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10 of the World's Most Expensive Beers

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If you like sampling new beers or hate having money, you might want to try one of these.

1. Sapporo's Space Barley

Price: $110/six-pack
ABV: 5.5%

In 2006, Japanese and Russian scientists tested how well barley could grow in space. They rocketed barley seeds to the International Space Station and planted them aboard the Zvezda Service Module. After spending five months in orbit, the fourth-generation of barley was brought back to earth, where Japanese brewer Sapporo fermented it into the world's first space beer. A six-pack costs $110—not bad, considering it was imported from the cosmos.

If you'd like a cheaper space brew, try 4pines Vostok Space Beer. The stout is the first zero-gravity beer. Not only is it drinkable in space, but it's cheaper, too: $20 for a six-pack. It's perfect for anyone who's dreamt of imbibing where no man has imbibed before.

2. Crown Ambassador Reserve

Price: $90/750ml
ABV: 10.2%

If Foster's is Australian for beer, then Crown Ambassador Reserve must be Australian for expensive beer. Aged in French oak barrels for 12 months and packaged in a champagne bottle, Crown pitches Ambassador as an alternative to wine. The Australian brewer has produced four iterations since 2008, each batch limited to 8,000 bottles.

3. Tutankhamun Ale

Price: $75/500ml
ABV: 6%

In 1990, Cambridge archaeologist Dr. Barry Kemp unearthed Queen Nefertiti's Royal Brewery. He found ten brewing chambers buried beneath the Egyptian sand. Each contained traces of ancient beer residue. With the help of an electron microscope, fellow scientist Dr. Delwen Samuel analyzed the residues to quantify the 3,250-year-old recipe. The researchers then teamed up with Scottish brewer Jim Merrington, who made 1000 bottles of the Queen's brew. The first sold for $7,686, but the price tag eventually dipped to $75 per bottle. Years later, Merrington's breweries closed down. Did Tut's curse strike again?

4. Brewdog's Sink the Bismarck

Price: $80/375ml
ABV: 41%

Named after Nazi Germany's largest battleship, Sink the Bismarck was Brewdog's attack on Schorschbräu, a German brewery that held the record for strongest beer. Not only did Bismarck beer briefly steal the record, but it also redefined brewing. Brewdog calls the beer a "quadruple IPA": It was freeze-distilled four times, has four times as many hops as a conventional beer, and is four times as bitter. It's also forty times as expensive. Also from Brewdog: the slightly cheaper Tactical Nuclear Penguin.

5. Samuel Adams' Utopias

Price: $150/700ml
ABV: 27%

Weighing in at $150, Samuel Adams' Utopias is America's most expensive beer. Released every two years, each batch is aged in sherry, brandy, cognac, bourbon, and scotch casks for up to 18 years. (Each installment also contains a touch of maple syrup!) Thanks to archaic ABV laws, Utopias is banned in 13 states. If the price tag makes you wince, just remember you may be able to get a nickel refund if you recycle the bottle.

6. Schorschbräu's Schorschbock 57

Price: $275/330ml
ABV: 57.5%

Released in 2011, Schorschbock 57 claims to be the strongest beer in the world. According to Master brewer Georg Tscheuschner, a higher proof beer would violate Germany's 500-year-old Beer Purity Law. Schorschbräu only made 36 bottles, and each carries a price tag of €200. Tasters say the 115 proof bock is smoky and nutty, with hints of raisins and, obviously, alcohol. The folks at ratebeer.com gave it a paltry 20/100.

7. Carlsberg's Jacobsen Vintage

Price: $400/375ml
ABV: 10.5%

The Danish company launched "the vintage trilogy" in 2008 to challenge the luxury wine market. This barley wine is matured in Swedish and French oak barrels for six months and supposedly tastes like vanilla and cocoa, with hints of peaty "tar and rope." Sold at upscale restaurants in Copenhagen, 600 bottles were made annually from 2008 to 2010. Each bottle boasts an expiration date of 2059, which means you have another 47 years before that smoky "tar and rope" taste goes bad.

8. Brewdog's The End of History

Price: $765/330ml
ABV: 55%

With the beer to end all beers, the gang at Brewdog mistakenly thought End of History would end the ABV arms race. At 110 proof and a staggering $765, it is the third strongest and second most expensive beer on the planet. This blond Belgian ale was mixed with nettles and juniper berries from the Scottish highlands and then freeze distilled multiple times. Only 12 bottles exist, and each is made out of taxidermied roadkill: seven weasels (stoats), four squirrels, and one hare. I like to think of them as fuzzy koozies.

9. Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844

Price: $44.00/720ml
ABV: 6%

In the USA, Pabst Blue Ribbon is one of the cheapest beers you can buy. But in China, it is the Mercedes Benz of Beers. At $44 per bottle, Chinese PBR costs 44 times more than what's sold stateside. That’s because it’s not the same blue-collar swill. PBR 1844 is made from German caramel malts, is aged in uncharred American whiskey barrels, and even comes in a fancy glass bottle. Masterbrewer Alan Kornhauser designed the ale to compete with higher end wines and brandies. It is not sold outside of China.

10. Nail Brewing's Antarctic Nail Ale

Price: $800-$1815/500ml
ABV: 10%

Not made from animals, this pale ale is made for animals. Concocted by Nail Brewing in Perth, Australia, 100% of profits go to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. (That's right, the Whale Wars people.) The Sea Shepherds landed a helicopter on an Antarctic iceberg, dug up some ice, melted it in Tasmania, and flew it to Perth for brewing. Only 30 bottles were made, and the first sold for $800 at auction.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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iStock
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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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iStock

When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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