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Resurrecting Ancient Brews

First Posted: 06/29/11 02:21 PM ET Updated: 08/29/11 06:12 AM ET

It sounds like a dream job for some but researching ancient beer recipes is no easy task. Smithsonian magazine profiles Professor Patrick McGovern (known as "Dr. Pat" by Dogfish Head Brewery owner Sam Calagione) and his quest to discover clues about extinct civilizations through the libations they imbibed.

In between excavations and his archaeology research, McGovern has found time to collaborate with Calagione on five different beers, all inspired by ancient civilizations. Check out the slideshow below to learn more about these traditional-yet-modern brews.

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  • Midas Touch

    Midas Touch, available year-round, is made from an ancient Turkish recipe that is the "actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world." It <a href="" target="_hplink">tastes somewhere between wine, beer and mead</a> and has won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival, another gold at the International Mead Festival, and a silver at the World Beer Cup.

  • Chateau Jiahu

    Chateau Jiahu was inspired by a 9,000-year-old Chinese recipe of rice, honey and fruit. The recipe was discovered through preserved located in the Neolithic villiage of Jiahu, within the Henan Province. In the modern version, the brew consists of brown rice syrup, orange blossom honey, muscat grape, barley malt and hawthorn berry.

  • Theobroma

    This ancient Honduran alcoholic chocolate drink was used to toast special occasions. Theobroma's current version has Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chilies and annatto.

  • Chicha

    Chicha is a native corn beer throughout Central and South American. Dogfish Head's version (made in very small batches) consists of pink Peruvian pepper corns, yellow maize, organic Peruvian purple maize and (US) strawberries. The purple maize is actually moistened in the chicha-makers mouths, formed into small, flattened cakes and then dried. Note: the grain-chewing happens before the beer is boiled so the beer is completely sterile.

  • Ta Henket

    This beer was described in Egyptian hieroglyphics and flavored with doum palm fruit, chamomile, and zatar. On a trip to Egypt, Dogfish Head obtained a native Egyptian saccharomyces yeast strain to enable fermentation.

To learn more about the brews, see Dogfish Head's full rundown here. To learn more about McGovern's work, check our Smithsonian magazine's piece here.


Filed by Carey Polis  |  Report Corrections