By now, you may have heard that the Red Sox Triple A affiliate is slowly but surely making its way from Pawtucket, R.I., northward to Worcester. A story or two may have been written about it in the past.
If this is breaking news to you, take a second to digest it all.
And now we move on because this, my friends, isn't a column about baseball any more than it is about the relocation site of Red Sox' minor-league club. But the background is necessary, as it lays down the roots for Worcester's Wormtown Brewery's "Welcome to Worcester," a baseball-themed Vienna lager aged on unvarnished wooden bats to celebrate the news of the team's move to Central Massachusetts.
Sound strange? To the uninitiated, sure, it's a bit unusual.
For those who have dabbled in the bizarre world of exotic beers, adding some wood to a brew is nothing unusual. It's not uncommon for wood to be added, though it's usually in the form of barrels that had previously contained the likes of wine or bourbon.
Many breweries embrace the idea of going off the deep end, of venturing outside the box and pushing the boundaries of what translates well in a beer. Let's face it: You can put anything in a fermenting liquid, but it takes a certain finesse to take an oddball ingredient and meld it into something that works in a beer.
There's even yearly gatherings, like the Extreme Beer Fest in Boston, that celebrate the more creative and unusual world of brewing, often with one-off creations from participating breweries. And if you're willing to push aside the old notion that beer should be nothing more than water, hops, barley and yeast, there's a lot of palate-puzzling beverages to be tried.
Here are a half dozen of the stranger beers I've come across and consumed.
1. Benchtop Brewing Company's Chapulin Exchange. This is fresh in my mind from last month's Extreme Beer Fest and features an ingredient I'd never tried before: grasshoppers. The Gose-style brew was made with toasted grasshoppers, complemented by the addition of lime zest and chipotle peppers.
2. Right Brain Brewery's Mangalitsa Pig Porter. I like dark beers. I like bacon. What's not to like about a porter brewed with smoked pig's head and bones? Truth be told, it was delightful, with a nice smokiness from the unique pig breed (which looks like a cross between swine and sheep). 7% ABV
3. Dogfish Head Brewery's Chicha. Beer brewed with corn might not be the most common thing, but it's hardly bizarre. Not unless the corn is chewed up and spit out by the folks at Dogfish Head before being added to the mash early on, leading to a sterile beer after boiling. It's based on an ancient Peruvian recipe and also features strawberries, giving it a nice sweetness in the finish and an odd pinkish color. (Honorable mention to DFH's Chocolate Lobster, a porter that contains the two ingredients mentioned in its name, and In Your Mace, a milk stout that contains the chili oils used to make pepper spray.) 5.7% ABV
4. Pizza Beer Company's Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer. This is an example of a strange beer that lacked nuance and didn't work, in my mind at least. Out of production now, this Illinois brewery literally put a Margarita pizza in its beer (through a cheesecloth bag, much like brewing tea). The result is what it would likely taste like if you were to put a pizza in a blender and let the machinery work its magic (but without any lumps). 5% ABV
5. The Collective Brewing Project's Cup O'Beer. Another gose, this sour and tart beer features lemongrass, ginger and coriander among its ingredients. Oh, and Ramen noodles. A whole bunch of Ramen noodles. To the effect of 55 pounds per batch. It's still sour, but with a bit of a starchy-ness to it from the plethora of noodles. 4.7% ABV
6. Cambridge Brewing Company's Burnt Weeny Sandwich. Due to its main components, beer is often called liquid bread, so adding hot dog buns to a brew isn't too shocking. But toss in charred hot dogs and mustard seed, and it's a completely different story. And this cream ale tastes exactly like what you might imagine those ingredients would taste like in liquid form (for better or worse). 4.5% ABV
Others I considered? Ballast Point Brewing's Habanero Sculpin (a very spicy IPA); any of Rogue Ale's Beard Beer (brewed with yeast originally cultured from the beard of the company's brewmaster); Dewey Beer Company's Nashville Hot Fried Chicken and Waffles (the name is not a lie, but rather an accurate description of the flavor profile).
The lesson I've learned from these? Weird can work in beer, for the most part. And there's no harm in trying these exotic brews.
Don't fear the weird. It's usually quite an experience.
Follow Nick Mallard on Twitter @n_mallard.