All About Beer Magazine - Volume 35, Issue 2
April 9, 2014 By
Sam Calagione and Patrick McGovern
Sam Calagione and Patrick McGovern

Leave it to the style-defying, boundary-pushing Dogfish Head Craft Brewery to find inspiration for a new hybrid beer in an ancient Scandinavian tomb. According to new research, ancient Scandinavians as far back as 1500 B.C. supped a “Nordic grog,” a beer-wine-mead hybrid beverage made from a mixture of fermented honey, local fruit like bog cranberry or lingonberry, wheat, rye and/or barley, and sometimes grape wine imported from Greece and Rome. Herbs and spices—like bog myrtle, yarrow and juniper, and birch tree resin—were added for flavor and possibly medicinal purposes.

The research, published online in December in the Danish Journal of Archaeology, analyzed archaeochemical evidence of pottery and bronze drinking vessels and strainer cups found in four sites in Denmark and Sweden, dating from around 1500 B.C. to the first century A.D. And now, modern drinkers can get a taste of the ancient grog—to bring a version of the complex brew back to life, the paper’s lead author Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, collaborated with Delaware’s Dogfish Head on a new Ancient Ale.

The recipe for Dogfish Head’s Nordic grog hybrid, called Kvasir, was developed with chemical, botanical and pollen evidence from a 3,500-year-old Danish drinking vessel found in the tomb of a woman who was likely an upper-class dancer or priestess, according to McGovern and the Dogfish Head blog. Kvasir is a 10% red winter wheat brewed with bog-grown berries, sweet honey and birch syrup, as well as a “handful of hops.” It was released in 750-mL bottles in October.

Dogfish Head has partnered with McGovern since 1999 and the creation of the first beer in the brewery’s Ancient Ale series, Midas Touch, which is a mead-beer hybrid brewed with ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas.