This week's beer is...huuurrrp. Excuse me. Um, this week's beer...HLEEAAHHHurkurkBLLEAAHH!
Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Let's get a little distance between us and that picture, shall we?
:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)
That's better. This week's beer comes to us from Denver, Colo., where the rarefied air does things to a person's brain and makes the softball-sized gonads of your average male cow (yup, pictured above) look like a tasty treat. Bull testicles, or Rocky Mountain Oysters, can be found all over the place in Colorado -- at Rockies games, even -- but had stayed out of beer until October 2012, when Wynkoop Brewing Co. decided they would sack up and make a brew using the delicate delicacy. Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, which Wynkoop spokesman Marty Jones calls "another seminal moment in our 25 years of small-batch liquid art," made its way into cans (sold in two-packs, of course) last week.
Now, plain old oyster stout is a real thing. Salty bivalves have long been matched with beer, their briny flavor for some reason a perfect pairing for a dry, roasty stout. Certain breweries have actually been adding oysters straight to the boil since the 1930s.
Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, however, was originally a joke. After sampling a traditional stout made with oysters crafted by Odell Brewing Co., Jones got the guys at Wynkoop to post a video for April Fools Day in which they claimed to have released a beer made with bull testicles.
As happens more often than is reasonable on April 1, people took the video seriously. Wynkoop started getting emails from drinkers eager to taste the ballsy beer, and after much prodding, brewers finally got teste enough to make a stout packed with bull balls a reality.
The recipe, developed by Wynkoop's head brewer Andy Brown, uses Colorado base malts, roasted barley, seven specialty malts, Styrian Goldings hops and a dash of sea salt. Oh, and 25 pounds of freshly sliced and roasted bull testicles. The beer is brewed in tiny eight-barrel batches (instead of Wynkoop's usual 20-barrel size), meaning three whole huevos de toro made their way into each barrel of the beer. At 330 beers per barrel, this means every can of the inky liquid contains about one one-hundredth of a testicle.
So, can you taste it?
Hard to say. The aroma certainly houses someone savory deep in the background -- a hint of umami akin to a well-marbled steak. But the other notes are better: salted caramel, milk chocolate, toasted bread, figgy dark fruits, smoke. The flavor displays more of the same -- bits of coffee, sweet cream, cocoa powder, vanilla and ethanol are offset by an earthy hop bite and a raisiny finish. I can't tell if the very subtle gaminess I'm detecting is there because it's actually there, or just because I want it to be. Doesn't really matter, in the end -- the stout would taste superb even without its ballsy adjunct.
Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout is packaged in plain cans that Wynkoop's brewers decorate by hand with a two-part label akin to those used on glass bottles. This way, Wnkoop can produce super-small batches of canned beer and avoid the 95,000 can minimum for painted cans demanded by their can supplier.
For the initial packaging run of Rocky Mountain Ouster Stout, Wynkoop is canning approximately 100 cases of the beer. Two-packs hit shelves in Colorado last week, but if you've got the stones for it, Wynkoop has made a limited supply of available for purchase online. Go nuts.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.