When you think of old-school beer, tankards of ye olde tavern ale might come to mind. But Dogfish Head, a brewery in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, wants you to go back further. Much further.
Chateau Jiahu is based on a 9,000-year-old brew from China’s Henan province. According to preserved jars discovered by archaeologists at Jiahu, a Neolithic settlement near the Yellow River, the original libation was a fermented beverage of rice, honey, grapes, and hawthorn berries. Dogfish Head’s founder, Sam Calagione, describes the ancient mixture as a combination of beer, wine, and mead. It was likely shared during burial and religious ceremonies.
Using the artifacts as their guide, brewers teamed up with a specialist in fermentation history to create a modern-day version of the brew. The result is Chateau Jiahu, a blend of orange blossom honey, muscat grape juice, barley malt, and hawthorn fruit, which ferments for a month with sake yeast. Like its inspiration, the final sour-sweet brew offers elements of beer, wine, and mead: light saison-like spice, fruity white-wine aromas and flavors, and a lingering sweetness from the honey.