Monday, November 3, 2008

Dogfish Head Brewery

One of our favorite breweries is Delaware's Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Sam Calagione and brewmaster Andy Tveekrem craft truly historic beers - that is - along with their standard line of excellent I.P.A., Pale Ales, and Pilsners the winery produces several beers replicated from ancient recipes. This past Saturday, at the Falls Church, Virginia Dogfish Head Alehouse, we listened to rockin' blues from Bad Influence Band and sipped several sifters of their Midas Touch Golden Elixir. The "actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world!" In the 1957 an archaeological expedition uncovered the possible burial chamber of King Midus in central Turkey. Inside the chamber were over 150 drinking vessels that contained chemical residues of barley, grapes, honey and saffron. Using these ingredients as a base, Dogfish Head re-created the ancient recipe blending one of the oldest grape varieties, Muscat, with barley, honey and saffron. The "Phrygian cocktail" is awesome and powerful (9.0% abv), which explains the sifter. It tastes more like a brandy - with the floral aroma and flavors of the Muscat up front.

At the same time that "Phrygian cocktail" was being fermented in the Middle East 9,000 years ago, the early Chinese were fermenting a concoction of rice, honey and fruit. Molecular Archeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania, who analyzed the King Midus drinking vessels, found similar residue in the preserved Chinese pottery jars. He passed this information along to Dogfish Head, resulting in Chateau Jiahu. In trying to remain historically accurate the brewery uses pre-gelatinized rice flakes, Wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flowers. The rice and barley malt are fermented together with the remaining ingredients added to the wort. The result is a refreshing beer - or at least that's what we remember from the Washington D.C. Wine Festival.

Another historic brew is their Theobroma ("Food of the Dods"), based upon residue from pottery fragments found in Honduras. The chemical analysis discovered an alcoholic chocolate drink used over three thousand years ago - probably in special ceremonies. Dogfish Head version contains Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chilies, and annatto - a fragrant tree seed.

Finally we have to note some of our other favorite beers from Dogfish Head - particularly their Raison D'Etre, Palo Santo Marron, and Olde School Barleywine. The Raison D'Etre is brewed with beet sugar, green raisins, and Belgian-style yeast - producing a great slightly sweet malty ale. The Palo Santo Marron is an unfiltered brown ale aged in handmade wooden tanks. The Paraguayan Palo Santo wood add caramel and vanilla flavors to the beer. The Olde School Barleywine is malty and hoppy with an interesting flavor due to fermenting with dates and figs. Another sifter for this beer.

The best place to enjoy these beers are at the brewery itself, either the Rehoboth Beach Brewpub or the Alehouses in Falls Church, Virginia and Gaithersburg, Maryland. Each venue hosts free Saturday night music, with the Rehoboth Beach location landing some national\regional acts and the Alehouses providing a setting for local artists. In November the Rehoboth lineup consists of Nothin But Trouble, Dexter Romweber Duo, Brian McGee and the Hollow Speed,Leaving Texas, Whiskey Rebellion, and Nate Myers & The Aces. At the Alehouses look for Marshall Artz, Evan Bliss & the Welchers, Cletus Kennelly, and One Eyed Pug.

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