I had an opportunity to try some of the Beers Made By Walking and the results were decidedly mixed. The following are my mildly edited notes, with a little follow up after that.
Base Camp, Shroomed Pilgrimage-EARTHY! It’s a bit warm, too: rum barrel aging definitely present but the mushrooms pretty much take over everything halfway into the sip and the rest of the way through. (Saison as base style)
Hopworks, Samsara; Belgian pale base style, with a definite herbal flavor. There is some attempt at complexity here-a touch of spiciness from the ginger appears but it evaporates quickly, just leaving the herbal note.
Commons, Tinderbox; Saison base, which allows a smokey, woodsy quality to shine through very easily. I could definitely drink a half-pint of this while out camping.
High Street homecrew club, Spruce Lee; you know why you don’t use spruce in beer? Because it makes the beer taste like gin. Now, if you like gin (and I’m OK with it) then this beer is solid. But if not…
10 Barrel, Sweet Chariot; this beer tastes the most like a recognizable style. It’s a mildly sour cherry ale, pleasantly drinkable and accessible. As a Belgian style ale, it works well.
Hopworks, Wandering Brewers bitter: this is a pretty solid beer but it has a bitterness on the finish that is a bit intense for hops and feels almost-but-not-quite offset by the malt.
The Wrap Up
While I like this idea in concept, I feel like most of the beers I had were very difficult to recommend. Only the 10 Barrel tasted balanced and that may be due to the use of ingredients that are most like those used in regular brewing processes.
My opinion is that the unfamiliarity with those ingredients lead to beers that just weren’t as good as the brewers are typically capable of. I have no objections to mushrooms, cedar, wild ginger, licorice fern, or any number of unusual ingredients being used in beers but I do object to paying money to be the test subject for these breweries. I don’t know if the Beers Made By Walking project is giving the brewers enough time to develop and polish these recipes so that consumers feel they get their money’s worth, instead of just being part of the Glory of Cool Things.