19 Years of Mugs from the Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF)

Known as "North America's Largest Gathering of Independent Brewers," The Oregon Brewers Festival has been held in Portland, Oregon since 1988.  I have attended for many years, but I didn't realize how many years until I started cleaning out my basement. Turns out, I have an unexpected collection of mugs from 1993 to 2012.

Over the nearly twenty years, a few things change.  Notice that the "taste" line on the side of the mug changes. In 1997 a taste was nearly half a mug, while in 1998 it was 1/3 of a mug. Today a taste is closer to 1/4 of the glass. In 2013 the Festival switched to using glasses, which allows for a cleaner taste of beer.

I noticed that in 1994 the Fest included an apostrophe - "Brewer's Festival," - implying the fest is for brewers, rather than a celebration of brewing.  Was this a misprint, or a deliberate act? Was the apostrophe dropped to become more inclusive?

Fun fact: A child's sippy cup lid fits securely on top of the OBF mugs, so you can use them as a no-spill substitute for your child (or yourself).  The mugs are lightweight and unbreakable. A lot of mine are beat up because I take them camping. The handle makes them easy to strap onto the outside of a backpack when hiking.

Here are some of the slogans from past years
1993 - Greetings from...(the OBF) Wish you were here
1994 - In Search of the Holy Ale
1995 - Happy Ales to You!
1997 - I'm Hoppy!!! at the Oregon Brewers Festival
1998 - Celebrating Beer
1999 - We've got the Brews
2000 - Jack of all Ales
2002 - Celebrating American Beer
2005 - Lewis & Clark Expedition - Meet us at the end of the trail.
2008 - Celebrating the 21st Amendment
2011 - Celebrating 24 Years of Amercian Craft Beer - 85 Beers
2012 - Cheers to 25 Years

Click on the images to see a larger version.


Pacific NW Quality Conference 2014 (PNSQC) - Day 2

Here are my sketchnotes from the second day's sessions at PNSQC.  As I mentioned in the introduction to Day 1, I'm not a trained artist.  If I've drawn you here, and you don't like the cartoon, please email me so I can edit the photo.

Please click on any of the images to see a larger version.
The second day at PNSQC opened with "Live Site Quality: the Bridge Between Your Silos" given by Jon Bach from eBay.  As usual, Jon was full of useful ideas and interesting tangents. 

John Ruberto from Intuit presented at PNSQC in previous years. This year's presentation, "Continuous Delivery: Bridging Quality Between Development and Customers" talked about the challenges, tools and solutions to moving from three-week delivery cycles to continuous delivery cycles.

I only caught the second half of Halim Dunsky's talk "Scrum + Kanban, Sittin’ In a Tree…" about how Scrum & Kanban can work together, and when to use them separately.  This was the first time I'd heard of "Scrumban."  He also had a good point that when you add work-in-process limits, it essentially transforms a Scrum board into a Kanban board.

In "Mobile UX Make or Break," Philip Lew from XBOSoft gave an extensive list of items to consider for a good user experience when developing for the mobile platform.

During lunch at the conference I was talking with someone about unit testing and mocks, fakes and stubs.  He suggested I look for Gerard Meszaros' book "xUnit Test Patterns," and then he mentioned that Meszaros was presenting on "Example-Driven Architecture – Moving Beyond The Fragile Test Problem Once And For All" at PNSQC later that day. Of course, I had to check it out. My notes only captured a small fraction of what was covered.

My notes from the first day of PNSQC 2014 are here.

Pacific NW Quality Conference 2014 (PNSQC) - Day 1

This year at the Pacific NW Software Quality Conference (PNSQC) the themes that stood out for me were the need to use more engineering principles when developing software, and the continued explosion of mobile and web platforms.

As far as my personal takeaways, I hope to explore more rigorous acceptance tests, and to do more work automating unit tests.

