It’s a little surprising that cucumbers and beer don’t have a deeper history. The refreshing gourd, with its signature green and slightly bitter flavor, plays quite nicely with lighter beer styles.
Most of us have tried cucumber water and been taken by its freshness. The flavor of cucumber is uniquely its own, but there’s also the added benefit of accompanying antioxidants. With beer, cucumber can impart some coolness to counteract the sizzle of the hops and effervescence, or garden-fresh grassy notes to play off of the acid of a sour beer. In other cases, it can offer a melon rind note that reminds us of hammocks and backyard hangouts.
Even if cucumber is not your thing, though, there’s a decent chance you’ll like how it operates in the company of hops, malt, and grain. The mashup activates something a little extra in cucumber, a food that’s never really been a celebrity but perhaps should be.
There are a somewhat limited number of these beers to try, but the unique and complementary marriage of flavors they showcase is reason enough to be on the lookout.
10 Barrel Cucumber Crush
The best of the bunch, 10 Barrel’s original sour ale is a summertime cooler must-have. The central Oregon brewery first launched the beer almost a decade ago. Stylistically, the beer is a kettle sour or Berliner weisse, hit with just the right amount of cucumber (albeit artificial in nature). Taking home gold at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, it’s a role model in cucumber beer land.
Odd13 Humulus Kalecumber
This offering from Colorado’s Odd13 incorporates both cucumber and kale making it — one could at least attempt to argue — “healthy.” There’s a bit of a grapefruit note, probably due to the use of Summit hops, and the beer overall shows a bit more earth than most.
Oakshire Sun Made
Another sprightly cucumber beer out of Oregon, the Sun Made is radiant with ripe melon-y flavors. It touts slightly more bitterness than most and a hop bill that yields subtle tropical fruit notes. And the cucumber flavor is front and center, right where it belongs.
Wicked Weed Imperial Coolcumber
An outlier in the best of ways, this beer from North Carolina’s Wicked Weed is much more involved. A golden ale crafted with juniper berries, cucumber, and basil, it’s a harmonious mashup of farm-y flavors. The brewers were wise to age it in gin barrels as the spirit is a natural choice with the above ingredients. Careful, it clocks in at 9% ABV.
Free State Garden Party
The aptly named Garden Party is as easy-drinking as they come, made with local cucumbers along with basil and juniper berries. Essentially a lighter version of the Imperial Coolcumber, this Kansas-born beer functions almost like a session version of a gin and tonic. Give it a good sniff or two as it’s one of the most aromatically compelling beers on the list.
Fieldwork Salted Cucumber
If you haven’t tried the work of Berkeley’s Fieldwork Brewing, change your ways. The California outfit is making some truly delicious brews and the Salted Cucumber is no exception. The incorporation of French sea salt gives it an ocean-fresh quality while the beer at large is a bit more wild and unruly, showing some delightful funk on the palate.
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