Most recently, his team worked on artifacts found in various sites in Denmark and Sweden that once held ancient Nordic grog, a term loosely used to define beverages containing multiple fermentable sugar sources. With the help of this chem-lab technology they were able to detect the presence of tartaric acid, which hints at the presence of grapes, a group of plant compounds associated with lingonberry and cranberry, and traces of other compounds related to juniper berry, bog myrtle, and yarrow.
But rather than stop at a list of ingredients and a journal publication, Dr. McGovern has been taking his work one step further. Using these results and other evidence from Nordic dig sites, Dr. McGovern and Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione teamed up to bring this ancient grog, along with several other brews, back to life. Named Kvasir after a Nordic deity born from the spit of other gods, this orange-hued brew is made with wheat, cranberry, lingonberry, bog myrtle, yarrow, honey and birch syrup. The result is a tart and complex beer that is packed with spice and floral notes. Instead of coming off as a gimmick, Kvasir feels and tastes more like a refined museum artifact that should studied and pondered. Instilling this millennia-old historical accuracy into a large-scale production beer is certainly no easy feat. It’s a tricky task that calls for innovation and compromise.
A prime example of this is Dr. McGovern and Dogfish Head’s most ancient of ales, the 9000-year-old Chinese elixir known as Chateau Jiahu. … Chateau Jiahu is a brew that must be experienced with an open mind. Beer certainly isn’t the first word that comes to mind when taking the initial sips. Sweet and complex, with subtle grape and white flower nuances, this ancient concoction drinks much more like a dessert wine. I’d suggest slowly enjoying this contemplative brew while relishing in the thought of consuming something that hasn’t been tasted for 9000 years.
Previous Dish on ancient alcohol here.
(Image of Chateau Jiahu by Flickr user edwin)