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10 of the Weirdest Beers Ever Brewed

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Now that the craft beer revolution is old news, a microbrewery can’t just make better-than-average beer to get noticed. They have to do something really unique to get their name out there—and there seems to be no end to the weird things beer makers will do to get noticed. Here are some of the strangest beers on the market today.

1. The World’s Most Potent Beer

Here’s a title that seems to change every year or so. It started in 1999 with Sam Adams' Utopia, which clocked in at 21 percent alcohol by volume. Last year, the title was topped by Brewmeister Brewery’s Armageddon, which contained 65 percent ABV, and just this week, Brewmeister upped their game by announcing their new Snake Venom, which contains 67.5 percent alcohol—making it an impressive 135 proof, which is stronger than many hard liquors.

One bottle of Snake Venom will run you $80 (if you can even find it), and each bottle has a warning tag reminding you not to drink too much of the brew.

2. The Only Beer Sold In Dead Animals

If you’re looking for something with a nice blend of weirdness and a package certain to catch the eyes of your guests, try getting your hands on Brewdog’s “The End of History,” a 50 percent ABV beer released in 2010 that sold for the absurd price of $765. But you weren’t just paying for potency at that price: “The End of History” was a special, limited-edition Belgian blond ale. Only 12 bottles were made, and they were all contained within the taxidermied body of a squirrel or weasel.

3. The World’s Oldest Beer Recipe

It’s difficult to quantify the title of “World’s Oldest Beer” because humans have been brewing since around 9500 BC—before we even started writing. Since we can’t crack open a bottle of beer from the dawn of time, we have to make do with what we can, and right now the oldest brew anyone has been able to replicate comes from a 5000 year old recipe found in the Sumerian “Hymn to Ninkasi."

The beer was recreated as a joint experiment between archaeologists from the University of Chicago and brewers from the Great Lakes Brewing Company. To keep things as authentic as possible, they used recreations of ancient tools and ceramic fermentation pots, malted the barley on a roof, and hired a baker to create a yeast source similar to the kind used in ancient times. They even refrained from using modern cleaning methods to clear natural bacteria that grow in the pots.

So how did the experiment go? Well, researchers think they recreated the beer just right, but they found it was far too sour for modern day tastes and almost tasted more like vinegar than our modern beers. The brewer hopes to give it another try only with some sweet additions from the time period, like dates and honey to get rid of some of the overwhelming sour flavor. If he’s successful, you might just get to try a 5000 year old beer recipe for yourself one day courtesy of the Great Lakes Brewing Company.

4. The World’s Oldest Intact Beer

Ancient brews might not be all that appealing to modern tastes, but what about 200 year old beers? After five bottles of beer were discovered in a shipwreck back in 2011, four professional taste testers got to find out. The shipwreck was dated to the early 1800s and, unsurprisingly, the testers found the beer to taste “very old”; they also thought it tasted “acidic” with some “burnt notes.”

While you might not be able to get your hands on one of those five bottles of 200 year old beer, you might get to taste a recreation of the brew, since one of the salvagers happens to be a microbrewery owner who wants to work with scientists to resurrect the formula. Presumably the new version from Stallhagen Brewery won’t taste quite so old, but it’s hard to say if it will still taste acidic and burnt or if those flavor notes came from age as well.

5. The Beer With the Oldest Yeast Strain

Perhaps you don’t care as much about old beer recipes as you do about old ingredients. In that case, you won’t want to miss some of the brews from Fossil Fuels Brewing Company, who started brewing pale ale and German wheat beer with a strain of yeast that is over 45 million years old.

The brewery is owned by Raul Cano, who also just happens to be a scientist at the California Polytechnic State University. He uncovered the dormant yeast strain from a Lebanese weevil that was covered in ancient Burmese amber since the Eocene Period. Interestingly, while modern yeasts can consume almost any kind of sugar, this ancient variety can only grow on a narrow type of carbohydrates, which creates a unique flavor in beer.

