In the annals of archaeology, a handful of names and discoveries loom largest: Heinrich Schliemann and Troy, Hiram Bingham and Machu Picchu, Howard Carter and the tomb of King Tut. When they were done digging, artifacts from each of their excavations went on display in museums around the world, attracting millions of curious visitors. More recently, an interdisciplinary field called biomolecular archaeology has emerged, which complicates the possibility of creating exhibits for the public. Fortunately for Patrick McGovern, his work fits nicely in a glass. Since 1999, McGovern, the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, has worked closely with Sam Calagione and the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery to re-create six different “ancient ales.”
Their collaboration began with Midas Touch, a recipe based on the chemical analysis of drinking vessels found in a 2,700-year-old burial mound in central Turkey and has also included beer/wine/mead hybrids designed around evidence collected at archaeological sites in China, Honduras, Egypt, Italy and Denmark. In the process, McGovern has helped advance our understanding of the tastes and traditions of our ancestors, furthering our knowledge of the relationship between alcohol and society. His extensive research has produced numerous academic articles and two popular books, Ancient Wine and Uncorking the Past, the latter of which argues that to a significant degree, civilization and intoxication went hand in hand. Look for the next entry in Dogfish Head’s ancient ale series to appear later this year or early next.
This profile appears in the November 2014 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here for a free trial of our next issue.