This year I tried something different for note taking: an experiment in sketch notes. The idea of sketch notes is that drawing uses both sides of the brain - artistic and analytic. This helps to make the notes more engaging, and hopefully more memorable. My results were mixed -- some of the notes are more visual than others. My tools were my iPad, an app called Paper by 53, and a cheap stylus. I'm not a trained artist, so I have mixed emotions about sharing my cartoons of the speakers. If I've drawn you here, and you don't like the cartoon, please email me and I can edit the photo.  Click on the images to see a larger version.

Dr. Richard Turner gave the keynote on "Balancing Agility and Discipline: Bridging the Gaps Between Software and Systems Engineering."  He urged software engineers to adopt more aspects of engineering, and for engineers to try a little agility.

In the talk "To Build an Agile Company, Do Not Begin with Agile Development" Phyllis Thompson and Michael Belding from ShiftWise recount their journey in on the path to an agile company.

Hillel Glazer from Entinex explained how "You’re Doing It Wrong: How Your Decision-making Actually Increases Uncertainty and What To Do About It." I only caught the second half of this talk, but I really want to hear more. He had great ideas regarding how, once you focus on a particular path, you are ignoring the rest of the data in your decision process.

In "Bridging to Offshore Testers," Karen Johnson discussed how to make the offshore developers part of the team and the process, and addressed cultural-language gaps.

Robert Zakes and Brendan Beamon from the Oregon Secretary of State showed how they made the "Transition From A Rapid Prototyping To Programmatic Test Framework", by extending their Selenium automated tests.

The title explains it all: "Eliminate Ambiguity with BDD."  Jeana McClure from PGE talked about using rigorous acceptance tests and RSpec to improve their development process.
Their results? A small team worked for a year to deliver a significant web project with zero defects!

Jean Richardson from Azure Gate Consulting examined the barriers that individuals and companies put up to change and learning, and how to address these barriers through "Double-Loop Learning: A Powerful Force for Organizational Excellence."

Click here to continue to the notes for day 2 of PNSQC


Old Stuff - Star Trek Voyager

I was going through some old files on my computer and found a plot synopsis I'd written a long time ago. Three things tell you how long ago: it's a local file, not in the cloud; I'm talking about a computer, not a laptop, tablet or phone; and it's about Star Trek Voyager.  I'd nearly forgotten about that show, but when it was broadcast on TV I watched every week.

I think I'd written the synopsis because I was bemoaning with friends the lack of real science fiction plots in the show.  Voyager was often a soap opera in space.  So, determined to "show them," I came up with some script ideas.  Here's one:

Series: Star Trek Voyager
Title:  Culture
Summary: While replenishing their Trilithium supply, Paris and a red-shirt get infected with a fungus.  The problem with eradicating it from their bodies is that it appears to be a sentient civilization.
Synopsis: Planetside.  Paris and Lee have just finished prospecting for Trilithium deposits on the planet’s surface.  The planet is wrapped in deep clouds, with an extremely moist surface, unusual for Class M planets.  The surface is soft and easy to mine. (Do they have to use the transporter for the Trilithium? Or the shuttle?)
Paris & Lee use the transporter to return to Voyager.  When they return, the transporter shows some odd readings. Janeway orders the transporter team to perform a complete maintenance check on it, and sends the two crew members to sick bay for a physical.
On the way to sick bay Paris stops just briefly to pick up --- something --- in the health club.  At that point he claps somebody in the steam room on the back, and they get infected.

What struck me most is how much I have forgotten those characters. I barely remember what Paris looked like, let alone his personality. And when I read "Lee" I'm thinking Lee Adama from Battlestar Galactica.

So, yes, the plots could have been better. But in retrospect, the characters seem to fade away as well.


31 Tips for Bicycle Commuters

I've been riding to work off and on for at least two decades. I'm lucky to live in Portland, which is a bike-friendly town (it hasn't always been that way). I used to try to avoid anything that made me look too much like a bike geek. Over time, however, I've discovered that some things work well (no matter what they look like).

