7 Alternative Uses for Beer

“Beer: the cause of – and solution to – all of life's problems.”
- Homer J. Simpson

When Homer uttered those fateful words, he was referring to drinking his favorite alcoholic beverage. However, as you'll see with these alternative uses for beer, the same could be true even if you don't belly up to the bar.

1. Bathe In It

The next time someone says you smell like a brewery, tell them you just got back from the spa. All over Eastern Europe, people are literally bathing in warm beer as a physical and mental therapeutic treatment. Not only are the yeast and vitamins great for the skin and hair, but the natural aromatics of the hops, a key ingredient in beer, offer a dip more relaxing than a regular hot tub. At most spas, like the Chodovar Brewery and the Bahenec Hotel in the Czech Republic, you can slip into a vat of beer big enough for you and a partner for between 25 and 45 euros (~$35-$65USD). But if you want to bring all your beer-drinking buddies along, you'll need to go to the Starkenberg Brewery in Germany, where, for 135 euros per person (~$185USD), you can bathe for two hours in swimming pools filled with warm, dark beer. [Image courtesy of Beer Spa Bahenec.]

2. Eat It

While drinking may be the preferred method, eating beer is not out of the question. Everyone's had beer-battered fish or chicken, but Mark Zable brings a whole new twist with his patent-pending fried beer recipe. Zable's secret is a ravioli-shaped pocket of dough that protects the beer inside while the outside gets fried to a crisp after 20 seconds in hot oil. The invention earned him a top award at the 2010 Texas State Fair's Big Tex Awards, a competition filled with odd, deep fried concoctions like Pop Tarts, a club salad, and another alcoholic entry, Deep Fried Frozen Margarita.

If you're going to eat beer, you have to go to extremes – either fried in oil or frozen. From Ben & Jerry's 2006 beer-flavored Black & Tan, named after the famous drink mixing a dark stout and a pale ale, to specialty shops all over the country that make their own combinations, beer ice cream has really hit its stride in the last few years. During Denver's 2010 Great American Beer Festival, local creamery Sweet Action Ice Cream came up with six special flavors using local brews to celebrate the event. Some of the highlights included HMS Victory ESB with Oreos, Fort Collins Brewery's Double Chocolate Stout, and Smoked Baltic Porter, mixed with marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for the taste of campfire s'mores. The shop usually carries at least one beer ice cream every week, and plans on bringing back the special beer blends for the 2011 festival in September.

3. Control Pests With It

Beer has a tendency to bring unwanted pests to your home, usually in the form of people who don't chip in for the keg. But you can use beer to get rid of pests, too. If you have mice pour about an inch of beer in the bottom of a five-gallon bucket, then lean a 2x4 on the outside to create a ramp. The mouse will climb up and in to get his fill, but not be able to get out. With the mouse trapped inside, you can carry the bucket to a nearby field and pour him out.

4. Found a Political Party With It

In the mid-1990s, The Beer Lovers Party had candidates in Belarus (their mascot was a drunken hedgehog) and Russia (they raised nearly 700 million rubles for the 1995 elections). In Norway's 2005 parliamentary election, the Beer Unity Party received 65 votes. The Lower Excise Fuel and Beer Party has had candidates in the 2001 and 2005 Australian elections. Even Canada's Draft Beer Party had a candidate in a 1979 provincial election.

Normally these beer parties are used as a joke to make a satirical comment on the political process. Their point made, they collect an insignificant number of votes, then disappear forever. However, that wasn't the case with the Polish Beer Lovers Party, which started as a farce, but wound up becoming a serious political platform. For the 1991 parliament elections, voters were looking for a different perspective in government. Many found that difference in the pubs where the Beer Lovers Party would gather to have serious discussions about the direction of the country. With the help of this grassroots movement, the party wound up capturing 16 parliament seats. Upon seeing the opportunity to create real change, some members dropped their satirical ways and renamed their faction the Polish Economic Program. They went on to become a legitimate force in the 1992 election of Hanna Suchocka as Prime Minister.

5. Play With It

Drinking games have been around for thousands of years. But a rousing game of Kottabos – a Greek game where players flung the last bit of wine from their cups to knock over targets – isn't exactly taking modern party-goers by storm. Beer pong is all the rage today, especially in fraternity houses, even though it was invented nearly 60 years ago by the Maune brothers of St. Louis. The game has been simplified over time (the original version required paddles and a net) to the point it is now little more than beer cups on both sides of the table that are targets for a thrown or bounced ping pong ball. While rules and gameplay differ from party to party, there has been some effort to legitimize the sport with the establishment of the World Series of Beer Pong, held annually since 2006. The World Series' governing body of bros have set up rules that are used at official regional tournaments, leading up to the big finale in Las Vegas, where the champion two-man team takes home $50,000.

6. Start a War With It

Between 1937 and 1941, Japan and China fought what has become known as The Second Sino-Japanese War. An estimated 1.5 million Chinese and 396,000 Japanese soldiers were killed, not including countless civilians on both sides. The hostilities began in earnest on the night of July 7, 1937, at what has now been dubbed The Marco Polo Bridge Incident.

That evening, Japanese forces stationed in a neutral area near Beijing conducted unannounced military maneuvers by the bridge. China's National Revolutionary Army mistakenly thought they were being attacked, so a few shots were exchanged. There were no reported deaths or injuries, but when a member of the Japanese army did not return to his post, it was thought that he had been captured by the Chinese.

Throughout the night and early morning, shots were fired, troops and artillery were amassed on both sides, and everything appeared headed for all-out war. A cease-fire was eventually called, but hostilities remained in the region. A month later, after more skirmishes, Japan launched a full-scale invasion.

Where does beer fit into all this? The missing Japanese soldier was eventually found alive and well. According to legend, he ducked out during the military maneuvers and went to a nearby bar to get a bottle of Five Star Beer, a popular brand in Beijing.

7. Build With It

In the deserts of the American Southwest, there aren't many natural resources for constructing buildings. So when small mining settlements started cropping up in the early part of the 20th century, people had to use whatever they could to build. Because a saloon was usually one of the first things raised in these small towns, there was always an ample supply of empty beer bottles. By using bottles as bricks and adobe or concrete for mortar, many homes and stores were constructed with tens of thousands of empty beer bottles. The glass is said to be perfectly good for insulation and creates a strong exterior, able to withstand just about any weather Mother Nature can throw at it. The trend caught on and bottle buildings can now be found throughout the country.

While these houses are impressive, they're nothing compared to Thailand's Buddhist temple Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew, known as “The Temple of a Million Bottles.” Since 1984, the monks living there have used approximately 1.5 million discarded beer bottles from nearby towns to create a 20-building complex complete with a main temple, living quarters, and prayer room. The monks even use old bottle caps to create mosaics and other decorative touches.

Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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