Three Strange Brews

Bob Barnes - The stories of some outrageous brews.

Rogue Beard Beer

Rogue Brewing is no stranger to strange brews. Its past funky brews have included beers containing maple, bacon, peanut butter, banana, chipotle peppers, juniper and hazelnuts. But without a doubt, its most outlandish endeavor was brewing a beer with only four simple ingredients: water, barley, hops and beard yeast. Okay, perhaps that last ingredient is not so simple. Originally released on April 1, 2013, many believed it to be an April Fool’s joke and it’s rumored the idea for this beer did begin as a joke. But truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, as nine hairs were actually plucked from Brewmaster John Maier’s beard and sent to San Diego’s White Labs for evaluation. Of the more than 1,600 strains of yeast, only a select few can ferment sugars into alcohol, so what were the chances? Surprisingly, but not so unexpectedly, since Maier had cultivated his own beard since 1983 and had hung out in the Rogue brewery participating in more than 1,500 brewing sessions, it was found to contain a natural yeast suitable for brewing. The good people at White Labs discovered it contained Rogue’s Pacman yeast that’s used in most of its brews, and a wild brewer’s yeast. After isolating and cultivating (growing and reproducing) it, the yeast was used to ferment this unique ale. I was expecting this strange brew to be exotic, but after tasting found it reminded me of a cross between a Saison and an IPA with flavors of bready malt, spices and tropical fruits one encounters in some hop strains. This beer is still being produced and the Rogue mad scientists have been using this beard beer yeast for the brewery’s test brews, so don’t be surprised if more wonderful weirdness emanates from this Newport, Oregon brewery.

Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout

Another beer released on April Fool’s Day was indeed a joke that later turned out to be true. Wynkoop, Denver’s oldest craft brewery, released a video on April 1, 2012 about the production of a beer made with Rocky Mountain “oysters,” a Colorado delicacy that is actually bull testicles. After many who fell for the joke were clamoring to try it, the brewery was quick to take action and shortly after devised a 7.5% ABV foreign-style stout utilizing 25 pounds of the testicles that were sliced and roasted along with Colorado base malts, roasted barley, seven specialty malts and Styrian Goldings hops. The brew was ready in time for the Great American Beer Festival held in Denver in October of 2012 and a small release followed in cans. Although I never had the opportunity to taste it, my sources report that this stout featured flavors of espresso and chocolate with a dry roasted finish. Maybe it was a subliminal message, but some tasters claimed to discern a smoked meat flavor and earthy nuttiness. Sadly for us, but not for the bulls, this beer is no longer being produced. While it seems quite revolutionary to brew a beer with meat, historians will take note that George Washington made beer with a whole chicken added to the brew kettle.

World’s Most Expensive Beer

Las Vegas is both infamous and famous for setting records, and it actually holds one that is beer related. In March of 2014 The Esquire Network series Brew Dogs rolled into town with Brew Dog co-founders James Watt and Martin Dickie, who collaborated with local brewery Tenaya Creek Brewing and Head Brewer Anthony Gibson to brew a beer that would break the record for the world’s most expensive beer. The beer featured costly ingredients from all over the world, including saffron (the most expensive spice in the world), black truffles, kopi luwak coffee (the world’s costliest coffee), New Zealand water, Tahitian vanilla beans and cocoa nibs. Although the beer had no name or specified beer style, my sources describe it as having a golden appearance, coffee aroma and flavors of toasted marshmallows, vanilla and dark chocolate. It was packaged in a 1.5 liter bottle that was custom made especially for this beer and was auctioned off for a winning bid of $3,500, breaking the previous record of $2,330, to a group that included journalist Robin Leach (who is a Vegas resident), Atomic Liquors Manager Rose Signor and members of the Las Vegas chapter of Barley’s Angels. Here’s to drinking to a good cause: the proceeds were donated to the Keep Memory Alive foundation, which funds the local Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. 

The Author:

Bob Barnes is editorial director of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional, regional correspondent for Celebrator Beer News and writes the Top 10 Beer lists for He welcomes your inquiries and can be reached via e-mail at

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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