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Reproducing an Ancient New World Beer 175

The Edible Geography blog has an amusing piece about Patrick McGovern, the "Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages," and his role in the production of a 3,400-year-old Mesoamerican beer recreated from a chemical analysis of pottery fragments. "McGovern describes his collaboration with Dogfish Head craft brewers ... to create a beer based on the core ingredients of early New World alcohol: chocolate beans (in nib form, as the cacao pods are too perishable to transport from Honduras to Delaware), honey, corn, ancho chillis, and annatto. ... The result? Cloudy and quite strong (9% A.B.V.), but more refreshing than you would think: the chocolate is savoury rather than sweet, and the chilli is just a very subtle, almost herbal, aftertaste. There is almost no head."
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Reproducing an Ancient New World Beer

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  • Re:Want to buy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grygus ( 1143095 ) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @11:56PM (#32394402)
    It goes on retail every July, according to their schedule []. Here [] is a map of the retail locations, all in Delaware.
  • Re:Midas Touch (Score:5, Informative)

    by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @12:14AM (#32394486) Homepage Journal
    It's well known in a lot of places thanks to the documentary "Beer Wars". In the DC area where I live there are several Dogfish Head alehouses [] and the local Wegmans stocks several of their beers as well. I don't normally like beer but Dogfish Head makes excellent products with variety and eccentricity that actually taste good.
  • Re:Midas Touch (Score:4, Informative)

    by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @12:30AM (#32394544)

    Dogfish and McGovern also collaborated on: Jiahu, based on chemanalysis of 9000-year-old pottery fragments from China; Sah'tea, based on 9th-century Finnish sahti; and Pangaea, which is more gimmicky than most of Dogfish head's gimmicks, and includes an ingredient from every continent.

  • Re:Want to buy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nikker ( 749551 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @01:12AM (#32394698)
    If you have the recipe then just goto a microbrewery. You can get a batch made quite easily, you do have to make a bit to make it worth while maybe split the cost with a couple of buddies. Sounds like I might do the same.
  • Re:Inhaling Beer? (Score:3, Informative)

    by xonar ( 1069832 ) <xonar AT smagno DOT com> on Sunday May 30, 2010 @02:02AM (#32394852) Homepage

    Equating the responsible enjoyment of a truly interesting, historical, fine craft beer with illegal drug abuse is not funny. Not even when you put a :) after it.

    "Ethanol is one of the oldest recreational drugs."

  • Re:Midas Touch (Score:5, Informative)

    by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @03:23AM (#32395114)

    On the subject, you actually can't copyright a recipe. Probably. []

  • The wrong yeast? (Score:5, Informative)

    by haggholm ( 1678078 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @03:53AM (#32395202)

    I haven’t had this particular beer, but I did have the Midas Touch (another Dogfish brand reconstruction), and I rather enjoyed it. It wasn’t nearly as weird or “special” as one might expect; nothing spectacular, but pretty tasty.

    However, one thing makes me doubt that either beverage comes anywhere near the original flavour. As per the article, “The fermentation was carried out with a German ale yeast, which is not obtrusive and brings out the flavours of the other ingredients.” The Midas touch certainly tasted like that was the case there, too. However, that long ago there was no such thing as cultivated strains of brewer’s yeast—fermentation was done with wild yeasts (leave the vats open, let naturally occurring yeast spores drift in on the breeze, gaze in wonder as the brew transforms for no reason discernible without a microscope). As anyone who has had a Lambic beer (still made with spontaneous fermentation) can attest, spontaneously fermented beers taste vastly different from beers fermented with cultivated yeast: Wikipedia calls it “bracingly sour”.

  • Re:Midas Touch (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:18AM (#32396356)

    Unless I'm very mistaken the only reason the airlock is used is because you want to keep out other yeasts and bacteria that could spoil the 'mead-to-be'.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:26AM (#32396728)

    Making your own (good) beer at home is straight-forward. From there, the sky's the limit -- it's easy to add fruit, cocoa nibs (really, really freaking good to add when fermentation is done -- about a quarter pound per 5 gallons), honey, spices, you name it. You just need about one hundred dollars' worth of equipment, patience, a bottle of bleach, and some empties.

    Calagione even has a beginner's book to extreme brewing, complete with recipes from DFH.

    From there, Charlie Papazian has a more detailed book, that serves as a primer to more advanced brewing techniques.

    Honestly, for about $1500 (less if you're good at DIY), you can make any damn beer you want, from French saison to a classic Pilsn to a west coast hop bomb. And the results are almost always better than what you can get from your local supermarket. No, seriously -- it's true. Most beers don't age well (we're talking about flavours going south in a couple months -- faster if the beer is subjected to temperature swings).

    FWIW, I'd recommend every beer lover to try making their own a couple times. It's easy enough to do, and it'll give you a deeper appreciation of what actually goes into beer. Homemade wine is almost always plonk because you're using stale, condensed juice; beer is different because brewers the world over use the same, commodity ingredients (water, malt, hops, yeast), all of which are also available to homebrewers. Even if you don't want to shell out the $$$ for the equipment, most cities have homebrewing clubs that have "brew with a newb" days.

  • Dogfish Head (Score:3, Informative)

    by porky_pig_jr ( 129948 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @04:48PM (#32400020)

    BTW, Dogfish Head IPA is truly outstanding brew. Give it a try. You won't be sorry.

  • by blitziod ( 591194 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @05:04PM (#32400176)
    I'm a beer snob and although I enjoy many a trapist ale, I'll put some of the best American beers up against any in the world right now. Anchor brewing company's Liberty IPA may be the best beer in the world. If it's not then Real Ale company's Full Moon Pale Rye Ale is. Also Pike's Kilt Lifter Scottish style is very drinkable.
  • Re:The wrong yeast? (Score:3, Informative)

    by VShael ( 62735 ) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:41AM (#32405034) Journal

    Indeed. There are many spontaneously fermented beers on sale in Belgium. They do taste quite different.

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