Essentially, experimental archaeology means trying to replicate the ancient method by taking the clues we have and trying out various scenarios in the present. In the process, you hope to learn more about just how the ancient beverage was made.
For example, Midas Touch came about when I decided to have a competition among microbrewers who were attending a “Roasting and Toasting” dinner in honor of beer authority Michael Jackson (not the entertainer, but the beer and scotch maven, now sadly no longer with us) in March of 2000 at the Penn Museum.
I simply got up at the dinner, and announced to the assembled crowd that we had come up with a very intriguing beverage that we needed some enterprising brewers to try to reverse-engineer and see if it was even possible to make something drinkable from such a weird concoction of ingredients. Soon, experimental brews started arriving on my doorstep for me to taste–not a bad job, if you can get it, but not all the entries were that tasty. Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery ultimately triumphed.
Sam Calagione, along with Mike Gerhart and Bryan Selders, with experimental prowess the equal of any Neoltihic beverage-maker, brought Chateau Jiahu back from the dead.
Watch the video “Burton Baton and the Legend of the Ancient Ale” that garnered first prize at the Off-Centered Film Fest in Austin, TX:
This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions. The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC. As per the analysis, Dogfish Head’s Theobroma (translated into ‘food of the gods’) is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs (from our friends at Askinosie Chocolate), honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds). It’s light in color – not what you expect with your typical chocolate beer. Not that you’d be surpised that we’d do something unexpected with this beer! Read more
Let’s travel back in time again (Midas Touch was our first foray and Theobroma our most recent), this time 9000 years! Preserved pottery jars found in the Neolithic villiage of Jiahu, in Henan province, Northern China, has revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey and fruit was being produced that long ago – right around the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beinginning tobe made in the Middle East! Read more
All of the ideas about what our ancient ancestors were drinking–whether a wine, beer, or mead–come together in our research on the so-called King Midas funerary feast, because surprisingly all three were mixed together in the drink. Read more
Throughout the last 15 years we have brewed over 200 different off-centered ales here at Dogfish Head. A number of our beers have been based on archeological evidence or researching ancient brewing traditions. We have now made what we believe is one our most exotic and unique beer yet. Chicha is the quintessential native corn beer throughout Central and South American. Indigenous versions with local variations exist in Chile, Bolivia, Colombia and many other countries. Read more