So how does this Eocene Epoch of beers taste? The Oakland Tribune beer critic, William Brand, noted that it has a “weird spiciness at the finish,” and over all it has received positive reviews from critics and fans alike.

6. The Oddest Yeast Strain in a Beer

Plenty of brewers claim to put a little bit of themselves in their bottles, but only Rogue Ale’s The Beard Beer (which we covered back in September) takes that idea so literally. As the name implies, the beer is created thanks to a beard—specifically, the beard of the company’s master brewer, John Maier. The company was looking for a new source of yeast when someone joked Maier’s beard might be a perfect place to grow yeast. Sure enough, the beard can grow yeast—and quite great yeast, in fact, created from the over 15,000 brews Maier happened to be present for.

7. The Most Spacey Beers in the World

Want a beer with ingredients that are out of this world, literally? Then you actually have two options. Sapporo Space Barley features barley that was on the International Space Station. The 2009 limited edition beer was released in 250 six packs that sold for around $100 each. Proceeds were used to support science education.

Alternatively, Dogfish Head Brewery’s Celest-jewel-ale contains dust from lunar meteorites. If you’re wondering why the company would put crushed space rocks in your beer, it’s not just to be fancy. As it turns out, since the meteorites are mostly minerals and salts, the dust aids the fermentation process. Unfortunately for those interested, you can only get this space beer from the company’s Rehoboth Beach pub. But on the upside, if you do make it out there, it’s served in a koozie made from the same material as an astronaut’s space suit, so at least they make an effort to go for a theme. Oh, and you’d better hurry if you want to try some, as it was only made in a limited edition batch at the beginning of October and once it’s gone, it’s gone for good—just like a beautiful shooting star of beer.

8. Beer Pre-Digested By Elephants

Actually, the beer itself hasn’t been digested yet. It’s really only the coffee beans that were used in a special coffee known as Black Ivory. Rather than using civets to digest the coffee beans before they are processed, this coffee uses elephants. Then, once the elephants poop out the beans, it’s made into coffee and at that point, the coffee is brewed into Sankt Gallen’s Un, Kono Kuro. Reviewers say it was actually quite delicious, with a strong, bitter taste followed by a wave of sweetness and a mellow body.

Unfortunately, this limited edition treat sold out within minutes (even at the heavy price of $100 a bottle), so if you want to get your hands on some elephant poop beer, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and start from scratch.

9. The Most Child-Friendly Beer

Hello Kitty has created a series of fruit-flavored brews adorned with a cute mascot. They come in sweet flavors like peach, passion fruit and banana and have about half the alcohol of a Budweiser. One reviewer said the flavor “tastes like Fanta with a beer aftertaste.” (Sanrio has no plans to start selling these in North America any time soon.)

10. Some of the Strangest Beer Flavors

Obviously there are hundreds of beers out there with bizarre flavorings, but it just wouldn’t be right to talk about weird beers without mentioning a few of the oddest flavors. Here are some of our favorites:

Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer: Who says you need to chew your pizza? This brew actually is made with a whole margarita pizza in the mash and plenty of pizza spices to enhance the flavor.

Maple Bacon Coffee Porter: The best part of waking up is The Funky Buddha’s maple bacon coffee beer in your cup.

Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ale: Can’t decide between a chocolate, peanut butter, banana donut and a nice ale? Well, you’re probably already drunk, but at least you’re covered with this Rogue Ale brew.

Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout: Yes, this Wynkoop Brewing Company specialty really contains bull testicles—three per barrel, to be precise.

Oyster Stout: This Porterhouse Brewing Company stout is brewed with oysters shucked directly into the brew tank, for that “silky, salty finish.”

Coconut Curry Hefeweizen: New Belgium Brewery’s innovative brew combines the sweetness of coconut, the spicy flavor of curry and a hint of banana.

Would you guys ever drink any of these? Even better, have any of you ever tried any of these?

 

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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