Food & Drink

At Unknown Brewing, things are about to get weird(er)

It was Hunter S. Thompson who said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

The going is about to get weird indeed at The Unknown Brewing Co., where another one of Thompson’s quotes – the one about life not being a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely – is displayed on a wall in the taproom. The Gonzo journalist’s philosophy is shared by co-founder Brad Shell, who has been “getting weird” since he and his wife, Lisa, opened The Unknown Brewing Co. in 2013.

In the two years since, Shell has brewed with bacon, cream cheese, Sriracha and Hot Tamales candy. But perhaps his most incendiary beer came last year with La Jordana del Escorpion en Fuego Hacia la Casa del Chupacabra Muerto, which was supposed to translate to “the path of the fiery scorpion through the house of the dead chupacabra.” Most know it as “the scorpion beer,” since the beer was brewed with 99 real, food-grade scorpions (as well as peppers and agave nectar).

For this year’s Day of the Dead release, Shell and company brewed El Corazon Que Sangra Morado, which translates to a more manageable “the heart that bleeds purple.” Though lacking in the scorpion department, it was brewed with spices, experimental hops, hibiscus, hot purple peppers and Peruvian purple corn.

Weeks earlier, the brewery released Rise Against Clowns, which was brewed with blood oranges and cotton candy before being fermented with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast. And if that sounds fun or sweet to you, then disregard the label of a troupe of kids raising machetes against a clown.

So how, exactly, are things about to get weird in a place known especially for its weirdness? On Nov. 14, the brewery will host the Strange Brew festival. Shell has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet and challenged 20 breweries to see who can create the strangest beer, with festival attendees voting on their favorites.

The event runs 6:30-10 p.m. at the brewery (1327 S. Mint St.), and tickets are $20 ($25 at the door if they don’t sell out online). Ticket holders will get unlimited samples from breweries like Sycamore Brewing, Wooden Robot, D9 Brewing, Red Clay Cider, Fullsteam Brewery, Mystery Brewing and many more.

And what’s The Unknown Brewing Co., master of the weird, pouring at this event?

“Everyone is being super hush-hush until (the festival),” said Shell. “I also can’t tell you ours, as it will melt your face and set the world into a reverse spin, which may alter the universe as we know it.”

That’s Shell’s way of saying that if you want to know what oddities will be poured at the festival, you’ll have to show up. The man who proudly promoted beers brewed with scorpions and cotton candy is being especially tight-lipped this go-round. Which might seem a little weird, but maybe Shell’s just turning pro.

For tickets to the Strange Brew festival, visit

Sip of the week

White Blaze Winter Ale, Triple C Brewing Co., Charlotte, NC

$10 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans.

At noon Saturday, Triple C Brewing will tap White Blaze Winter Ale. Brewed with oats, cinnamon and vanilla beans, the beer has been one of the brewery’s most popular seasonal beers. Last year they bottled it for the first time, and this year it will become the first of the brewery’s seasonal beers to find its way into four-packs of cans. These cans will be released at the brewery Nov. 14, and will find their way into area bottle shops the week thereafter.