The craft beer market has changed dramatically since the boom of the early 2000s. Back then, robust regional favorites from up-and-coming breweries such as Dogfish Head Brewery, Great Lakes Brewing Company and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company were all the craze but now drinkers are turning to niche varieties – experimental small batch beers with an abundance of flavor.
It’s an ever-changing landscape, one where hyper-local, super fresh beers currently reign supreme and given the effectiveness of supply and demand in this market, certain breweries thrive on producing small amounts of experimental beers. It’s also continued to make the market more competitive as breweries feel the need to keep up with what is new, creating casks and limited releases in the hopes of discovering the next thing beer drinkers will enjoy. And that changes often – just look to the last six months. Over that time, both brut IPAs and milkshake IPAs have become all of the rage, so much so it’s rare not to find one at almost any brewery.
But thanks to an inadvertent viral sensation, the next massive beer shift might be upon us. Just a couple of weeks ago, Smartmouth Brewing Company, released a beer that almost broke the internet, well at least to those who are well-connected to the latest beer trends. It was a beer that targeted nostalgia-fueled millennials, brewed with Lucky Charms cereal for those who miss Saturday morning cartoons and might be looking for something a little outside of the box. After being picked up by major news outlets, the beer went viral and sold out at launch in mere minutes. While it might not be the first time a cereal has been put into a beer, it was certainly the one that made the most noise in the beer community, so did Smartmouth create the next big thing?
Other breweries like DuClaw Brewing Company, a Baltimore-based outfit founded in 1996, are taking that same concept and making it their own. Sure, their latest beer was made with sugary cereal but DuClaw thought why stop there – why not take it even further? Released last weekend, Sour Me Unicorn Farts is a sour ale made with Fruity Pebbles cereal and edible glitter, part of the brewery’s limited release collection. It’s a 5.5 percent medium-bodied beer which balances both a sweet and tart flavor — the brainchild of a local Baltimore staple.
“The whole process behind it was kind of one of those things where I was looking for the PastryArchy collaboration,” said Brandon Stanko, DuClaw’s Head Brewer. “One of the first kind of things I looked into was who is making like really cool desserts or decadent type of stuff that we want for our PastryArchy. I came across Diablo Doughnuts and I figured, ‘well, doughnuts are really awesome and people that make very local, pretty cool, things would be like the way to go about it.’”
Stanko and the team at DuClaw toured Diablo Doughnuts’ facility, at which point they came across the bakery’s No. 1 seller, a glazed doughnut topped with Fruity Pebbles called Unicorn Farts. Almost immediately, Stanko knew he had the idea for his next beer project but the glazed doughnut was not as much the focus as the Fruity Pebbles and the overall theme of the decadent, oddly-named treat. With an idea in mind, the beer-making process began, souring wort in a kettle over a weekend before being boiled and fremented like any common ale, except with the addition of Fruity Pebbles and edible glitter.
In the end, Stanko and his crew almost doubled the amount of beer that is typically produced for the company’s sour beer releases, creating two 180-barrel tanks full – plus a 60-barrel tank on top of that.
“We really didn’t know what kind of results we were going to get, as far as having a release here at the brewery, so we kind of just estimated — we pulled 40 cases just to have at the brewery, meanwhile our distributors got all of their pre-orders filled, basically,” he added.
Those 40 cases were gone in 54 minutes, that included a two four-packs per person limit.
“There was tons and tons of people [at the launch], it was more than what we were expecting, to be honest,” Stanko admitted. “We had people all over from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and some Florida people too as well. That was actually kind of surprising to see people that were outside of Maryland actually coming to try and visit us and get this beer.”
The remainder of the 16-ounce pounder cans and kegs were shipped to distributors to be divided up to drinkers of the 19 states where DuClaw’s products are currently available. There’s still a tank of Unicorn Farts leftover, however, though the company has plans for that. DuClaw will be the sole beer sponsor for a couple of LGBTQ pride events Ohio, Florida and Baltimore, where that saved beer will be distributed.
Limited edition beers, such as Unicorn Farts, garner attention and are important for breweries, bringing in new drinkers to sample other efforts, like DuClaw’s flagship beer, a scrumptious chocolate peanut butter porter called Sweet Baby Jesus. In this case, Stanko believes Unicorn Farts perfectly exemplifies the creativity and attention to quality that the brewery commits to, as well as its ability to continue to make innovative beer.
“I just think that we do these new ones really well and I think they only help to bolster our reputation as, you know, people that — not only are we cutting edge but so is the process that we do. It kind of let’s us flex a little bit of muscle, saying ‘hey, we’ve done this, we can do this.’”
DuClaw isn’t sitting back and enjoying the success of Unicorn Farts, no there’s several new and enticing beers coming down the pipeline, including Sour Me Carolina, a sour ale made with cranberry, cherry and Carolina reaper peppers, the self-explanatory Sour Me Double Blueberry and PastryArchy Barrel Aged Vietnamese Coffee, a bourbon barrel aged Russian imperial stout with strong bourbon, roasted coffee and caramel notes. But if you’re worried about missing out on Unicorn Farts, Stanko hinted that there might be more brewed down the road.
“We already started talking to Diablo Doughnuts about maybe making another one or also coming back to this idea next year, for Unicorn Farts.”