The grossest ingredients in beer

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Beyond the four main ingredients in beer (malted barley, hops, water and yeast), many brewers also use a variety of other ingredients, including spices, chocolate, fruits, vegetables, sugars, roots, you name it. But some brewers take things a bit further by adding extremely uncommon or shocking ingredients. Sometimes they do this as gimmicky marketing ploys to garner attention. Other times they may be legitimate attempts to infuse some sort of indigenous, cultural or historical ingredient into their beer.

I’m all for brewers pushing limits and experimenting with new ingredients, but I believe some ingredients go too far. Basically, if the ingredient does not actually enhance the flavor of the beer, then I don’t think it should be used. But obviously others disagree.

Here are some of the oddest and grossest ingredients I have come across:RogueBeardYeast

BEARD YEAST

Back in 2012, while Rogue Ales president Brett Joyce and brewmaster John Maier were searching for a new yeast strain in their hop yard, someone took a sample from Maier’s beard as a joke. To their surprise, lab workers actually found viable brewing yeast on the beard hairs, which haven’t been shaved since 1978. After isolating and propagating the yeast, they used it to ferment Beard Beer.

Beer fermented with beard yeast is kind of a gross thought, but yeast is all around us (and on us), and some of the best beers in the world are spontaneously fermented with wild yeasts. So I guess if you think of it that way, it isn’t so bad.

DEER SEMEN

Last year, we posted about how the Green Man Pub in Wellington, New Zealand, partnered with Choice Bros Brewing to create a Milk Stout made with deer semen. And that’s pretty much the gist of this jism beer.

Unless they discover that deer semen cures cancer, I think I’ll pass.

BULL TESTICLES

For April Fool’s Day in 2012, the Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado, made a spoof video showing them making a Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. For those not in the know, “Rocky Mountain Oysters” is a humorous euphemism for bull testicles. They’re commonly found on restaurant menus in Colorado, and they’re most often sliced and deep fried like chicken fingers. Beer made with bull balls, however, was something entirely new.

Even though it started out as a joke, so many people showed interest in the beer that Wynkoop decided to actually make it for real. The bull testicles were first sliced and roasted before being added to the mash. In keeping with the theme, they packaged the beer in two-packs, and it was dubbed “the ballsiest canned beer in the world.”

I tasted the beer once and it’s actually a really well-made stout with pleasant notes of chocolate and coffee. But it had a subtle nutty flavor that I just couldn’t put my finger on.

RockyMtOysterStout

DUNG-SMOKED WHALE TESTICLES

January 2015 we posted this about a beer called Hvalur 2 made with whale testicles by Stedji Brewery in Iceland (Hvalur 1 was made with whale meat). Not surprisingly, the beer garnered worldwide attention, though most people seemed more concerned about the whale part than the sheep-dung-smoked-testicles part.

In a Draft Magazine article, Stedji owner Dagbjartur Arilíusson defended the beer:

“Most of the protests [and criticisms from whale conservationists] come from people outside of Iceland. People have to remember that the fin whale is not endangered in the North Atlantic, and Iceland is known for sustainable fishing and setting quotas for our whale hunt.”

Ironically, the protests created more demand for the beer, which may explain why it completely sold out. Although, we are talking about a country with traditional foods that include rotten shark and goat heads, so drinking beer made from whale testicles isn’t much of a stretch.

OrderOfYoniLACTIC ACID BACTERIA FROM A VAGINA

Many sour ales are made with bacteria (especially lactobacillus strains), but the folks behind this Indiegogo campaign take things to a new level with their plan to pull a culture from a woman’s vagina. They assure backers that their special ingredient, which they call the “quintessence of femininity,” is completely safe, and they even have a woman lined up for their first beer, The Order of Yoni.

COFFEE BEANS FROM WEASEL POOP

Coffee beers seem to be all the rage these days (as well as beer brewers becoming coffee roasters), but before they were so widespread, Mikkeller Brewery released an especially unique coffee beer called Beer Geek Brunch Weasel. This highly rated imperial oatmeal stout is made with one of the most expensive coffee beans in the world, which are harvested from civet feces.

Civets are cat-like weasels from Southeast Asia that love to eat coffee cherries. Supposedly, they have an innate ability to pick out and eat the ripest and finest cherries on the coffee trees. The enzymes in the civet’s digestive system then break down the beans, imbuing them with an additional depth of flavor.

If you’re concerned about drinking this brew from poo, just know that after workers collect the droppings, the beans are washed and dried and roasted, plus the wort is boiled and then fermented, so the finished product is completely sanitized. At least that’s what I told myself when I tasted it.

SEWER WATER

Just outside of Portland, Oregon, Washington County’s Clean Water Services held a homebrew competition last summer, where each contestant was given treated sewer water and asked to make a beer highlighting the water (i.e., light and refreshing styles were encouraged). The intent of the contest was to start discussions on how sewage water can be reused through advanced filtration systems.

Even though brewing with sewage water sounds a bit disgusting, the treated water is actually purer than tap water, as it undergoes ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation processes. Of course, it was also boiled during the brewing process.

Oddly, I didn’t see any follow-up articles on this. Hopefully everyone who drank the beer is OK.

SALIVA

Chicha is a native beer found throughout Central and South America. There are countless variations, but many are made with purple maize (corn) that is moistened and chewed in the mouth before being spit back into the grist. The reason this is done is to allow the natural enzymes in the saliva to help break down the starches into more fermentable sugars.

This method is still practiced in some villages, and Dogfish Head Brewery has made authentic Peruvian Chicha many times.

After the mash, the liquid is boiled and then fermented, so none of the germs from the salivation stage pass on to the final product. But the way I see it, no matter how long you boil saliva, it’s still saliva.

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Aubrey Laurence
Aubrey has been a craft beer fanatic since the mid '90s and he has written about beer for a wide variety of publications in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado for well over a decade. He has judged beer in multiple competitions, plus he has rated and taken notes on thousands of beers from all 50 states and 68 countries -- visiting 16 of those countries on 6 continents. He is also a Certified Beer Server with the Cicerone Certification Program, an avid homebrewer, and a hop grower. In 2013 & 2014, he spearheaded Bellingham Beer Week. When he’s not drinking beer, he’s probably climbing a mountain somewhere. He lives in Bellingham with his wife and three cats. Follow him on twitter @AubreyLaurence.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The beer with bacteria from a Vagina would probably sell quite well.

    You know that aftertaste all IPA’s have? That tastes exactly like vagina with a yeast infection

    Think about that next time you are enjoying your favorote IPA. :p

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