Rough Draught: 9,000-year-old beer to toast the immortality of Western Civilization

Christopher Bedford | Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation

If there’s one solid piece of evidence that man-made global warming is a crock, it’s this: It’s mid-June, and we don’t want to kill ourselves yet. Also, our homeboy posted some Facebook pictures of wild hail storms in Texas, and we haven’t seen a polar teddy drowning, like, ever. So to commemorate the immortality of Western Civilization, as well as this mild spring, The Daily Caller broke out an ancient beer. Also, a Mexican-looking beer. And guess what — they both have fruit in them. Maybe the end of days is upon us after all.

Seriously. One of these bad boys is like 9,000 years old. From China before it was Red China. Don’t get us wrong — China pretty much sucks for everything except for hooking up spices and buying our opium, but that’s still old, and we respect that.

So without further ado, the crew at TheDC presents Dogfish Head Brewery’s Chateau Jiahu and Breckenridge Brewery’s Agave Wheat.

Dogfish Head Brewery’s Chateau Jiahu

The folks from Delaware have a pretty solid plan. They partnered Dr. Patrick McGovern, the director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, to recreate ancient beers.

Huh? Yes.

Basically, folks dig up old urns and pots and vessels that used to hold beer, the good doctor and his buddies break it down, and the fine people of Dogfish Head remake the brews. It’s like that documentary “Jurassic Park,” if it had turned out to actually be a fun theme park instead of a terrifying death trap.

Now this particular ale is especially awesome, because it is the oldest known beer recipe being brewed today. Its residue was found in clay jars in northern China, in the Neolithic village of Jiahu in Henan province.

Calling its beer “the most ancient, chemically-attested alcoholic beverage in the world,” Dogfish describes their creation as a “recreation based on painstaking excavation by Chinese archaeologists of Jiahu in the Yellow River Basin, state-of-the-art micro analysis of pottery residues by American laboratories, and the inspired ‘Neolithic’ brewing of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.”

Now, from “Mulan” to the Olympics, from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” to Tienanmen Square, actual China generates a mix of displeasure, annoyance and displeased, annoyed awe. We know they try to pass it off as majestic and stuff, but there’s just something about gulags and communism that doesn’t have the desired effect on people they can’t force to like them with tanks. Still, we were willing to give this bottle a try. And we can say without hesitation, right now, this one thing: When combined with American laboratories and brewers, Chinese clay pot residue is the best thing to come out of China since this keyboard, because this beer is truly awesome.

With a thin, light head and a quick fade, this beer does not blow you away right away. The carbonation is light, and the body has a slightly cloudy, dull golden color. But lean in for the nose: We picked up on wild grape and blackberry, with a slightly bitter hint.

On the palate, the Chateau Jiahu wows. It is fruity but not overwhelming, with tastes of melon and white grape. Now, keep in mind that we don’t love fruity beers. But this hits the spot. Lightly fizzing like a nice Champagne, Dogfish delivers a grape and blackberry aftertaste that fades slowly and leaves us in a good place.

You really cannot taste the alcohol on this, and guesses ranged from “low-level” to “sneak attack.” Well, sneak attack won, as it usually does, and Chateau Juahu weighs in at 10 percent ABV. But hell, in the Neolithic Age folks were tougher. And at $13,99 for a wine-sized bottle, it isn’t a casual undertaking anyways. That’s why we recommend it for a special night on the porch or an evening on the town, paired with sliced pears or some good sushi.*

*That’s Chinese sushi. Japanese, specifically.

Breckenridge Brewery’s Agave Wheat

Apart from mountains, Colorado is pretty well removed from ancient China. And we’ll take a gander and assume the good people of the Centennial State are, generally speaking, alright with that. But one more thing links these two lands together, and that’s good beer.

Known as a microbrewery hub, Coloradan brewers are always hard at work, and in the Rockies, even fun business is serious business. So in that spirit, the ski bums who brought us  Breckenridge Brewery’s Agave Wheat are in good company.

When we saw this beer’s label, which stands out with a bright red Day of the Dead-type skull, we kind of expected a gimmick: Something a little too insistent, really. TheDC, however, was happily surprised.

The body on the Agave Wheat is seriously hazy, with a wheat-colored dark, dull gold color and a quickly evaporating head.

With a subtle and semi-sweet nose, the real pleasure in this beer is the taste: Light, with that peculiar, honey-sweet flavor we’ve come to find in well-made agave nectar cocktails. Breckenridge’s creation comes across as a solid wheat beer, accentuated by the delicate touch of that lovely tequila-producing plant.

Honestly, we knew what we wanted after, and with, a glass of this good fellow — fish tacos.

No, not nasty fast food garbage. Fresh white fish, shrimp and scallops on a soft shell with lime, cilantro and a good, spicy hot sauce.

At $10.99 a six-pack and 4.2 percent ABV, the only thing stopping us from drinking 20 of these is the money to afford all that fish and beer. But if we were standing in your Bruno Magli’s, we’d make it rain agave-flavored beer and fish tacos.

Delicious beer news from TheDC

We’ve been reading beer news all week, and the only thing we care about is this: National Premium just relaunched, filling shelves all over Maryland. If you aren’t familiar with this beer, that’s fine. Check it out here. Love it (good guys) or hate it (other guys) if you will, but the point is clear: Whether a beer they stopped making 9,000 years ago in China, or one they stopped making a few decades ago in Baltimore, beer society, in the words of Russel Kirk, “is a community of souls, joining the dead, the living, and those yet unborn.”

So drink up and enjoy.

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