John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
See if you can identify the imposters lurking among these ridiculous sounding, yet oh-so-real beers.
Last week, Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione went on Fox News to talk about America's burgeoning craft-beer business, which reportedly is up by 71 percent since 2006. Calagione has played no small part in this growing thirst for uncommon suds, having popularized elixirs made with African doum-palm fruit, water from Antarctica, and a recipe inspired by a 3,500-year-old birch-bark vessel "found in the tomb of a leather‐clad woman... probably an upper-class dancer or priestess."
Calagione's interview suggested that America is far from exhausted over these specialty beers, which often require intensive Googling to reveal their cornucopia of ingredients and mad-scientist alchemy. For instance, Dogfish's current hot seller is a beer-wine hybrid IPA made with Syrah grape must. "We can't make enough of it," the brewmaster said, "and we're trying to get more grapes from California to keep up."
So is this the future of U.S. beer consumption – a country that stumbles over itself to buy beer made with wild-carrot seed, bee balm, chanterelle mushrooms, and aged in whiskey barrels? The consumer-trend forecasters are still working on that question, but in the meantime I've knocked together this quiz to gauge the collective awareness of craft brews. If you and your social circle know the answers to more than half of these 10 questions, I'm calling it: Stockpile your Bud and PBR now, because America's simpler beers might be heading the way of the dinosaurs.
Pop a cold one and let's begin. Scroll below the middle-page photo for the answers:
1. From where does one of the featured ingredients hail from in Nano-Nano, an in-development double porter?
a. The gravel pits along the New Jersey Turnpike
b. The cigarette-littered beaches of South Florida
c. The fertilizer-strewn lawns of Apple's California headquarters
d. Snow scraped from mountain trails in Boulder, Colorado
2. Which of these is NOT an ingredient in craft beer?
b. Pickle juice
d. Locomotive coal from America's westward expansion
e. The Declaration of Independence
3. No joke, there's beer made with yeast harvested from human (two answers)...
c. male nether regions
d. female nether regions
4. Which of these is honest-to-god real (three answers)...
a. "Piss Lager," a urine-themed beer from Australia that has somehow not seen a wide release
b. "Butterbeer," a sweet beverage inspired by the favorite wizarding drank of Harry Potter
c. "Oakland Trans-Porter," from a microbrewery whose electricity comes from fixie-pedaling volunteers
d. "Duff Beer," a replica of the sudsy brew enjoyed by Homer Simpson
e. "Galifialambic," a Belgian-style beer made in vats that Zach Galifianakis has personally stuck his belly in
5. Based on recent action from Oregon's government, this creature would best serve as the new state mascot:
a. Squiggly, a cute microbe that lives in diseased trees
b. Hoppy, a leafy-green woodland creature who smells of weed
c. El Sobrero, a delicious bottle of beer who also happens to be non-alcoholic
d. Sir Maltsalot, a rapping pile of grains
6. NASA would approve of “Celest-jewel-ale,” because it's made with...
b. a spacecraft's gold-colored insulation
c. Buzz Aldrin's personal starter yeast
d. moon rocks
7. A conceptual beer from San Francisco last year is not to be quaffed, but...
c. listened to
d. talked to
e. put in an enema and, well, you know
8. Which of these does NOT contribute to a beer's flavor profile (four answers):
d. Philadelphia-style hoagie
e. peanut butter
g. bacon-maple doughnut
h. bull testicles
j. foie gras
9. Craft beers or their ingredients have NOT YET been inside a...
a. taxidermied stoat
b. civet's intestinal tract
c. train speeding along at 70 mph
d. spacecraft speeding along at 17,500 mph
e. mummy from Egypt
10. Craft brewers have made or are making these tributes to musicians (two answers):
a. Macklemore's Less Is More Gluten-Free Lager
b. Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy Brown Ale
c. Kenny Rogers' Breakfast-Sausage Stout
d. Weird Al Yankovic's Weizguy Wheat
e. AC/DC's Highway to Helles Pilsner
f. Skrillex's Swillex
g. NKOTB's Doppel-Blok
h. Phish's Fish Juice Oyster Beer
i. The Grateful Dead's Granola American Beauty
1. (B) A new collaborative beer from Dogfish Head and Funky Buddha is reported to feature "Tanzanian chocolate, oak-fired habanero, and 'salt-salt,' a combination of sea salts – one salt locally harvested from South Florida beaches and one from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware where the Dogfish Head brewpub is located and 15 miles away from its headquarters in Milton."
2. (D) "Bilk" is a Japanese beer made with milk; a reviewer at Beer Advocate claims it has a finish that “tastes like cottage cheese." Cigar City Pickle Beer, from Tampa, "smells wonderfully of cucumbers and dill," says a drinker at Rate Beer. The other two beverages were made to celebrate the world-famous Boston clambake and Independence Day by the fermentation wizards on Esquire TV's "Brew Dogs," who used DNA coded with millions of copies of the Declaration of Independence in their freedom beer.
3. (D) (E) Take a moment to gag over Seattle's "OPB: Original Pussy Beer" (motto: "The Mother of All Beers") and Rogue's "Beard Beer," a brew that just might get stuck between your teeth, as it's made with Brewmaster John Maier's ambient facial-hair yeast.
4. (A) (B) (D) "Piss" beer does not contain actual body fluids, of course, being more of a playful jab at other watery-tasting brands. The Potter drink, like young Harry himself, is virgin. And Duff is made by an English company that is far, far away from Springfield.
5. (A) In 2013, Oregon's senate approved for its new "State Microbe" Saccharomyces cerevisiae, colloquially known as brewer's yeast. Certain strains of the microorganism are found in oozing tree lesions and also immunocompromised hospital patients.
6. (D) According to Dogfish Head's website: "Celest-jewel-ale is made with lunar meteorites that have been crushed into dust, then steeped like tea in a rich, malty Oktoberfest. These certified moon jewels are made up primarily of minerals and salts, helping the yeast-induced fermentation process and lending this traditional German style a subtle but complex earthiness."
7. (B) "Brew Dogs" strikes again with a "beer you can inhale made of San Francisco fog."
8. Not real are eel, hoagie, Cheetos, and foie gras. And about those testes: Denver's Wynkoop Brewing has made a Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout that's cooked with the family jewels of bulls, which it describes as the "ballsiest canned beer in the world."
9. (E) In order, "The End of History" is bottled inside a dead mustelid and retailed for $764; "Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel" is made from the mammal gut-beans that also go into ultra-pricey kopi luwak coffee; the "Brew Dogs" team made beer on a lightning-quick California train ride, just because it had never been done before; and Sapporo produced a "Space Barley" beer using descendants of grains grown aboard the International Space Station ($110 for a six-pack).
10. (B) (I) The Zappa beer was from a long line of Lagunitas beers referencing the musician, and the Grateful Dead IPA is from Dogfish Head and does indeed include granola.