Grape Press: 9000-year-old Chinese ‘wine’ recreated; plus, Is beer better with Chinese food?

American brewer Dogfish Head has cracked an ancient Chinese secret. According to John Roach at National Geographic News, the brewery has created a beverage “similar to one made in China some 9,000 years ago.”

Sam Calagione of the Dogfish Head brewery in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, used a recipe that included rice, honey, and grape and hawthorn fruits. He got the formula from archaeologists [including Patrick McGovern] who derived it from the residues of pottery jars found in the late Stone Age village of Jiahu in northern China.”

The brew – described as falling somewhere among beer, mead, wine, and cider – is called Chateau Jiahu and follows in the footsteps of another collaboration between Calagione and McGovern, Midas Touch Golden Elixir, which is based on evidence of alcohol found in a 2700-year-old tomb in Turkey.

Mike Gerhart, Dogfish Head’s distillery manager, aimed to copy ancient Chinese brewing methods:

To get the fermentation started, McGovern imported a mold cake—traditionally used in making Chinese rice wines—from a colleague in Beijing. Gerhart mashed the cake into the rice. Once that became “funky and began to grow,” he added other ingredients, including water, honey, grapes, hawthorn fruit, and chrysanthemum flowers.

“We also turned up the brew kettle much higher than we ever would today—we know back then they would have had some type of earthen pot with a fire burning directly below it—to replicate those flavors we know formed, somewhat burnt and caramelized,” he said.

To comply with U.S. federal brewing regulations, Gerhart had to add barley malt, though he said he mashed and fermented out most of the barley flavor.

And how does it taste? You can get all the details here.

Meanwhile, Jim Koch, founder of U.S. brewery Samuel Adams, is quoted in this article as saying “beer is the new wine” and that it is a better match for many of the globe’s cuisines, including that of China:

If you ask Koch, the cuisines that are popular today— like those from Mexico, Morocco, China, and India, to name a few—are beer cuisines. The reason? He says those kinds of foods need the malt in beer to cut through the spices in the dishes.

“They’re big—they overwhelm wines,” Koch explained. “They need big, flavorful liquids to pair with them.”

… he says, people are beginning to see that beer has all the dignity, variety, and drinkability of wine. In fact, Koch says, beer simply goes better with food than wine does.

Well, not all Chinese cuisine is spicy, but point taken.

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  1. oh, and samuel adams is their brand name, while boston beer company is the actual brewery and company name.

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