Despite a genetic curse that renders half the population unable to drink the stuff without turning beet red, Chinese people have been downing beer for tens of thousands of years. And now you can drink their 9000-year-old beer recipes as well.
Dogfish Head Brewery’s Chateau Jiahu was concocted from the remains of preserved pottery jars found in the Neolithic village of Jiahu in Henan province. Molecular Archeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern of UPenn reconstructed what was in the jar and revealed that it was a “mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey and fruit.”
In keeping with historic evidence, Dogfish brewers used pre-gelatinized rice flakes, Wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flowers. The rice and barley malt were added together to make the mash for starch conversion and degredation. The resulting sweet wort was then run into the kettle. The honey, grapes, Hawthorn fruit, andC hrysanthemum flowers were then added. The entire mixture was boiled for 45 minutes, then cooled. The resulting sweet liquid was pitched with a fresh culture of Sake yeast and allowed to ferment a month before the transfer into a chilled secondary tank.
How did he figure all of this out? NPR’s All Things Considered dug a little deeper:
“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…
“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.”
Sounds actually kind of delicious. Unfortunately, the chances of it reaching Shanghai anytime soon are slim. Jiahu is available in the United States only in small batches (they make about 3,000 cases of the beer a year, which, if you’ve ever been to a Shanghaiist party, you know that’s nothing) and costs $13 (88RMB) a bottle.
Still, we are closer to the source. Maybe we can do a little molecular archeology ourselves – or maybe tonight, I’ll throw chrysantheums and hawthorne into some Tsingtao and hope for the best.
UPDATE: BeerAdvocate.com users give Chateau Jiahu a B+.