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Enter the Dragon

Hardywood and VMFA join forces to create Forbidden Beer.

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VMFA's Forbidden City exhibit will feature objects that have never left China, says Bob Tarren, the museum's director of marketing and communications, "and we wanted to give folks a handheld connection, before and after they visit."

Enter a 12-ounce bottle of Forbidden Beer — a worthy artifact, he says.

The beer was created through a partnership between VMFA and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, based on a mutual love for material pleasures. The bottle is emblazoned with the face of an imperial Chinese dragon, which is doubly appropriate considering the exotic core ingredient — dragon fruit.

"This is the first time we've worked with such an unusual, unpredictable ingredient," head brewer Brian Nelson says. Dragonfruit tastes a little like pear, he says, and white ale is good for soaking up subtle flavors. It could end up as pink ale, though, if large proportions of the magenta pulp are required.

Fine-tuning the ale involved dozens of people, so it seems that low expectations are, well, forbidden. And you won't have to wait for the museum exhibit's opening on Oct. 18. Hardywood will hold a launch party at its campus Oct. 4. A week later, the beer will be available at such places as Whole Foods and Shields Market.

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