It seems like every week a local story pops up about a microbrewery that’s created a new type of beer with a surprising flavor such as bacon or chocolate.
While bacon-flavored anything sounds exciting to me, among more discerning drinkers there’s a distinct stigma attached to flavored beer. All the serious beer-drinkers I know—the types who take a sip of beer then murmur things like “hm, that’s very smooth” or “wow, that one’s hoppy,”—tend to avoid ordering the types of brews that promise things like “pineapple undertones.”
Yet there are always flavored beers on the list, even at the places like Spitzer’s Corner, a gastropub on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, that take the list quite seriously. I asked Spitzer’s General Manager Tim Sheehan if he had any guidance regarding flavored beer.
Sheehan described what beer enthusiasts already know—that beer is made from malt, which is usually made from barley, and the beer’s flavor depends mostly on the kind of malt used and how it’s treated. Most beer-makers roast the barley, for example, while others smoke it, which can give it that bacon-y flavor.
Other brews are treated with a heavier hand. “There are beers that actually put stuff in it such as cocos nibs or chili to really accelerate the flavor,” said Sheehan. “Magic Hat #9 puts apricots in for a fruit flavor,” but for the subtler beers, the flavors come from the malt.
I asked Sheehan to name three flavored beers—one fruity, one chocolate, and one bacon-flavored—that serious beer-drinkers should try. Here’s what he recommends:
Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier:
“This is a lighter beer. Subtle flavoring, very drinkable. Their beers have this really smoky flavor that ends up tasting like bacon. They don’t actually put bacon in it but it gives it that flavor.”