This might end up being a let down if you, like me, originally pictured a yeast strain emerging from the burly chest hairs (or bones?) of a Civil War hero and were super confused and disgusted, yet intrigued, so you clicked. Sorry — chest as in a dusty old trunk. Less weird but also less criminal.
Anyway, the Oozlefinch Craft Brewery in Fort Monroe, Va., is brewing an English Bitter with yeast that assistant brewer Rachel Edwards nabbed swabbing the walnut chest of Gen. Benjamin “Beast” Butler at the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe, located right near the brewery. The proximity and location matters more here than in some of the other wacky yeast origin stories out there because it is in line with the Oozlefinch brand, which pays tribute to the history of Fort Monroe. The name Oozlefinch is a reference to the tale of Captain H.M. Merriam who swore he saw a strange, large-eyed bird outside the Fort Monroe Officers’ Club. The outlandish tale quickly spread throughout the community, and the bizarre creature, dubbed the “Oozlefinch” by other officers, became the mascot of the club. The Oozlefinch rose to mythic status on Fort Monroe and regular sightings reportedly occurred.
The Virginian-Pilot article noted all of the places the Oozlefinch team took samples from in its search for a brewable link to the past of Fort Monroe, like old cannons and jail cells. Again, yes, both cooler than a chest, but hey: 1) discovering a usable brewer’s yeast in the wild isn’t easy, and 2) the yeast sample came from the lock of the chest. So, maybe it has secrets. The only way to find out is to drink the beers produced with that strain. As Edwards put it:
“It really intrigued me, the whole idea of, you know, pulling something wild outside, being able to manipulate it and let it mutate so that you’re creating beer with it,” she said.
Agreed. Here are some other recent yeast stories from our archives for your perusal.