On June 18, beer-lovers and fossil-enthusiasts alike—at least those around Ashburn, Virginia—will have a chance to sample the very first beer derived from a fossil.
The result of a team-up between Paleo Quest (a non-profit that splits its time between field paleontology and public education/engagement) and the Lost Rhino Brewing Company (a brewing company), "Bone Dusters" is brewed with live yeast samples found on the 40-million-year-old skull of a protocetid whale fossil (suspected to be Basilotritus wardi).
The yeast is nothing spectacularly new—a novel variant of the same species of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) used in brewing, baking, and winemaking pretty much since humans began doing any of those things. S. cerevisiae isn't particularly rare . . . it's most common on ripe fruit, but you can find it many other places, including, apparently, fossil whale skulls.
The process of collecting, culturing, and brewing the beer make a great story, one Paleo Quest has been telling in different venues to drum up public interest in science. It might also make a great amber ale, although we won't know for sure until June 18. And good or not, proceeds from the beer will be buying microscopes and other lab equipment for schools that couldn't otherwise afford them, so it's a win-win-win (or, if the beer's bad, maybe a win-lose-win anyway.)