9,000 year old beer recreated

(Only in British Columbia… pity!)

Written by Debra Black for thestar.com

A 9,000 year old beer made of rice, honey and hawthorn may give a whole new meaning to cracking open a cold one.

The beer, called Chateau Jiahu, will come July be on sale in British Columbia and depending on sales perhaps sometimes soon in the rest of Canada.

Chateau Jiahu has its roots in a village in Hunan province in northern China. A molecular archeologist Patrick McGovern from the University of Pennsylvania found chemical traces of a 9,000 year old beer on some pottery in a dig in the Neolithic village of Jiahu. The beer was made of a blend of rice, honey and hawthorn berries.

McGovern and the folks at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware decided to take the ancient beer’s ingredients and make a modern-day version of it. No easy task for the modern beer maker. “All that Patrick McGovern could tell us is what the evidence was or a laundry list of organic substances,” said Sam Calagione, founder and president of the brewery.

“From there we have to create a recipe. We have to come up with the percentage or ratios and volumes of weight of honey, rice and fruit. We have to figure out how strong an alcohol it might have been. Whether it was filtered or cloudy, carbonated or flat. We have a lot of creative latitude to bring a modern interpretation of this ancient beverage back to life.”

And it seems the company has succeeded with Chateau Jiahu winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2009.

The company began working with McGovern in 2001 to recreate ancient beer recipes. One of the first projects Calagione and his staff collaborated on with McGovern was the Midas Touch – a beer based on materials found in a 2,700 year old tomb in Turkey which was believed to be for King Midas. They also have whipped up batches of a ninth century Finnish beer that they call Sah’tea.

The most recent beer the team has created from McGovern’s molecular evidence is called Theobroma, based on an ancient beverage from Central America which includes cocoa, cocoa beans and chilies. It’s supposed to be sold in the United States and British Columbia in late July.

For beer lovers here in Ontario Chateau Jiahu may not be available but Calagione advises that they can find the company’s 60 Minute India Pale Ale at provincial liquor stores.

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