Some beers are universally likable. Malt sweetness perfectly balances crisp hoppiness, the stars align, and everybody's thirst is quenched. Other beers are more challenging. Perhaps there is a pronounced boozy element, the brew is intensely bitter, or the malts are too heavily roasted for your taste. Then there are the beers with ingredients so off-the-wall that they immediately polarize the room. For example, a coconut curry hefeweizen.
For the last couple years, New Belgium Brewing has used its Lips of Faith series as a playground for brewer experimentation. Most of the beers in the line make use of odd fruits, exotic spices, and whatever provocative additions the team can dream up. The new Coconut Curry Hefeweizen is no exception. Brewed with coconut, cinnamon, coriander, fenugreek, ginger, kaffir lime, and cayenne pepper, this German-style Hefeweizen flies in the face of the German Reinheitsgebot -- a 15th century law requiring that the only ingredients in beer production are water, barley, and hops.
The most inspired element of this brew was the choice to use a hefeweizen as the base. Authentic German hefeweizen yeast is known for creating aromas of banana and clove, and this brew is no exception. The banana character meshes nicely with the coconut and curry spices, creating an overall experience that smacks of Indonesian cuisine. The malt presents itself with notes of lightly sweet graham cracker that offset the prevalent spicing.
Of course, this beer isn't for everybody. Don't like coconut, curry, or hefeweizens? Give that some thought before purchasing. Reactions at our table ranged from "best spiced beer I've ever tasted" to "I can only handle one sip of that." For our part, we think this is a finely executed, thought provoking, and delicious creation. We paid $6 for a 22-ounce bomber at Whole Foods Potrero -- well below the cost of a Southeast Asian vacation, and requiring far fewer vaccinations. Find a sunny spot outside (while you can), bring some takeout, crack open a bottle, and enjoy your trip to the spice route.