I love to try beers that are a bit different so the “bluest beer in the world” ticked that box – such a striking colourful beer.
It was Okhotsk Blue from Abashiri Brewery in Japan and it gets its amazing appearance from blue seaweed and local flowers, as well as containing water from melted icebergs.
But European law won’t allow those regional ingredients to be exported, so the somewhat disappointing smallprint on Firebox tells you its exclusive version is actually flavoured with ‘Blue 1’, whatever that is. Doesn’t sound quite so romantic.
So you don’t get the authentic taste experience but it does live up to the claim of being “bluer than the Smurfs”. On the flavour front it tastes like your average beer despite its Slush Puppy appearance. I couldn’t decide whether to be impressed or underwhelmed, because it looked so striking yet tasted so normal.
Other colourful beers
I later discovered that there was a pink, cherry version of Abashiri available (although it’s currently unavailable on Firebox) as well as a green one.
This got me wondering what other weird and wonderful colourful beers were out there, and whether they were gimmicks or there were decent beers to be had.
On my research quest I discovered a fascinating venture called the International Rainbow Project which was started in 2013 by the head of Siren Craft Brew and promotes collaboration in brewing.
From its humble beginnings in the UK, it has expanded across Europe and on to the US and New Zealand, and has resulted in some amazing pairings not to mention fabulously colourful beers. And it’s clear this project isn’t about creating faddish beers to drive sales, it’s about nurturing and driving innovation.
My rainbow project
I don’t have the luxury of calling any brewery pals to whip up some bespoke brews.
But I do have a thoughtful brother who scoured the internet and picked eight vibrant beers for a wee taste test. Here’s what he selected:
(L-R) Beck’s Ice Lime & Mint, Beck’s Green Lemon, Berliner Kindl Weisse Waldmeister, Abashiri Green Beer, Shöferhofer Grapefruit Weizen Mix, Blanche de Namur Rosée, Windswept Marooned, Berliner Kindl Weisse Himbeere.
- Beck’s Ice Lime & Mint
Brewed by: Brauerei Beck
Notes: This tasted much like Sprite or 7up, with a slightly more limey edge. My initial instinct was to toss a vodka in but I ignored my inner alcoholic. It was lovely, thirst quenching and juicy and its 2.5% of alcohol was well hidden as it tasted like a soft drink to me.
- Beck’s Green Lemon
Colour: translucent yellow-green
Brewed by: Brauerei Beck
Notes: Unlike the lime and mint Beck’s, this one did have a vaguely lager-like aroma. It was pretty much a weak shandy/radler and had a slightly dry edge which I liked. It’s unlikely to get you very merry but it’s enjoyable.
- Berliner Kindl Weisse Waldmeister
Colour: grassy green
Brewed by: Berliner Kindl Brauerei
Notes: Curiously this one smells a little like a cross between Play-Doh and a vanilla candle. It’s super sweet, a mega sugar-hit so one is probably enough, but it’s delicious. It’s got a moreish sour apple flavour that reminds me of sour Chewits. It’s made with woodruff (or ‘waldmeister’), a white flowered Eurasian plant.
- Abashiri Green Beer
Colour: emerald green
Brewed by: Abashiri Brewery
Notes: I thought I could smell a mouthwash-like, herby aroma and wondered if my eyes were making my nose play tricks on me. Nope, I took a sip and it tasted just as odd as it smelled. Dry and almost soapy. It’s promoted as ‘low-malt’ and ‘un-hoppy’ and that’s true…it couldn’t have tasted any further from beer. I was surprised it was 5% as it’s quite watery so I guess you might find it refreshing if you can get past the weirdness, but I couldn’t. I guess I don’t like beer made with spirulina. I’ll pass next time.
- Shöferhofer Grapefruit Weizen Mix
Brewed by: Binding-Brauerei AG
Notes: I had low expectations. I was sure I’d loathe it as I hate grapefruit and I don’t much like wheat beers, so this 50/50 combo of Shöferhofer Hefeweizen and carbonated juice didn’t sound promising. But surprisingly I didn’t hate it. It was reminiscent of Fanta or Lilt, with a really fruity and tropical edge. And I got to tick a world first off my list as it’s the first ever Hefeweizen grapefruit beer.
- Blanche de Namur Rosée
Brewed by: Brasserie Du Bocq
Notes: Smells tart but fruity and very appealing, like an ice lolly or cocktail. It has a fruity but subtle raspberry taste that’s much less sour than I expected. Reminded me of Hoegaarden Rosée. Would have this again – one for a sunny day.
- Windswept Marooned
Colour: coral/strawberry pink
Brewed by: Windswept Brewing Co
Notes: This blackcurrant wheat beer was a very lively pour and I was too impatient to wait for it to settle so eventually scooped the head off with a spoon so I could top up the glass. It has a sour smell and you can almost feel the fizz going up your nose. It’s very tart and more watery than expected given its ABV, and reminded me of some Belgian fruit beers I’ve tried. I wanted to love it as it’s brewed in Scotland but I found myself trying to drink it out of the way so I could get onto the next one.
- Berliner Kindl Weisse Himbeere
Colour: hot pink
Notes: For a wheat beer it was more translucent than I thought it might be – I expected a murky, cloudy pink. It smelled amazing, like those strawberry-and-cream boiled sweets you get in old-fashioned sweet shops (though this beer is actually made with raspberry syrup). Like its green counterpart it was way more tart than expected, but again it was a sugary-sour (as opposed to that cheek-pinching sour taste you get with a lambic). Lovely stuff.
Fancy colours, yay or nay?
I wasn’t sure what I’d think of these beers, as the ones I like are usually between the 6-11% mark. But in this taste test I preferred the weakest ones.
It’s clear there’s no hard and fast rule on fabulously coloured beer.
The Berliner Kindl beers were easily amongst the most vibrant but were really enjoyable, making me want to seek out more from the brewery’s range. According to Beers of Europe the German purity laws mean fruit beer is quite rare for German breweries.
Then there’s the equally vibrant Abashiri beers which, at the other end of the scale, seem to be all about visual wow-factor and not about flavour.
But maybe that’s just my tastebuds talking and others with a different (or more refined!) palate would disagree.