Ancient Beers Return
           
This month column was written by Bob's friend

                                 
         Karl Mendal

Like scientists set on reviving extinct species, todays craft brewers are
possessed by a certain madness. They are re-creating steinbiers
scalded with hot stones and ancient Scottish ales brewed with herbs.
They are making modern interpretations of George Washington and
Benjamin Franklins personal recipes. Researchers have even analyzed a
19th-century beer from a Baltic Sea shipwreck so that it, too, may be
brewed once again.

Then there are what might be the best-known historic beers: the
widely available Ancient Ales from the US Dogfish Head Craft Brewery,
including the Midas Touch, based on ingredients found in the
2,700-year-old tomb believed to have belonged to King Midas; and
Theobroma, inspired by chemical analysis of a Central American
fermented chocolate drink from 1200 B.C. Dogfish Head has just
released its next installment, the ancient-Egyptian-style Ta Henket.

Of course, re-creations of historic beers are as old as the craft beer
movement itself. Many of Americas best-loved styles, such as saisons,
hefeweizens and imperial stouts, were once on the brink of
disappearing, and many were saved by breweries that championed
them. During the 1970s and 80s, for example, San Franciscos Anchor
Brewing revived interest in not only California steam beers but also
chocolate- and coffee-flavored porters, which brewers had largely cast
aside.

Nowadays, ever-more-obscure styles are reappearing with increasing
frequency, from Polish smoked-wheat beers to the English strong ales
known as Burtons. Among the more prominent examples: the ancient
Scottish beers resurrected by the Scotland-based Williams Brothers
Brewing; the Ales of the Revolution series from Philadelphia's Yards
Brewing, including Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale and Poor Richards
Tavern Spruce Ale.

The obscurity of the beers hasn't dulled the drama of the
phenomenon. Brewers now probe history books for beers in need of
rescuing and crisscross the globe to research forgotten recipes. That
might sound like overstatement, if not for one key detail: Beer
re-creations have proved to be great fodder for reality TV.

Dogfish Heads quest to make Ta Henket, for example, was portrayed
last December in an episode of the Discovery Channel show Brew
Masters. Also on Discovery Channel, the special How Beer Saved the
World depicted the replication by Atlanta's SweetWater Brewing of an
ancient Nubian brewing technique. History Channel countered with its
own History on Tap, in which home-brewers were given the task of
re-creating beers in the style of those brewed by colonial Americas
Pilgrims.

The story is critical because its what differentiates a beer from any
other beer.  Just because you hear of some creepy group of
Norwegians that 300 years ago put the blood of virgins into beer
doesn't mean you should replicate it. You have to have a story, but
can you have a story and also make a world-class beer?

The answer appears to be yes.  Two great examples are De Molens
SSS triple stout, a re-creation of a version of the extinct style brewed
in London on July 8, 1914 (tastes like thick coffee with notes of
caramel and whiskey) and Norwegian Wood, from Norway's
HaandBryggeriet with an understated smokiness and hints of spice
meant to recall the country's wood-smoke-scented farmhouse ales,
which died out in the 1800s.

In a way that other drinks often don't, these types of beers explicitly
convey the distinctive tastes of distinctive pasts. It's a living history
lesson that beats any textbook.

I'd like to thank Bob for allowing me to write this month's column and
also for inspiring me to learn about beer.  It's become a great hobby
filled with passion and fun.
BeerNexus proudly presents

Bob Montemurro
"the ombudsman of beer"

Bob and Friends Speak of Beer......
Cheers!
My thanks to Karl for this month's column.
See you next time to
"speak about beer".
Bob Montemurro
Read more by
Bob and Friends
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