Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Flesh Grazer

The Flesh Grazer

~How drunk ideas can turn into something awesome~

God morgon!
These are actually my very first written words in Swedish; such an achievement! I am proud of myself. From August 2015, I will be a new Master’s student in the vicinity of Uppsala, following the Palaeobiology program. After my admissions, I had a good Skype call with Kostas, who further introduced me to this awesome-sounding city. He mentioned that he occasionally writes in a blog, and that he might need more writers. So here it is, my first contribution.

For my first article, I will refer to an awesome project I had last year. Together with a group of friends, I managed to brew a beer from real dinosaur bones. This may seem a far-fetched sci-fi story, but it is actual science. I won’t go deep into stuff, but to understand the process it is necessary to realize that yeast kind of eats calcium and magnesium for breakfast. The number of these ions affects the fermentation and taste of the beer; so that the water source is dependent of the beer’s outcome. Some brewers mash up oyster shells to alter the chemistry of their water, and we… yes, we mashed up dinosaur bones. Real dinosaur bones (and a sniff of ground tooth enamel).

How did we actually get to such a crazy project? One of my closest friends, by the name of Thomas Hermsen (picture), is a -semi-professional- beer brewer. His beers and liquors regularly have some sort of unexpected extra ingredient. Examples include, but are not limited to: bacon, bananas and chili peppers. During one of many drunken nights, we were speculating about a next beer. Somehow, somewhere, sometime, the question “Is it possible to brew a beer from dinosaur bone?” was raised.
Which actually isn’t that weird of a question, regarding my affinity to paleontology. At that time, I was a volunteer in the Museon in The Hague, in the process of establishing a new exposition of close-to-real dinosaur electronics. Though the Museon is generally a broad museum, having exhibitions ranging from far-away cultures to the Roman history of The Hague, from law to space exploration, one of their top pieces include a fairly complete specimen of Allosaurus fragilis (nicknamed Cubone).

So at a certain point I asked my supervisor if we could perhaps have some pieces of dinosaur bones to brew a beer with. What followed was him laughing at me for like fifteen minutes straight. When I said that I was serious, I actually received a few pieces from a box in a forgotten part of the depot. They were collected from the Hell Creek formation of Montana (some 70 million years old), and heavily fragmented; and thus are of no scientific importance. Just good enough for beer, then.

The cherry on top of this fossil cake comprised of ground tooth enamel from Cubone. My Bachelor’s thesis, which took place around the same time, focused on stable isotopes of this critter’s tooth enamel. I won’t go deep into stuff here either, but it has to do with migration patterns and trophic level (sometimes, you literally are what you eat). Regardless what the results may have been, one of the samplings ‘accidently’ went wrong, contaminating the enamel with dentine. Throwing it away would be a waste, so why not add it to the beer? This way, we are confident that there is at least some dinosaur material dissolved in the mix.

June 3rd, 2014. Brew day. For those of you who are not familiar with the process of brewing, it mainly consists of having loads of free time. At certain time steps, the brew has to be heated, stirred or completed with additional ingredients. Rest of the time was filled with playing Mario World. Classic.
After the yeast was added to water and heated, the dinosaur bones were the next ingredient. Jelle Heijne was in charge of this unorthodox task. On the streets outside, he smashed the bones with a hammer, leaving only little shards. These were added in the mix, and yes, some parts actually dissolved.

At the end of the day, a small flask that contained the precious ground tooth was emptied above the cauldron. The base for an awesome beverage was finished. Now, we need to wait.

We wanted the beer to be a ground-shaking one; sweet with the honey from pine trees (which were quite widespread at the time), with a powerful bite. As such, the name ‘Flesh Grazer’ was coined, after the proposed hunting method of A. fragilis. Scientists picture it as the animal running towards a much larger prey, such as Camarasaurus, tearing loads of flesh from the poor creature’s soft belly, and running away with it. This way, the prey doesn’t die (unless fatal organs were hit or the wound becomes infected) and recovers. Unlimited supply of food, prehistoric sustainability 101. We could learn from them.
In addition, we wanted the beer to be 15,0%, as a reference to the 150 million year old animal. However, the liquid gold turned into an even more powerful liquor, sporting a whopping 16,2%. Beer for those who can take a hit, and really want to enjoy what their senses can take them to.

The beer was finally bottled on September 3rd. It can be drunk now, but the longer it stays inside the bottle, the better it gets. I might drink one bottle when I get to Sweden, and save some to celebrate the next awesome achievements that undoubtedly will follow.


Jasper Ponstein


  1. oh cool your experiment very interesting,,, how to examine a yeast

  2. an animal bone dead thousands of years ago is difficult we thought we can use to be able to use a drink.

  3. it god your eksperiment ,,,,it is a very rare discovery

  4. I never would have thought you could find it cool,,,, with the invention of beer with dinosaur bones

  5. I never would have thought you could find it cool,,,, with the invention of beer with dinosaur bones i tink your work is good,,,

  6. waaooooww nice,,,,, this is a very great discovery with friends - friends

  7. waaooooww nice,,,,, I was amazed by the discovery of mad that you lakuakan,,, drink beer with bone dinosurus cool,,,, nn

  8. Well I m glad you liked Jaspers post!