Behind every ancient ales beer there is an incredible story.
Each ancient ales beer recipe is a re-creation of a beer that has, until just recently been lost to the ages. From an ancient beer recipe discovered in the tomb of King Midas to a beer recipe derived from the oldest known fermented beverage ever discovered – The Dogfish Head Brewery Ancient Ales series resurrects some of the most interesting and unique beers in the world.
Ancient Ales Origin
In march of 2000 – Director of Bio-molecular Archaeology, Patrick Mcgovern was attending a “Roasting and Toasting” dinner in honor of the late beer authority Michael Jackson. In attendance were a number of influential people in the beer world: writers, friends of the departed and many a brew master.
During the dinner Dr. Patrick McGovern announced to his captive audience of brew masters and beer lovers that he had recently discovered and deciphered a rather interesting beer recipe that he believes to have come from King Midas tomb. He requested the aide of any enterprising brewers to help him reverse engineer this ancient and exotic recipe.
Several weeks later, Patrick began to receive experimental re-creations of this recipe from a number of different micro breweries. In the end it was Sam Calagione and his interpretation of the recipe that was deemed the winner. Thanks to the continuing efforts of Dr. Patrick McGovern and Sam Calagione these beer recipes have finally been un-earthed and brewed for your enjoyment.
This award winning beer is the brew that started it all. It all began with the Midas Tumulus tomb in central turkey, where Dr. Patrick Mcgovern and his team had begun excavating and exploring the tomb. Upon opening the tomb they discovered the burial chamber of King Midas, Along with 157 bronze vessels – All containing preserved residue of the kings beer that would have been burried with him to sustain him through the afterlife. Patrick Mcgovern was able to re-construct this 2700 year old beer recipe through a number of chemical analysis tests. Based on his findings, he determined that the beer was a rather odd mixture of white grape wine, honey mead, barley beer and saffron. Once the core ingredients were figured out, It was then up to Sam Caligione to re-construct and brew this strange and foriegn beverage. In 2000, the Penn museum re-created the King Midas funery feast, accompanied by DogFish Heads re- creation of King Midas beer. Since then, the beer has gone on to win numerous medals at the Great American Beer Festival and half a dozen gold medals at beer tasting competitions around the world. Truly a beer fit for a king.
Awards & Ingredients
Ingredients: Honey, Barley Malt, white muscat grapes and saffron
- 2005 -Great American Beer Festival – Silver
- 2007 -Great American Beer Festival – Silver
- 2008 -Brewers Association World Beer cup – Bronze
- 2009 – Great American Beer Festival – Gold
- 2011 – Great American Beer Festival – Bronze
- 2013 – Great American Beer Festival – Silver
- 2014 – European Beer Star Winner – Gold
This is personally one of the most exciting beers on this list for me. It is a re-creation of the oldest known fermented beverage in the entire world. The recipe was derived from the residue found in clay jars in a tomb in Chinas Yellow River Valley. Dr. Patrick Mcgovern dates the find at approximately 7000 BC, Meaning that this beer recipe goes back 9,000 years. Chateau Jiahu is a unique and potent brew, that in my opinion should be on the top of any beer lovers list.
Awards & Ingredients
Ingredients: Hawthorn Fruit, sake rice, barley and honey.
- 2009 – Great American Beer Festival – Gold
- 2011 – Great American Beer Festival – Silver
The name “TheObroma” means “food of the gods”. This beer has been reconstructed based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments that were found in Honduras. Dr. Patrick Mcgoverns analysis of this ancient beer revealed that cocoa, chilies, honey and fragrant tree seeds called “Annato” were all used in brewing this beer. His discovery not only inspired the next Ancient Ale, but it also set back the earliest known record of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC. Despite what you’ve come to expect form modern day chocolate style beers, this light and fragrant beer is surprisingly balanced and does a great job of not letting the cocoa or chilies over power the beer.
