The Limits of Taste

Copyright Nicola Hodgins
Copyright Nicola Hodgins

We here at AllHailtheAle love pushing the boundaries. Nothing says ‘beer’ to us more than finding a new palate-experience either down the pub, from a vat of home-brew or from a shop shelf. Sometimes when trying something new, it’s mildly surprising. Sometimes it blows you away. Brewers can achieve a variety of effects, often with the way they brew things, but also with the ingredients they use.

The question is; how far would you go in the brewing of a great beer? Well, in Iceland, Stedji Brewery‘s answer to that is using smoked whale testicle as a flavouring. The beer in question is called Hvalur 2 and uses one cured, salted and smoked fin whale’s testicle per batch, according to “an old, Icelandic tradition.”

Ordinarily, I’d jump at the chance to try such a strange brew, something that’s so rare and traditional. The fact is, Stedji Brewery can ill-afford to produce it either. Why, you ask? The fin whale is an endangered species. Whereas it’s great to note that it’s the second largest mammal in the world next to the blue whale, it’s less good to know that there are only an estimated 50,000-90,000 left in the world’s oceans.

Can a beer really be justifiable that uses such contentious ingredients? In my eyes, nothing can really mitigate the fact that the whale is endangered, especially not when other options are available to give a beer its uniqueness. Speaking out of experience, I’m sure other sea produce could be used to make a more compelling brew. I, for instance, have recently bought a cuttlefish ink beer from Hardknott, that I will review in the fullness of time. As a farmable product, ink is much less harmful to the world’s oceans than going after something that’s already struggling.

Also, can a brewery be justifiable that uses such contentious ingredients? Stedji already caused controversy back in 2014 for using ‘whale meal’ in another product. Whilst the brewery claims that it’s a healthy source of protein, containing almost no fat, WDC has a more understandably challenging tone, calling Stedji’s plans, “as immoral and outrageous as it is possible to get.”

I must say I agree. At what stage to we stop searching for new taste sensations? The answer is not when the taste, but when the concept of what we are doing becomes disgusting.

Copyright Nicola Hodgins
Copyright Nicola Hodgins
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4 thoughts on “The Limits of Taste

  1. Alastair Savage January 28, 2015 / 6:21 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. Would they be so brazen to use another endangered species, such as the tiger? I think not.

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