Monday, January 24, 2011

Beer in the News: Old, Old, Old, Old Ale...

Couple of neat mentionings of beer and beer-related topics in the news I thought I'd pass along:

In addition to a lovely collection of bottles of this and that, my Christmas beer haul included some great books on beer and brewing that I've slowly begun poring over.   One tome that I got a good start on before loaning it to an archaeologically-minded friend was Patrick McGovern's Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer and Other Alcoholic Beverages, which I'm sure will prove to be a fascinating look at the history of humanity's obsession with booze.   McGovern is a world-renowned expert on both the history ancient beverages and the science behind discovering them (according to his website, he has been called the "Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages," a glorious title that immediately grabbed my attentions).   His 2009 volume explores the myriad ways in which humanity began to discover the art of brewing, beginning with the early civilizations of Mesopotamia, Greece, China and Egypt.  No sooner did I began reading his book that a new discovery regarding the history of alcoholic beverages made headlines in newspapers around the world.   Fancy that.  I know it's not about beer, but at Matt's Beer Den, we support the history of all alcoholic beverages.

Apparently the Areni-1 4952 BCE Oak-Aged Pinot Noir
goes great with tilapia and spinach.

While humanity has been tinkering with the idea of making fermented beverages for millennia, just this month archaeologists have discovered the first organized wine-making production site in the world.  In other worlds, this particular finding - a series of earthen pots and vessels in an Armenian cave complex (Areni-1) - represents the world's oldest winery, dating back to approximately 5000 BCE.  As McGovern himself observed, "the evidence argues convincingly for a wine-making facility," which indicates that the complete domestication of the grape likely occurred many years earlier than previously estimated.  The wine was most likely used in a religious or other ceremonial activity, given the proximity of the wine barrels to gravesites within the cave.    

The rest of the article can be found here:

Eberdingen-Hochdorf's Celtic Stag IPA exhibited
subtle notes of citrus, pine bark, sourdough bread
 and animistic polytheism. 

On a more beer-related topic, archaeologists working in a Celtic site in western Bavaria have recently uncovered evidence of sophisticated malting and brewing activities from around the time of the founding of the Roman Republic, approximately 2500 years ago.  Although the history of beer in general goes back nearly twice as far as that, this is nevertheless an excellent find: archaeological evidence of ancient beer brewing is difficult to come by, so whenever they are found, the academic community becomes slightly giddy.  The malted grain found within these brewing vessels is so well preserved that scientists believe the flavors of the end product could potentially be extrapolated.  As archaeobiologist Peter Stika notes, the ancient brews probably utilized "gruit" - a mixture of local herbs and spices (but not hops) - to give flavor the end product, which was likely "cloudy, contained yeasty sediment and...imbibed at room temperature."  I'm sure Sam Calagione and the rest of the Dogfish Head team are already salivating at the opportunity to recreate this ancient Celtic ale.

Cool, huh?

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