It was the late musician Prince who sang, “Let’s go crazy, let’s get nuts” on 1984’s Purple Rain album. While the eccentric songwriter typically eschewed alcohol, one could make the argument that legions of craft brewers have heeded his call. In an unending game of one upmanship, brewers are always looking for strange ingredients and off-the-wall techniques to bring their crazy concoctions to their fervent fans. Here are a few of the weirder beers we’ve heard about lately.
They say Denmark is perhaps the happiest country in the world. We’re betting Copenhagen brewery Nerrebro Bryghus is laughing all the way to the bank with its recent beer idea. The crazy Danes took to the massive Roskilde Music Festival and solicited salty streams from its more than 100,000 attendees. They then took the resulting 13,200 gallons of urine and used it to fertilize their crops of malting barley, which they used to brew Pisner, their take on a classic Czech-style Pilsner. The brewery made about 60,000 bottles of what it’s pretentiously calling “the ultimate sustainable hipster beer” made by “beercycling” waste. Piss off, Mikkel.
Milton, Del.-based Dogfish Head Brewery was one of the earliest purveyors of extreme craft beers, in the sense that it used strange ingredients in the brewing process. The brew team has used everything from sediment from ancient tombs to moon rocks in making their prized craft beers. But Chicha was weird even by their standards. To make the traditional Latin American corn beer, the brewing team followed the authentic method of milling the corn, and then having its brewers chew it to moisten it before spitting it out. The saliva-soaking method converts starches in the purple corn into sugar, which can be fermented to make alcohol. But to be fair, it’s not like you’ll be swapping spit with the brew team, as the resulting slimy corn cakes are boiled for at least an hour.
It’s no secret that Tony Magee, the founder of Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma, Calif., is an unabashed fan of marijuana and admitted stoner. In fact, an incident involving the wacky weed at the company’s original taproom forced it to cease operations for 20 days back in 2005. In another case, the feds made the brewery rename its beer called “The Kronik” because they said it overtly referenced a banned substance. (The beer’s now called “Censored” as an F-U to the man.) So it was only a matter of time before Lagunitas toked over the line and used cannabis in beer. Earlier this year, the company collaborated with a fellow California-based company that made THC-infused vapes. As such, they infused a beer with cannabis terpenes or resins, and put hop resins in the vape juice. They say it wasn’t a stretch of the imagination, since the hop and cannabis plants are closely related. Supercritical sold out quickly, but here’s hoping the Golden State tipplers don’t bogart it all and send some of the next batch our way.
Have a seat
Yeast is everywhere in the environment, and brewers will go to no lengths of absurdity to capture some of the critical beer-making ingredient. In the case of London’s 40FT Brewery, that search for pedigreed yeast took them to the estate of novelist Roald Dahl, author of children’s books like James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits. More specifically, the brewers swabbed the wood of the late Dahl’s special writing chair and used it to culture the wild yeast needed to make Mr. Twit’s Odious Ale. It’s likely the writer of all things weird would be pleased to know the remnants of his arm sweat fostered the right milieu for the yeast in the smoky sour brew.