Last weekend, I went to Volo to try Nectarous, Canada’s best dry-hopped sour, on tap. Yes, it is smooth, intricately tropical and impossibly juicy. I want more. While there, I also tried a few other farmhouse ales. Among them were: the fabulous sour barrelly Surette by Colorado’s Crooked Stave, a tart saison that tasted like herbal BO, and a beer that reminded me of … Yardley Lavender lotion. At first whiff, I dubbed this “the perfume beer” and it offended me greatly. But then I took another sip. And another sip later, I was all: “Yardley Lavender lotion.”
I have never bought Yardley Lavender lotion. I have not smelled Yardley Lavender lotion in over ten years. The faint memory I have of Yardley Lavender lotion is smelling it one or two times, while at a neighbourhood Guardian Drugs in the west end, or perhaps the College Park Rexall. Maybe I was in high school. Point is: beer has this uncanny ability to take me back to a specific taste or smell from my past. The only other thing that can do this as strongly is music.
It’s funny that I had two incredible beers that I loved that night, but the standout memory will be Yardley Lavender lotion beer. It offended me, but also left the most lasting impression on me and now I can’t stop thinking about it.
Here’s the thing: I like weird beers, but they have to be weird in a good way. Lavender lotion beer was between weird in a good and weird in a bad way.
The two worst beers I have ever had were: the Cremini Mushroom Ale from Church-Key, and the Bellwoods Sour Petite Saison. I remember distinctly where I was sitting and what my reaction was to both these beers. They stand out in my mind because they offended my tastebuds in a strong way. Which, considering the thousands of beers I have tried in my lifetime, is kind of awesome. Since people seemed to like the Bellwoods one, I had to message some beer peeps and ask their opinion. The consensus was that though they hadn’t noticed how weird it was at first, after paying attention to it, they became offended by the flavours as well. A similar thing happened with the BO beer I tried at Volo: at first beer people gave it high praise, but then on closer inspection, the weirdness came out. I am sensitive to flavours and smells, which is why the weird beers resonate so strongly with me.
Or the Evil Arabier from De Dolle, which I had the pleasure of trying a few weeks ago in Belgium. Creamy Arabier got infected with bugs, and it became Evil. Deliciously Evil. My friend nailed the flavour when he said it tasted like Thrills, a very specific nostalgic soapy gum. The power of weird beers is based in nostalgia. It’s amazing how the combination of microbes, malts, hops and water can trigger such strong olfactory memories and emotions.
Do you have any weird beers you can’t stop thinking about? Tweet me with some suggestions.