Here are 31 tips for using your bike to commute to work.
  1. Wear a bike jersey. Not only looks swag, but dries quickly -- in a locker, or overnight if you wash it out at home
  2. If you have a dress code at work, leave a pair of nice shoes at work so you don't have to haul them back & forth
  3. If you've never before cycled to work, use a bike map to find a good route. For example, here's the map for Portland, Oregon.
  4. Before using a route to work, try riding it during the weekend to time it out. don't be late for work!
  5. Wear a helmet and biking gloves. Stupid things happen. Protect your body.
  6. Set goals. Newbie = just ride once. Beginner = 1 time per week. If you're riding once a week, set a goal for multiple days. Keep building
  7. In Portland bikes are allowed on Tri-met. If you have a long commute, consider the option of busing to work, and then riding home.
  8. For a more calming commute, avoid arterial roads. Find a bike-friendly street on the side.
  9. Avoid backpackitis. Buy a removable pannier to carry your work clothes & lunch
  10. In the road, bikes are traffic. Follow the rules of traffic, it's your right & responsibility.
  11. It’s not all about commuting. Have fun on your bike ride, weekends and weekdays.
  12. Make sure your tires have the correct air pressure. Low pressure = more work for you and more chance to get a flat. Too high = bumpy ride and might be unsafe pressure on the wheel frames.
  13. Assume that the car/driver doesn't see you...because they probably don't. Use lights, reflectors & bright colors
  14. Learn to appreciate topography. Work with the hills on your ride to work, not against them.
  15. Get a bell. It’s cheerier than yelling “On your left” and it’s more recognizable as a bike warning.
  16. When you’re riding on the sidewalk, act like a pedestrian. Don’t go faster than a jogger. Be polite.
  17. Talk with other cyclists - to learn about the route, but also to be friendly during the commute. Say “Hi”!
  18. Watch the door zone. Drivers forget to watch for bikes when opening car doors. ORS says it’s OK to ride 3’ away from parked cars.
  19. Try to ride predictably. Avoid changing between street and sidewalk mode. Also, avoid dipping into spaces between parked cars.
  20. Check your brakes at the beginning of every ride. Be extra cautious after a rainfall.
  21. Sometimes you have to take the lane. Here’s a good post on road positioning skills
  22. When riding across rail road tracks, approach them at a 90 degree angle. Never try to ride along between streetcar rails
  23. Use the ABC Quick Check. A: air pressure B: brakes C: chain Quick: front wheel quick release
  24. If you like your bike and want to keep it, use a U-lock. Always lock the bike frame post to a secure place.
  25. When riding in two-way bike traffic, follow the general rules of traffic. In the US, ride on the right, pass on the left.
  26. Learn left/right/stop hand signals. Use ‘em (when it's safe). Wave thanks! The NHTSA link is here.
  27. Call it a Copenhagen left, Box-left, or Two-stage Left, if it makes you nervous turning left on a busy street, learn this maneuver.
  28. It rains in Oregon. Here are some tips to be prepared. I usually just get wet.
  29. Make it count. Track your commutes. Tell your friends. Join events like the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge. #bcc #bcc2014
  30. Celebrate. Once a week, stop for a treat on the way home. Take a break at a park. Ride with friends.

And bike commute tip #31: do what works. Ride what you've got. Wear what you've got. Don't give yourself an excuse not to enjoy the ride to work. Give it a try.

My old ride to work was along the Springwater Corridor.


On Internet Plagiarism

Former President Richard Nixon is not
mentioned in the article
BuzzFeed reports they have fired their Viral Politics editor Benny Johnson.  Editor Ben Smith posted an apology to readers saying "After carefully reviewing more than 500 of Benny’s posts, we have 41 instances of sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites. "

BuzzFeed is known for click bait style articles, so it was surprising to find they had any guidelines whatsoever.  This announcement made me curious how and where they had determined Johnson had crossed the line.  In Smith's apology he wrote "We have corrected the instances of plagiarism, and added an editor’s note to each."  So, I decided to find out what they had changed to avoid the plagiarism.

