Straight up, the beer featured in this post is made with balsamic vinegar.
I know, I know. It sounds like a horribly fucked up homebrew experiment
And it kind of is – but really isn’t.
Let me explain.
Brewcult’s Acid Freaks was initially created for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular in 2013 – an event with a specific focus on brewers creating limited edition ‘out-there’ beers, many with previously unheard of flavour combinations. In many ways, it was indeed an experiment. A brave one at that. But it’s one that’s gone horribly right.
Hitting a chord with punters at the festival, Brewcult’s head brewer Steven Henderson decided to brew larger quantities of the beer and put it on the market – which is how I ended up sampling the beer at Déjà Vu – a formally-amazing-now-not-as-good-but-they-have-$6-pints-of-craft-beer-on-a-Wednesday-so-it’s-not-too-bad-really beer haunt of mine.
Before we move onto the beer itself, some background information for those who enjoy the ‘story’ behind beers: Steve’s brother Ian happens to own and run a boutique vinegar company that specialises in artisanal vinegars called LiraH. To create the balsamic porter in question (as is the official ‘genre’ of beer), Ian offered up a balsamic that had been aged in Shiraz barrels.
Not being a balsamic aficionado I can only assume that this is a good thing. As a beer aficionado/snob I can definitely tell you if Acid Freaks is an abomination or a masterpiece.
Now I’m not going to lie, I was slightly wincing when I was about to have my first sip. It’s only natural. Vinegar is massively acidic and likely to freak out my tastebuds. It’s not like the balsamic vinegar is hiding away waiting to surprise you here. And the beer looks a bit odd with its dark earthy colour and healthy dose of sediment.
So you swig, swallow, and wait for that harsh acidic kick in the arse. But, instead you find a surprisingly smooth and drinkable beer.
There are hints of berries, chocolate, and roasted dark malt flavours that help to balance out the sour and balsamic edges. The vinegar is definitely there – but it’s not the rampaging Sasquatch you expect it might be. It’s more like a laidback orang-utan – noticeable but not too in your face.