New “ancient ale” from Dogfish Head revives hybrid Scandinavian grog

This is a good example of why Dogfish Head remains such an inspiration to off-beat brewers world-wide:

In ancient Europe, before wine arrived from the Near East, alcoholic beverages were cocktails of sugar-rich ingredients like honey, fruit and grain.

With the help of molecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern and Swedish brewer Lasse Ericsson, Dogfish Head is re-creating another ancient hybrid ale, this time from the Nordic climes of Scandinavia.

“Last year, we brewed an Ancient Ale from southern Europe,” says Dogfish Head Founder and President Sam Calagione, “so it’s been interesting to see the differences driven by the Scandinavian climate and terroir.”

The recipe for Kvasir, which clocks in at 10% ABV, was developed with the help of chemical, botanical and pollen evidence taken from a 3,500-year-old Danish drinking vessel. The vessel, made of birch bark, was found in the tomb of a leather-clad woman who Dr. Pat says was probably an upper-class dancer or artist.

The analysis pointed to the ingredients Dogfish and friends are using in this unique new brew: wheat, lingonberries, cranberries, myrica gale, yarrow, meadow sweet, honey and birch syrup.

The base of Kvasir is a toasty red winter wheat, and the bog-grown berries will deliver a pungent tartness. While a handful of hops will be used, the earthy, bitter counterpunch to the sweet honey and birch syrup will come from the herbs.

Fascinating to see yarrow already in use as a brewing herb 3500 years ago — I use it all the time! Here, it’s in combination with several bog plants: sweet gale (which I’ve also used, but found almost prohibitively bitter), meadowsweet, cranberries and lingonberries. That’s some bog-hopper terroir for sure! I have a Scandinavian folk brew maturing right now (recipe coming soon), but it doesn’t include anything more exotic than yarrow and a ton of juniper (a la Gotlandsdricka). One advantage homebrewers have, though: we don’t have to add hops—a very inauthentic addition here—just to satisfy some silly regulation.

I wonder what they used for fermentation? I’m betting they used a standard, modern strain of brewer’s yeast, but on the other hand it wouldn’t be too hard to use something wilder from one of the Belgian breweries.

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