If you love exotic beer, this may just be the beer for you. No, it doesn't have fancy ingredients outside of grapes and flowers, but Chateau Jiahu by Dogfish Head Brewery is quite unique: it's made from 9,000-year-old recipe found in a Neolithic burial site in China.
It all started with biomolecular archaeology:
McGovern is a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. He studies fermented beverages — otherwise known as booze — by analyzing the ancient pots that once held them.
"We use techniques like infrared spectrometry, gas chromatography and so forth," he explains. McGovern helps Dogfish Head revive long-dead brews by figuring out what used to be inside the ancient pottery he comes across.
About 10 years ago, he set out to find some of this primordial crockery on a trip to China. In one town, he found pottery from an early Neolithic burial site. The pieces were about 9,000 years old — as were the skeletons they were found with.
The Neolithic period, which began about 12,000 years ago, is thought to be about the time when humans started settling down, raising crops — and apparently getting a little tipsy. McGovern suspects that once humans stayed put, it didn't take them long to discover the fermentation process that led to the world's first alcohol.
The molecular evidence told McGovern the vessels from China once contained an alcoholic beverage made of rice, grapes, hawthorn berries, honey and chrysanthemum flowers.
"What we found is something that was turning up all over the world from these early periods," he says. "We don't have just a wine or a beer or a mead, but we have like a combination of all three."
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