One of the articles that was plagiarized was called "24 Delightful Inauguration Firsts."   Calling it an article is being generous. It's 24 sentences about "inauguration firsts."  From the URL, I can determine it was originally 23 sentences, but Johnson must have added one.

Using google, I was able to pull up a cached version of the article from July 18th, 2014.

Smith mentions that many of the facts in this article were copied from a Senate website article about the inauguration called "Facts, Firsts and Precedents."

Let's put all three articles under a microscope for a moment. The original source Senate article had a sentence about Calvin Coolidge: "First Inaugural ceremony broadcast nationally by radio."  Former BuzzFeed author Benny Johnson appears to have copied verbatim most of that sentence: "Coolidge had the first inaugural ceremony broadcast nationally by radio."  In the revised article, BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith edited the sentence so it wasn't an exact copy: "Coolidge had the first inaugural carried on the airwaves."  Smith also added a link to the original source.

So, is it plagiarism? Technically, Ben Johnson's sentence is 70% the same as the original, so yes. But, there are so few words, is it really plagiarism?

One definition of plagiarism is "an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author."

By that definition, even the revised sentences could be seen as plagiarism, except that they've cited the original source.

Bottom line, to avoid plagiarism on the Internet it seems like if you're using another source,  the best practice is to always cite that original source.  Of course, it's also up to the editors to point out a lack of sources, and ask for those from the authors.

Here are some other differences from Johnson's and the revised articles.

14. Harding was the first president to ride to and from his Inauguration in an automobile. (Johnson)
14. Harding was the first president to drive to and from the ceremony. (revised)

15. Coolidge had the first inaugural ceremony broadcast nationally by radio. (Johnson)
15. Coolidge had the first inaugural carried on the airwaves.  (revised)

16. Hoover had the first Inaugural ceremony recorded by talking newsreel. (Johnson)
16. Hoover had the first Inaugural ceremony “recorded by talking newsreel,” according to a Senate website.  (revised)

18. FDR’s inaugural in 1945 had no parade because of gas rationing and a lumber shortage during World War II. (Johnson)
18. FDR’s inaugural in 1945 had no parade because of gas rationing.  (revised)

21. Reagan’s first Inauguration was also the warmest on record with a noon temperature of 55. (Johnson)
21. Reagan’s first Inauguration was also the warmest ever.  (revised)

22. Reagans second Inauguration was the coldest on record and took place in the Capitol Rotunda, due to freezing weather. (Johnson)
22. Reagan’s second Inauguration was the coldest.  (revised)

24. Obama’s first inauguration holds the record for being the largest attended event in the history of Washington, DC. (Johnson)
24. Obama’s first inauguration holds the record for being the biggest event in the history of Washington, DC.  (revised)


Sketching Webvisions 2014

At a conference last fall I discovered sketch notes.  The idea of sketch notes is that by using both sides of your brain - artistic and analytic -- you will take more engaging notes and remember the information better.  As an experiment, I decided to test this idea at Webvisions, a web technology and design conference.

I enjoy doodling, although I don't do it as much as I used to in college or high school.  I have also found that sketching is a good way of drawing out ideas when collaborating on group projects (pun intended).  Although drawing works for creating ideas, I wondered whether my notes would be more useful if I tried sketching them.  Here's what I discovered.

My tools were my old iPad, an app called Paper by 53, and a cheap stylus.  On the first day I just started drawing. That night I read half of The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking by Mike Rohde. The book is half inspiration and half "how to."

