Brew With Us: Experimentation is much of the fun in homebrewing. As we get ready to brew a beer this weekend, learn about the creativity and inspiration behind a couple of strange brews I've created.

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Breweries run the risk of turning customers off with beers that are “too weird.” But as a homebrewer, you have the freedom to be creative.

A reader asked us in a comment recently about the American pale ale we’re brewing: “Can we follow and brew along if we want to make variations? I’m really interested in trying something with freshly foraged nettle.” The answer: Yes, always.

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I’ve experimented with some crazy ingredients myself, including chanterelle mushrooms for a seasonal Belgian ale last fall. I was pleasantly surprised by the hints of apricot that the mushrooms added to the fruity aroma created by the Belgian yeast I used.

Another recent concept: seaweed sour beer. Bear with me here …

Recently, I’ve been playing around with my recipe for Berliner weisse — a very light, sour wheat beer fermented with the same bacteria used to sour yogurt and sourdough bread. This bacteria, called lactobacillus, gives the beer a refreshing, dry, tart taste.

I started thinking about how I could modify the Berliner weisse to make it a summer seasonal, and found inspiration in the sea: I came up with an idea to add seaweed and saltwater to a beer to make it taste like summer by the sea.

Disgusting? Maybe. But it turns out that seaweed was actually an ancient ingredient used in beer-making, long before hops became a staple of brewing.There’s even a brewery in Scotland that offers a salty, seaworthy “Kelpie Ale.” The brewers add bladderwrack seaweed straight to the wort in the last 10-15 minutes of the boil.

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I decided to go even more extreme: Why not add saltwater directly to the beer as well? Salty beers do exist, like the German sour beer “gose” (pronounced gose-uh), similar to Berliner weisse except that it has a salty taste from the water used for brewing.

Saltwater is quite high in sulfates, which can create astringent taste in beer if too much is present. But I decided to just go for it — nothing to lose as a small-time brewer.

I asked a friend to harvest a local variety of bladderwrack for me near Neah Bay, and to scoop up a jar of saltwater. On brew day, a curious co-worker stopped by just as I was about to add the seaweed and saltwater. He was visibly revolted, but I was able to convince him to try a sip before it went into the fermenter.

It was surprisingly drinkable, with hints of the sea. But I’ll have to wait for it to come out of the fermenter in a month or so to find out if anyone else agrees.

Have any weird ideas for a beer yourself? Leave a comment below.