOCOLATE BLUEBERRY PORTER
Bella Brewing, 4340 W. Chinden Blvd., Garden City
When Haff Brewing was rebranded as Bella in early 2016, many of the beer recipes stuck around — including this treat. White chocolate blueberry cupcakes? Sure. Cheesecake? Yep. But beer? It turns out that Blu Sno is a year-round favorite at Bella Brewing, where you can buy it on tap or in 22-ounce bottles. The brewery uses Ghirardelli white chocolate and blueberry puree to jazz up a 6.9 percent ABV porter. The result is fairly fantastic, with lots of chocolatey goodness and just enough blueberry. Owner Tom Dey says Blu Sno’s appeal is “across the board” with men and women.
Also try: Mahalo Melon watermelon wheat beer
You won’t have to spit out any seeds if you drink Mahalo Melon (5.1 percent ABV). Bella Brewing doesn’t pull a Gallagher on the watermelons. They dump in an extract made from Oregon-grown fruit. If you’ve had it in the past, be warned: The melon flavoring appears to have been dialed back since the Haff Brewing days. Mahalo comes across as a refreshing wheat brew with just a hint of watermelon lingering on the palate. Try it on tap or in 22-ounce bottles.
CRUSH CUCUMBER SOUR
10 Barrel Brewing Co., 826 W. Bannock St., Boise
Crush is no garden-variety beer. Award-winning brewer Tonya Cornett knew she had a hit the first time she made a batch. “I think there is definitely a novelty to having cucumber as an ingredient in beer,” she says. “People are caught off guard, and it’s one of those things you have to try.” A 5 percent ABV Berliner Weisse, Crush gets its cuke kick from artificial flavoring. It’s brewed at 10 Barrel’s headquarters in Bend, Ore., but it’s always available in cans — and sometimes on tap — at 10 Barrel’s Downtown Boise brewpub. It’s also sold at Treasure Valley retailers. Crush has won gold and bronze at the Great American Beer Festival, plus gold at the World Beer Cup. “If I had a dollar for every person that said they can’t believe how good it is,” Cornett says, “I would be rich!”
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