Saturday, July 17th, 2010
A couple of years ago I wrote about Dogfish Brewery recreating an ancient Aztec chocolate beer using a recipe derived from molecular analysis of a Honduran drinking vessel. That inspired me to order their Midas Touch brew, a beery-meady concoction replicated from dregs in cups from Midas’ tomb. (It was a little weird but by the end of the six pack I really liked it, and no, I didn’t drink them all at once.)
Dogfish has another ancient fermented beverage on offer this year, only this one goes further back in time than either Midas or the Aztecs. It’s a Chinese brew derived from 9,000 year-old Neolithic pottery. Dr. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Antropology, the same found the vessels 10 years ago. Using infrared spectrometry, gas chromatography and other molecular analysis technology, he figured out what used to be in those pots.
The molecular evidence told McGovern the vessels from China once contained an alcoholic beverage made of rice, grapes, hawthorn berries, honey and chrysanthemum flowers.
“What we found is something that was turning up all over the world from these early periods,” he says. “We don’t have just a wine or a beer or a mead, but we have like a combination of all three.”
McGovern has collaborated with Dogfish Brewery before on both the Aztec chocobeer and the Midas mead. This Chinese wine/beer/mead brew, felicitously named Chateau Jiahu, was first released in a limited run in 2006. Now it’s available again. Dogfish will brew 3000 crates of it.
In keeping with historic evidence, Dogfish brewers used pre-gelatinized rice flakes, Wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flowers. The rice and barley malt were added together to make the mash for starch conversion and degredation. The resulting sweet wort was then run into the kettle. The honey, grapes, Hawthorn fruit, andChrysanthemum flowers were then added. The entire mixture was boiled for 45 minutes, then cooled. The resulting sweet liquid was pitched with a fresh culture of Sake yeast and allowed to ferment a month before the transfer into a chilled secondary tank.