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Australians Make Beer Out of Belly Button Lint

Melbourne’s 7 Cent Brewery will debut a Belgian-style Witbier later this month brewed using yeast strains cultivated from its founders’ navels

smithsonian.com

Craft breweries are known for experimentation, and 7 Cent Brewery in Gisborne South, just northwest of Melbourne, Australia, is no exception. Since its founding three years ago by friends and engineers Brendan Baker, Matthew Boustead and Doug Bremner, the brewers have already tackled brewing the underappreciated Gose, a salty German-style beer, and put their own twist on it by infusing the beer with black clams, not to mention concocted an oyster stout, as well as a “hipster beer” brewed with kale, chia seeds and quinoa.

But the breweries latest batch tops the list of peculiar taste: at the 2016 Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular later this month they will debut Belly Button Beer, brewed with yeast collected from the brewers’ belly buttons. According to a press release, the three beer makers swabbed their navels then streaked them on agar plates. Then they watched as the plates filled up with all sorts of microbes, including colonies of yeast. They isolated the yeasts, then grew them into amounts that could be used in beer production.

“It’s perfectly safe,” Bremner tells Rebecca Lynch at 9News. “Yeast is yeast–this beer is no different to any other beer out there. We weren’t really sure if we were going to see it work and we were really stoked that it actually did work.”

They tested beer made from yeast sample from each brewer, deciding on one with the best flavor. Then they grew enough yeast to produce an 800-liter batch of Belly Button Beer, which is made with barley, wheat, oats and rye, along with fresh orange zest, toasted coriander seeds and Riwaka and Mosaic hops. The brewers describe it as a Belgian-ish Witbier with hints of clove and banana.

7 Cent isn’t alone in creating beers with yeasts from funky places. In 2008, Fossil Fuels Brewing Company made a beer from 25- to 45-million-year-old yeast they claimed they found in amber. In 2013, Wynkoop Brewery made a stout brewed with Rocky Mountain Oysters, otherwise known as bull testicles, after an April Fool’s prank stirred demand for the beer. That year, Rogue Ales also produced Beard Beer, fermented with yeast found in the well-manicured scruff of its brewmaster.

Bremner says that if the Belly Button Beer gets a good enough response they may make it available to the wider public.

“We are really interested to see if the idea of drinking something that originated from a brewer’s belly button is too much for even the most hardened beer geek,” the brewers write on their website. “Once you get used to the idea that yeast is yeast no matter where you get it from and that the water we drink is really recycled dinosaur urine, then you can just sit back and enjoy the beer…..in theory.”

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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