Here are the benefits I got from sketching notes:
  • Having to draw what I saw made me more observant of the speakers and the slides.
  • I also had fun drawing the presenters, but more about that later.
  • There's a challenge in trying to capture the spoken ideas using visual shorthand.
  • In trying to frame the ideas, I'm testing what I understand of the talk.
  • Drawing my notes was a ice breaker with other people at the conference, which was nice.
  • Drawing kept my hands moving, helping me focus even if my brain or body was tired.
Not all of the presentations were conducive to drawing. Here are some problems I had:
  • It's tough to draw quickly enough when the speaker has a long list of references. In that case I tried to focus on the less-detailed concepts of the talk.
  • It was redundant and difficult to sketch when a presenter showed video clips.
  • Same with presentations that were already visually packed. I tried to choose a key aspect of the talk and sketch only that.
  • I'm not a trained artist, so I had mixed emotions about sharing my cartoons of the speakers.
  • It's hard to plan the layout of the page when the presenter doesn't provide an outline of the talk at the beginning.  A couple times the composition of the notes got weird.
This page shows the right level of "cartoony" for the presenter picture.
I like the Roomba path cartoon.
People asked if drawing the notes distracted me from the presentation, but listening and drawing don't seem to conflict.  Most of the time the slides were timed so I could look at them, then return to sketching / taking notes.  As mentioned, the only times I had difficulty were when there was a video, or a long list of items. In those cases, I could switch over to the iPad's browser, find the reference, and email it to myself for later. But the sketch notes were mainly to (a) help me process the ideas and (b) make the notes interesting for whoever read them later.

I had some problems drawing the presenters. In The Sketchnote Handbook, Rohde suggests drawing the speakers ahead of the talk, using a photo you might find on the Internet. I didn't take his advice, and chose to draw them from live, as they walked and moved around the stage. It would've been hard enough from a still photo, but sketching as they moved through life was distracting.  Even worse, I wasn't cartoony enough. I often added too many details, which doesn't help with the notes of the presentation, and might even offend some people (I hope not!).

So, what are the results of the experiment?  Sketching the notes provided a way to quickly process and confirm what I learned in the sessions. During one talk, I realized I had barely any notes -- it was because the presentation had touched on so few concrete examples.

Also, drawing kept me focused. Even through three long days of presentations, my mind never wandered from the topics in the rooms.  And finally, hopefully, the notes are interesting to other people and will be shared.

Bottom line, there are plenty of visual note-taking methods.  Using The Sketchnote Handbook method was fun, and kept me focused.  You can see all of my Webvisions 2014 notes here on Google+.


10 Totally Extreme Beers - Part 2

6) Ninkasi

Beer has been around for a long time. A 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet shows people drinking beer from a communal bowl through reed straws.  Sumerians knew that mixing water with bread would create a fermented brew.  Forty-five centuries ago, however, most of the brewers were holy women, priestesses. No wonder, then, that an important goddess for the Sumerians was Ninkasi.  

Ninkasi is the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer and alcohol, and is also credited with benefiting mankind. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, she lulled the wild man Enkidu with seven pitchers of beer and he settled down and became a civilized human.

The Hymn of Ninkasi is some of the earliest human writing, but it also happens to be a recipe for beer:

You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort, Brewing [it] with honey [and] wine (You the sweet wort to the vessel) Ninkasi, (...)(You the sweet wort to the vessel) The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound, You place appropriately on a large collector vat. Ninkasi, the filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound, You place appropriately on a large collector vat. When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat, It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates. 
In 1989 the Anchor Steam Brewing Company attempted to recreate the ancient Sumerian recipe. Owner Fritz Maytag initiated his Sumerian Beer Project and the result was Ninkasi, a beer made according to the 4,000+-year-old recipe.   The result was "a sweet-sour brew flavored with dates and no hops," which doesn't exactly fit the modern idea of beer. Recently, however, sour beers have become more popular among the zithrophiles, so perhaps the Sumerian brew will become popular once again.

7) Guinness

Guinness may be one of the world's most common and recognizable breweries, but its iconic stout is what makes it so extreme.  From the very beginning, in 1759, when young Arthur Guinness signed a £45 per year lease for the St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin for the next 9,000 years, he was planning for the future.

