Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Old Brews

Serendipitously, I ran across this article from Scientific American today, after blogging about Patrick McGovern's book on the prehistory of alcoholic beverages just a few days ago.

The article discusses three beverages that are about to hit the market. The first is called Chateau Jiahu, which is a reconstruction of a Neolithic brew from approximately 9,000 years ago. McGovern discusses it in some detail in Uncorking the Past, because it is based upon his group's archaeological discoveries in China. It's a cross between a wine and a beer. A number of the early beers incorporated fruit in order to make certain that the brew would have a high enough sugar content to guarantee fermentation. The resulting beverage tends to have attributes of both a beer and a wine (McGovern refers to Chateau Jiahu as a "beer-wine" in the book).

The second beverage is called Sah’tea, and it is described in the Scientific American article as "a modern update on a ninth-century Finnish beverage", which makes me very curious indeed--and I don't drink alcohol. The article goes on to describe the brewing process for this gem a bit more closely:
In short, brewmasters carmelize wort on white hot river rocks, ferment it with German Weizen yeast, then toss on Finnish berries and a blend of spices to jazz up this rye-based beverage. Reviewers at the BeerAdvocate universally praised Sah'tea, comparing it to a fruity hefeweizen.
Finally, the third beverage is a cocoa-based brew from South America called Theobroma. This formula was deduced from residues found on 3,200 year-old pottery shards from the Ulua Valley in Honduras, a site described in the article as "the Cradle of Chocolate." Apparently the Ulua Valley find is rewriting the history of chocolate somewhat, pushing back the earliest date for evidence of human use of cacao by about 600 years. I don't think I'd enjoy this one, though; it's described as both excessively sweet and gooey.

If any of my readers have adventurous palates and decide to try any of these beverages for themselves, please, comment about them here! I'm tempted by the first two of them, even though I am a teetotaler for health, not moral reasons, and it would be unfortunate if I tasted any of these items and found them extremely appealing.

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