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In 1996 Delwen Samuel of England created what became Tutankhamen Ale, a beer based on analyses of an ancient Egyptian tomb, and in 2000 followed it with Heather Ale, based on druidic digs in Great Britain.Mc Govern's collaboration with Dogfish on Midas Touch garnered so much attention that when he mentioned the Jiahu findings to Calagione, the question was not whether but how soon.Mc Govern proposed an alternative source from among the local flora: the fruit of the Chinese hawthorn, Crataegus pinnatifida.(Archaeobotanists have since found both grape and hawthorn seeds in the dusts of the Jiahu site, adding credence to Mc Govern's idea.)Archaeologists will tell you that what they do is not about the dead but the living—connecting the former world with the current one.Joining him is his boss, Sam Calagione, Dogfish's founder.Down from Philadelphia for the day is Patrick Mc Govern, an archaeological chemist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.Adventures in brewing are not uncommon at Dogfish Head.
Mike Gerhart, a head distiller for Dogfish, has arrived early to stoke the kettles for today's historic brew.They have made ales with beet sugar and raisins, with chicory and St. Their Pangaea ale used ingredients from all seven continents.Five years ago, Calagione and Mc Govern collaborated on Midas Touch, a beverage informed by the 2,700-year-old remains of a funerary feast discovered in central Turkey and believed to have been that of King Mita, the historical figure behind the Midas legend.He ran some of the residue through his spectrometers and chromatographs, which shoot a beam of light at a sample to measure its absorption. When the results were pooled and collated, Mc Govern found matches for rice, beeswax, and a fruit containing tartaric acid.Tartaric acid is easily attributed to grapes, but at the time of Mc Govern's study, the scholarly record showed little use of wild grapes in China.Gerhart settled for a dried, powdered version—50 pounds of it, ordered online from an Asian herb company. The Eurasian species, Vitis vinifera vinifera, probably did not reach the Far East until 2,200 years ago.Forty or 50 grape species still grow wild in China today—17 in Henan Province alone—but acquiring them proved impossible.He chose the pregelatinized rice favored by brewers: precooked to burst its starch cells and less likely to leave a mass of goop in the bottom of the vat.Mc Govern wasn't sure whether the original fruit was a grape or a hawthorn, so he suggested they add a little of both. Hawthorn is the English name for the family of plants of the genus Crataegus, of which there areseveral hundred worldwide.The pottery fragments in Mc Govern's laboratory hail from Jiahu, a Neolithic dig site in the province of Henan in central China, where they were excavated in the 1980s.Little was left after nine millennia but a few salts and organic chemicals. Mc Govern boiled the shards in the solvents methanol and chloroform, then evaporated away the solvents, leaving behind an organic residue.