Guinness worked hard to protect his product and his brand. Whether it was taking a pickaxe in hand to protect his water supply from the Dublin Corporation, or registering the Guinness Harp trademark as soon as Ireland passed the Trade Marks Registration Act of 1875, he was the definition of an activist brewer.

When Guinness first started, beer wasn't the most popular Irish alcoholic drink. More often, people turned to whiskey, gin and poteen. But by the early 1800's, there were over 200 breweries in Ireland.  Much of the porter was imported from England, but Guinness brewed a version that was stronger than normal, calling it a stout porter, which eventually became stout beer.

For most of its life, Guiness has been a family-run brewery, which made it distinctive in other ways. In the 1920's workers had medical and dental benefits, a pension, and a paid vacation day in the country (not to mention two free beers per day).  One out of 30 Dubliners worked for Guinness in the early 20th century.  Being family-run also had drawbacks.  Before 1939, any Guinness brewer who wished to marry a Catholic was asked to resign. According to Thomas Molloy, writing in the Irish Independent, "It had no qualms about selling drink to Catholics but it did everything it could to avoid employing them until the 1960s."  Other social strife affected the beer: In the 1980s, as the IRA's bombing campaign spread to London and the rest of Britain, Guinness considered scrapping the harp as its logo.

And the beer has had an effect on popular culture: The Guinness Book of Records was created as a marketing giveaway to settle pub bets.

One interested physical aspect of Guinness stout is that the bubbles appear to sink, rather than rise.  This is because the bubbles touching the walls of a glass are slowed in their travel upwards, while bubbles in the center rise more quickly.  The rising bubbles create a current by the entrainment of the surrounding fluid. As beer rises in the center, it pushes the beer containing the outer bubbles downward. This effect occurs in any liquid, but it is most noticeable in dark nitrogen stout, with the lighter bubbles against a dark background.

8) Japanese hydrogen beer

The Asaka Beer corporation brews "Suiso" brand beer, in which the carbon dioxide normally used to add fizz has been replaced by the more environmentally friendly hydrogen gas. Two side effects of the hydrogen gas have made the beer extremely popular at karaoke sing-along bars and discotheques.

First, because hydrogen molecules are lighter than air, sound waves are transmitted more rapidly, so individuals whose lungs are filled with the nontoxic gas can speak with an uncharacteristically high voice. Exploiting this quirk of physics, chic urbanites can now sing soprano parts on karaoke sing-along machines after consuming a big gulp of Suiso beer.

Second, the flammable nature of hydrogen has also become a selling point, though it should be noted that Asaka has not acknowledged that this was a deliberate marketing ploy. The beer has inspired a new fashion of blowing flames from one's mouth using a cigarette as an ignition source.

"Mr Otoma drank fifteen bottles of hydrogen beer in order to maximise the size of the flames he could belch during the contest. He catapulted balls of fire across the room that Gojira would be proud of, but this was not enough to win him first prize since the judgement is made on the quality of the flames and that of the singing, and after fifteen bottles of lager he was badly out of tune."
Although Snopes.com debunked hydrogen beer as a hoax, the allure of explosive alcoholic beverages (that allow out to perform extreme karaoke, no less) lives on. One can dream, can't we?

Less explosive, but in a similar vein, Sapporo Brewing is working on a beer that will reduce greenhouse gasses and decompose garbage.
[Sapporo] is now on the verge of helping Japanese researchers create cleaner fuel cells, reduce greenhouse gases and eliminate waste...by using micro-organisms to decompose food and agricultural waste. Sapporo Breweries of Japan’s Frontier Laboratories of Value Creation in Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, has been carrying out studies on hydrogen production since 2002.
Perhaps this will lead to an actual extreme hydrogen beer?

9) Quechua Chicha

Traditionally beer is made of malted barley.   Soaking the grain in water, and then stopping the germination by drying it develops the enzymes required to modify the grain's starches into sugars.  That sugar is consumed by the yeast during fermentation.  