Ta Henket is unique in that it is not a re-interpretation of an ancient beer recipe. Instead it was a re-creation of an ancient Egyptian recipe that was recorded in the form of hieroglyphics. While all of the beers in the Ancient Ales series are brewed with some pretty exotic ingredients and through some pretty interesting brewing processes – DogFish Head Brewery takes the brewing process even further for Ta Henket. The yeast for this beer has been carefully cultivated using traps to track and isolate wild yeast strains from the night air in Cairo, Egypt. If that wasn’t enough, The innovative brewers at DogHead decided that their first batch of beer using this recipe yielded too high of a sulfur content which only served to mask the fruit and herb elements of the beer. To solve this dilemma, they run each batch of bear through an electrolysis of sorts to remove some of that sulfury taste of the beer and highlight it’s natural flavors.
Birra Etrusca Bronze
To create the recipe for Birra Etrusca Bronze, Same Calagione and Dr. Pat McGovern traveled to Rome to analyze drinking vessels that were recovered from a 2,800 year old Etruscan tomb. This ancient ale is actually the first beer in the series that saw Dr. Pat McGovern and Sam collaborating with other breweries to bring this beer to life. As a result, there are in fact 3 different versions of this beer, each brewed by a different brewery using a different material to ferment the beer in. Leo Devencenzo of Birra Del Borgo Brewery fermented their version of Birra Etrusca in large terracotta clay fermenters, Teo Musso of Baladin chose to ferment his version in Italian Oak Barrels and Sam of DogFish Head brewery opted to use bronze in his fermenting vessel. If you get the chance to try all three versions, it should be rather interesting to see how the different materials used in their fermenting vessels effected, what is otherwise very much the same beer!
The Kvasir beer recipe comes to us from a 3,500 year old birch drinking vessel, found inside the tomb of a leather clad woman in Denmark. Dr. Pat McGovern and Sam have come to refer to this beer as a Nordic Grog, it is brewed using yarrow, lingonberries, cranberries, bog myrtle and birch syrup.
Check out the good Dr. and Sams story behind Kvasir.
The last ancient ale on our list is a recreation of a traditional a 9th century Finnish rye and juniper beer. One of the things that makes this beer truly unique is the traditional brewing method that is used in re-creating it. Traditionally the original finnish brewers would use large wooden tubs to boil the wort, but without the ability to use fire directly on the surface of the wood to bring the wort to a boil – They would super heat river rocks and then place them in the wort. Sam has carried on the tradition to use super heated rocks in Sah’tea. When the wort is finished, Sam then adds their very own house-made black tea addition to the beer.
The last beer on our list – chicha, is perhaps the most intriguing of all. The chicha beer recipe mirrors that of the traditional Peruvian style of brewing beer, where the brewers first needed to mill their locally grown purple maize and then would chew on the maize, using the enzymes in their saliva to act as a catalyst to breakdown the starches in maize to fermentable friendly sugars.
**DogFish BrewPub Exclusive
Finding Your Own Ancient Ale!
Because each beer in the ancient ales series calls for some rather unique and often times difficult to source ingredients – Dogfish head brewery has resigned to distributing these ancient ale brews to a relatively small handful of stores and in limited qauntities. Below is their 2015 release schedule for their ancient ales beer.
They also provide you with their “Fish Finder” web app that will help locate the closest stores to you that carry the beer. If you really want to get your hands on some of the beers on this list but their aren’t any stores in your area that carry it – you may need to get creative with sourcing a few bottles. When I was looking for chateau Jiahu, there wasn’t a single frickin’ store that carried it in the entire state of Wisconsin…yep, not one. Fortunately, my local liquor store was kind enough to place an order on my behalf! If your liquor store isn’t willing to order a batch, I would start looking into beer trading programs on your favorite craft beer and home brewing forums. If you really want to experiment with ancient ale beer recipes, consider grabbing a brew kit or electric brewing system to custom tailor your own homemade beer master pieces.