Tuesday, October 8, 2013


For a while now, I've contested that gimmicks are, what gimmicks are. Usually I take them with a grain of salt. If the beer is good, I usually give the stunt little mind, if it's bad I move on. Yeah, I know that gimmicks and ploys jack up the price of beer—but that's business. The price of everything that we purchase or consume is at some level effected by marketing, or gimmicks and promotions. To expect the brewing industry to not do that is moot. Gonads, Beers of Thrones, maple/bacon-ification, and season-creeped brews are not going anywhere, anytime soon.

 I, however, reserve the right to contradict myself at any moment. Dogfish Head's Celest-jewel-le is exception to the rule. Yes, that's right, I'm calling bullshit on DFH's newest publicity stunt. From DFHs website:

Celest-jewel-ale is made with lunar meteorites that have been crushed into dust, then steeped like tea in a rich, malty Oktoberfest. These certified moon jewels are made up primarily of minerals and salts, helping the yeast-induced fermentation process and lending this traditional German style a subtle but complex earthiness. 

I decided to do a little investigating on these "lunar jewels". I stopped by the office of Dr. Marian Lupulescu, Curator of Geology at the New York State Museum. Dr. Lupulescu is an expert on Mineralogy, Petrography and the Geology of Ore Deposits—oh, and the geological aspects of the surface of the Moon. Conveniently, his office also happens to be just down the hall from mine.

In DFH's defense the science behind their claim that "…moon jewels are made up primarily of minerals and salts…" is solid—kind of. The lunar surface is comprised of two kinds of rock—basalt and anorthosite. When you look at the Moon in the night sky, the light areas on its surface are the anorthosite, while the dark areas are basalt. Since lunar meteorites are launched from the Moon after impacts from other celestial objects—like other meteorites or space debris—they share the same properties as the surface of the Moon. Marian agreed that both anorthosite and basalt are pretty high in aluminum, calcium and iron, and they probably would affect the pH of DFHs mash water, if enough was added. 

But, here's the problem.  Lunar meteorites are rare. And not just rare—but really, really, rare. 

According to Marian's colleague, Dr. Randy L. Korotev, of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, of the approximately 45,000 meteorites listed in the Meteoritical Bulletin Database, only 1 in about 285 are from the Moon. All said and done, we're talking about 100 pounds of known lunar meteorite material—total—on Earth, right now. Two sentences in an email from Marian sums up my whole point .
"There are only 186 lunar meteorites recorded! And they are much more important for science than for other things."
I couldn't have said it better, Dr. Lupulescu. 

So how much lunar material did DFH destroy? Using a whole bunch meant destroying quite a bit, and using a tiny, tiny amount, then who cares and what's the point? More importantly, if they did grind up a lunar meteorite just to sell beer, that seems like pretty irresponsible thing to do. To make matters worse, both basalt and anorthosite are available on Earth. In fact, the rock that made the Moon came from Earth. Granted, rock from Hawaii or the Adirondacks doesn't have the same panache as "Moon rocks", but Moon anorthosite and Earth anorthosite are exactly the same thing. The same goes for basalt.

So, what's next, Javan Rhinos? I hear they make a fantastic Porter. How about we grind up a Gutenberg Bible and make and Alt beer? 

Remember this Mr. Calagione, the old adage is true—just because you can, doesn't mean you should.


  1. Hats off sir for double checking and backgrounding this whole thing. To a none professional like myself it seemed like a cool stunt- moon rocks, sure whatever, shit falls from the sky all the time, might as well brew with it- the rarity is a travesty and might be finally pushing the limits of 'unique' beer culture too far.
    Or, as watching the Brew Dogs TV has shown us "nothing is too gimmicky for America"
    Thank you!

    1. I'm hoping this whole thing will develop into a "Save the lunar meteorite" thing. I'm thinking CAMMA (Campaign for Meteoriteless Ale)

  2. Basalt and anorthosite are rocks...

  3. Moon rocks give the beer an earthy quality? Strange indeed.

  4. I fully agree Craig. This brewery has made some excellent beer but it has also engaged in some arcane experiments and when I see their selections on the U.S. shelves I'm always trying to figure out what is a genuine traditional taste and what is flavour of the month so to speak that is not likely to have lasting value. If I were them, I'd put the focus on something like, trying to make the best cask bitter in the world and besting the British at their own game. Come up with the best hop blend, the best process to ensure a stable and clear beer, supply the equipment maybe to the bars, help them explain it to the customers, and so on. Or it could be ditto for an Imperial American Stout, say, i.e., I'm not against innovation - innovation is what created the APA style - but do it logically and organically as it were. This stuff about moon rocks is just nowhere, IMO.


  5. Reminds me of the time the band KISS released a comic book where the red ink included the blood of all the band members.