Not all beer, however, uses barley.  Chicha is a kind of beer made from corn throughout Central and South America.  The Peruvian chicha made by the Quechua indians goes through a special process for developing the sugars in the corn.  The traditional method involves chewing the maize and spitting it into communal pot.  Since so much needs to be chewed for a batch, the work is shared among the people in the tribe.  Natural enzymes in the mouth, such as ptyalin, aid in converting the starch in the corn into fermentable sugars. This mash is then boiled and let to naturally ferment. 

The archaeobrewers at Dogfish Head made a version of this:
"Mr. Calagione hoped to make about 10 kegs of chicha, which would be available only in his Rehoboth Beach pub, Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats. The salivated corn output for the evening was 7 pounds, significantly less than the 20 Mr. Calagione had planned. He had a sore in his mouth. He was also forced to reconsider the commercial possibilities of chicha."
But, a modern beer drinker had a suggestion: “You want chicha, you should go to Queens, or any Peruvian or Chilean restaurant."  I imagine those restaurants don't follow the traditional path of a communal spit pot.

Perhaps the Dogfish Head experiment failed because it was made by men.  Traditionally, only women prepared the beer.  If men got involved it risked offending the Apus (mountain gods) and Mamasara, the corn goddess. 

10) Tesguino 

Tesgüino is a corn beer made by the Tarahumara Indians of Sierra Madre in Mexico. According to Wikipedia, the average Tarahumara spends at least 100 days per year directly concerned with tesgüino and much of this time under its influence or aftereffects. Tesguino is consumed in large quantities during ceremonial occasions, but it is also supposed to provide endurance and agility for ultra running skills.
When it comes to going ultra-distances, nothing could beat the Tarahumara – not a racehorse, not a cheetah, not an Olympic marathoner. Very few outsiders had ever seen the Tarahumara in action, but amazing stories of their superhuman toughness and tranquillity have drifted out of the canyons for centuries. One explorer spent 10 hours crossing a mountain by mule; a Tarahumara runner made the same trip in 90 minutes.
Part of their skills come from living in the Copper Canyon mountains, and running regularly over treacherous courses, but perhaps the tesguino also provides energy and something else that gives their feet wings.

It is also said that natives of present-day Mexico, such as the Tapajos, Cubeos, Arapium and Panoans all mixed the bones of their relatives into the beer. Sometimes they cremated the bodies, then added the ashes to the beer. The bone ash acted as as finings or clarifiers in the beer, drawing particular matter out of the brew. It also kept the spirits of the dead within the tribe.  The charcoal gives it the smoky taste and the calcium in the bones help clarify the beer.  What clarifies life more than a hint of death?


10 Totally Extreme Beers - Part 1

1) Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

Some beer might taste like piss, but connoisseurs have flocked to try a beer that is literally made with excrement. 

Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, from the Danish brewery Mikkeller, is described as an Imperial oatmeal stout brewed with Vietnamese ca phe chon coffee, which translates as "weasel coffee."   The coffee is collected from the poop of Asian palm civets, a weasel-like animal that lives in the forests near the coffee plantations. The civets eat the coffee fruit, but can't digest the hard beans.  

Somehow, people discovered that the coffee beans acquire a unique flavor from passing through the civet's digestive tract and past the anal scent glands the animals use for marking their territory.  As a result, instead of picking the coffee, plantation workers spend time picking up the weasel's poop to make a hearty roasted brew. 

Mikkeller took the process one step further, and used this crap coffee to make a world-famous stout. Reportedly, the entrepreneur who popularized this coffee is now against it, for surprising reasonsMikkeller points out that their supplier for ca phe chon treats the civet cats with care and respect.

2) Un, Kono Kuro

Not to be outdone by the Danish, a Japanese brewery has taken the civet cat poo beer to the next level.  The Sankt Gallen Brewery created a beer called Un, Kono Kuro, which uses elephant dung from Thailand to provide a rich chocolate flavor.

