Good Beer Hunting

Fervent Few

Fervent Few — Yeast, Hops, Spice, & Everything Nice

Beer used to be made from a few simple, traditional ingredients. But these days, it can contain anything from an experimental hop variety to a funky, wild yeast to fried chicken. This week, we asked the Fervent Few about their magic ingredient—the one they see in a beer that makes them absolutely have to try it.


Matt Paonessa: “A bit of a different direction than sexy hops, but if a beer has rye malt in the grist, I will 95% of the time order it. Same goes for spelt. I dunno what it is about that doughy-bready malt character, but I frickin’ love it!”

Lana Svitankova: “I don't think there is a specific long-lasting love for me there, but recently I can't resist beer with tonka beans. If I see one on the shelf or tap list, I go for it. Either I've been lucky, or it's just the right ingredient, because until now, all beers I've tasted were extremely enjoyable. I just can't get enough of that subtle vanilla-cinnamon-almond-cherry-dark-chocolate aroma—not overwhelming, but creating gentle harmony. It's a rare presence.”

Nick Yoder: “For me it's stone fruit, particularly in beers with Brett. Apricot is my go-to because it tends to not end up overly sweet or fake like peach can. Brett, in general, will push a beer toward the top of my list, especially if it's on the funkier side. And if there's a beer with local hops, I'll order it because I love exploring the differences in hop terroir.”

Manny Gumina: “Less is more? If I see a beer with a single malt or single hop, I go for it. It's an easy way to taste that ingredient in its final resting place. The best is single malt and single hop beers. Great when done well.”

Michael Kiser: “It’s yeast for me. I used to order Saison on sight, but eventually got burned by U.S. brewers who don’t let the beer ferment hot enough and end up with plastic-y phenols and too-sweet esters. These days it’s ‘farmhouse.’ And I fair much better. I usually get a beer that’s on the lighter side, dry, and a bit hazy/rustic, and a grassy hop profile, which is mostly what I want from a Saison anyhow, minus the bit of bubblegum of a Dupont. Add a Chardonnay barrel-aged component and I will order it every time. A little oak and tannin quality, a jump in the acid profile, and residual silkiness (those barrels likely contribute a diacetyl character, I dunno), and I’m in heaven. That’s my sucker juice.”

Nick Weber: “Anyone can throw 4 lbs. per gallon of hops at a beer and make it taste good, but the dialogue between brewer and microbes is what makes really grabs my attention. A well-executed Saison makes my heart flutter. Mixed fermentation is the ultimate attention grabber for me, and rarely disappoints. However, I don't judge brewers quite as hard on mixed-ferm beers as I would Saison. There's something magical about fermentation-derived flavors—the complexity and depth of character in expressive yeast is what keeps me excited in Saison. If the brewer is candid enough to hint at or specify the strains used, it's a done deal.  If it's expressive, dry, and bitter, I'm ordering another pint.”

Colleen O’Sullivan: “Raspberries for me! I think their tartness and not-too-overpowering-fruitness when fermented are unlike any other. And they work well both in beers and ciders. Recently had the Cranachan Killer from Aberdeen's Fierce Beer, a raspberry Pale Ale which was exceptional. The raspberry ciders from Lockhorn cider in Bozeman, MT have done it the best in my book.”

Rob Steuart: “I've been going for the yeast/barrel combo recently, too. The dark beer/whisk(e)y combo is tried and true, but I'm loving all the different things people are playing with. Had some awesome barrel-aged Belgian Strong Ales from Japan with a white wine and a red wine expression.”

Quinton Cook: “Give me the spice! Anything that has some kind of pepper in it will most likely be ordered by me should I see it on the menu. I love beers that have a hint of spice/heat and a present aroma. Specifically, ancho chili peppers in a nice, big Imperial Stout will always be a go-to. Don’t know if I like a bunch of spice in an IPA as much, but give me a Prairie Bomb! any time of year.”

Wayne Pelletier: “Smoked malt is my weakness. If I see anything on the tap list with smoked malt or claiming to be Rauchbier, it’s getting ordered. I love Schlenkerla and consider them the best in style, but I root for a local or domestic that can do it well.”

Tyler Bello: “‘Mixed-culture Saison’ are three magic words that sell me every time. Especially from specific brewers, and especially if peaches and oak/wine barrels are involved.”

Grant McFarren: “Nelson hops. I'm a sucker for the unique aromas and flavors they can contribute to both IPAs and farmhouse ales. Plus, they're spendy, so you don't see them highlighted as much as, say, a Citra or Mosaic. Kvass is close second.”

Dave Riddile: “I love yeast-driven, especially mixed-culture, beers, but given that they occupy a heavy part of my drinking rotation at work (tough life, right?), I usually seek out something different. So when I walk into a new brewery or bar in a strange town and there’s a Czech Pilsner with SAAZ hops, you damn well better believe I’m ordering it. Love that hop’s character, but also a well-constructed Pilsner. A perfect marriage when done right. I enjoy the earthy, mild-spice of Saaz paired with the mineral-laced, crisp liquid. It’s the best beer to start and finish your day, to have with any meal (especially breakfast), and to keep drinking late into the night with a few whiskeys thrown in.”

Maia Kazaks: “Ingredients that draw me in are the unknown. Haskap honeyberry? Triticale flakes? Squid ink!? Please, expand my experience. If I've never heard of it, I will absolutely want to know more about it. At least give me a taste!”

Ross O’Neill: “Mixed fermentation is my new jam. I love the flavor variability and skill involved in getting it right. That, and the fact that it can be applied to a lot of beer styles—some better than others (Saisons, Pale Ales).”

Matthew Modica: “Usually, if I see a proper Belgian brewery with a new twist on something they’ve been perfecting for years I will jump at it. I believe the first one that caught my attention was Duvel Triple Hop. Now I’m seeing variations from Omer Vanderghinste, Kasteel, etc. Overall, Belgian brewers twisting their own proven recipes is very interesting for a few different—and sometimes questionable—reasons that will give me some insight as to how they might be seeing the marketplace.”

Me, personally, I’m a sucker for watermelon. What’s a flavor combination you always have to order first? Which ingredients do you love? Let us know! Join the Fervent Few to support more great content from Good Beer Hunting and hang out with the best community in beer.

Hosted by Jim Plachy