8 of the Weirdest Things People Have Brewed Beer With

According to historians, beer has existed for at least six millennia and has been savored on every continent (even Antarctica!). With credentials like that, it’s no wonder that brewers have occasionally turned to some highly unusual techniques and ingredients to make their beverages stand out. Here are eight of the oddest.

1. Dead Whales


Last year, an Icelandic brewing company called Steojar made headlines when word of their making a low-fat beer with processed whale meat (obtained from beached carcasses) got out, prompting outrage from conservationists. Steojar’s official website boasted that those who drank it would become "true Vikings," but their product was subsequently banned by Iceland’s health department.

2. Elephant Dung

Dubbed "Un, Kono Kuro" (a play on the Japanese word "unko," meaning "crap"), this Japanese concoction was made "using coffee beans that have passed through an elephant." How did it taste? One brave recipient said "there was an initial bitterness that got washed over by a wave of sweetness."

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.

3. Human Beards

Plenty of brewers claim to put a little bit of themselves in their bottles, but only Rogue Ale’s The Beard Beer 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 Oregon-based company was looking for a new source of yeast when someone joked Maier’s beard might be a perfect place to grow it. Sure enough, it worked. "John has had the same old growth beard since 1978 and for over 18,000 brews, so it is no great surprise that a natural yeast ideal for brewing was discovered in his beard," Rogue proudly boasts.

4. Dead Christmas Trees

Spruce-based beers have been around for centuries, a practice some believe should be revived to help curb the wasteful discarding of Christmas trees en masse after the holidays.

5. "Rocky Mountain Oysters"

"Fried bull testicles—or 'Rocky Mountain Oysters'—are a Colorado favorite. This makes them the perfect ingredient to showcase the new style of beer we’ve created that really pays tribute to one of Colorado’s unique culinary jewels," Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Company says in this hilarious (and slightly NSFW) video for their eyebrow-raising "Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout." The beer, which started off as an April Fool's Day prank, became a reality when some viewers mistook the video for a true advertisement. Wynkoop did a limited edition brew with three bull testicles per barrel, and they kept up the testes-in-cheek humor with their online publicity: "Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout is an assertive, viscous stout with a rich brown/black color, a luscious mouthfeel and deep flavors of chocolate, espresso and nuts." Heh. 

6. Actual Oysters

Rest assured, seafood fans: you can also find beers that contain real oysters. Their meat and shells have been used in stouts since the 18th century, giving the beer a silky, salty finish and becoming regional favorites in countries such as Belgium and New Zealand.

7. Hemp

Two drugs for the price of one! Flavored with hemp seeds, Joint Effort beer is, as Washington's Redhook brewery calls it, "a dubious collaboration between two buds." Made to celebrate the legalization of marijuana in the state in 2012, the beer tap was fittingly shaped like a large yellow bong

8. Frankincense & Myrrh

Fittingly called the Gift of the Magi, this gold-colored seasonal ale from The Lost Abbey is flavored with frankincense bark and "the smallest amount of myrrh."

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84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.

A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.

Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.

American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.

Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
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A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.

Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

Courtesy New District
Say ‘Cheers’ to the Holidays With This 24-Bottle Wine Advent Calendar
Courtesy New District
Courtesy New District

This year, eschew your one-tiny-chocolate-a-day Advent calendar and count down to Christmas the boozy way. An article on the Georgia Straight tipped us off to New District’s annual wine Advent calendars, featuring 24 full-size bottles.

Each bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine is hand-picked by the company’s wine director, with selections from nine different countries. Should you be super picky, you can even order yourself a custom calendar, though that will likely add to the already-high price point. The basic 24-bottle order costs $999 (in Canadian dollars), and if you want to upgrade from cardboard boxes to pine, that will run you $100 more.

If you can’t quite handle 24 bottles (or $999), the company is introducing a 12-bottle version this year, too. For $500, you get 12 reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines from various unnamed “elite wine regions.”

With both products, each bottle is numbered, so you know exactly what you should be drinking every day if you really want to be a stickler for the Advent schedule. Whether you opt for 12 or 24 bottles, the price works out to about $42 per bottle, which is somewhere in between the “I buy all my wines based on what’s on sale at Trader Joe’s” level and “I am a master sommelier” status.

If you want to drink yourself through the holiday season, act now. To make sure you receive your shipment before December 1, you’ll need to order by November 20. Get it here.

[h/t the Georgia Straight]


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