Similar to the civet cats, the elephants provide an integral step to the coffee used in the beer: 

"In the lush hills of northern Thailand, a herd of 20 elephants is excreting some of the world’s most expensive coffee....The coffee beans used in the beer come from elephants at Thailand’s Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation, which cost over US$100 per 35 grams. The beans are so expensive as 33kgs of beans in the mouth yields 1kg of useable coffee beans." (USA Today)
This beer was released on April 1st.  While the tongue-in-cheek name (Un, Kono Kuro is a pun on the Japanese word for crap "unko") belies the humor behind the brew, it was actually made and ended up selling out within a day.  The brewery makes other idiosyncratic concoctions, such as a beer based on a manga and a "bean paste rice cake wrapped in a cherry leaf flavor beer" for the sakura (cherry) festival.

Here is a taste-test of the elephant crap beer.

3) Beard Beer

Beer has four basic ingredients: water, grain, hops and yeast.  Yeast is perhaps the most magical. Monks in Europe have brewed ale for centuries using wild yeasts growing in their abbeys. The microscopic fungi live all around us, but they have the ability to convert the sugar in the grains into alcohol.

Rogue Brewery in Oregon has taken this abundance of wild yeast to the obvious conclusion, and created a brew based on the wild yeast found in one brewer's beard. 

"Beard Beer is brewed with a yeast created from Brewmaster John Maier's Beard. No Need to freak out, Brewers have used wild yeasts in beer making for centuries. John has had the same Old Growth Beard since 1983 and for over 15,000 brews, so it is no great suprise that a natural yeast ideal for brewing was discovered in his beard."
True to form, the site lists the ingredients: Water, Hops, Barley, Beard Yeast.  Truth in advertising?

4) Dave

Normally beer aficionados prefer fresh beer, especially when seeking out the more hoppy esters, and they leave the aging to wine, whiskey and people.  High alcohol beers, however, often get more interesting with age. As the beer sits in the bottle, slow oxidation will mellow the hops and enhance malty flavors adding complexity to the brew. Storing the bottles correctly makes a world of difference, since light and heat will decompose the chemical compounds that make beer interesting.

Usually a large barleywine is enhanced after a year or two mellowing in the bottle.  But, to paraphrase Stan Lee, with great aging comes great cost.  

Recently the Hair of the Dog brewery sold twelve bottles of a special reserve ale called Dave that has been aging in the bottle since 1999.   The auction netted $2,000 per bottle, making it the world's most expensive beer. According to the brewer Alan Sprints the beer has aged well.

Don't have $12,000 for a six pack? You're in luck! The closely related beer Adam is a lot more affordable.

5) Heather Ale

Can you imagine a beer so distinct, so indicative of your identity that you would prefer genocide to surrendering the recipe to the invaders?

The Robert Louis Stevenson poem "Heather Ale" is based on an old Scottish legend.  The story goes that around 843 AD the Scottish king Kenneth mac Alpin decided to wipe out the smaller people known as the Picts. In the poem, his men hunted every man, woman, and child until they were gone.

There rose a king in Scotland,  A fell man to his foes,He smote the Picts in battle,  He hunted them like roes.Over miles of the red mountain  He hunted as they fled,And strewed the dwarfish bodies  Of the dying and the dead.
Finally, there were only two of the small people left, a brewer and his son.  The King said he would grant one of them his life if he would give up the secret to Heather Ale, the mystical brew of the Picts.  Rather than lose the honor of his people, the brewer drowned his son and killed himself to keep the secret.

Since 1988 the Williams Brothers near Glasgow have been brewing leann fraoich, Gaelic for "heather ale."  

It is described as "a light amber ale with floral peaty aroma, full malt character, and a spicy herbal finish - This beer allows you to literally pour 4000 years of Scottish history into a glass."  

Other tasters have described it this way: "Somehow the sweet gale and heather used to spice the beer balances the malt. It's ... herbal."