Milton – the US town named by eminent 17th century English poet John Milton, is now breathing poetry of another kind, all over its citizens.
Sam Calagione and the folks at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery have recreated a 9000-year-old Chinese beer made from wildflower honey, muscat grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit and chrysanthemums – all for $15 a whirl.
The concoction, re-named Chateau Jiahu, was made possible by Dr Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania.
Whilst on a research trip in China ten years ago, Dr McGovern stumbled upon ancient pottery remains. And, with a little artful archaeological shard analyses, he was able to identify the previous occupants – rice, honey and berries, used in an ancient Chinese brew, consumed 1000 years before the previously oldest-known fermented ales in the Middle East.
Dr McGovern, a known expert in the origins and history of alcoholic beverages (what a guy), has revealed that beer consumed in China around this time was mostly used for ancestral worship, funerary rites, and other religious ceremonies.
In revitalising this spiritual great grandmother beverage, Mr Calagione used a lot of “creative latitude” in order to estimate the original strength and carbonation. In any case, it appears he has created a rather sterling drop, as the Chateau Jiahu was catapulted into first place at the recent Great American Beer Fest.
With the help of Mr McGovern, Sam and the Dogfish Head Brewery have also created the Midas Touch – a beer based on the remnants of Turkish King Midas’ tomb, 2,700 years old, and a ninth century Finnish beer called Sah’tea.
Whilst professed lovers of ancient beer, alcohol researchers such as Dr McGovern declare they are not ‘Syrian Hampsters’ – rodents described as the Andy Capp of the animal kingdom, who are known to favour alcohol over water any old day. Rather, they describe themselves as lovers of moderation, and crusaders into the lost vaults of “jolly good booze”.