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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Getting Drunk Like the Ancients Did

Read the whole thing at Popular Mechanics:

Many beer enthusiasts and homebrewers know about the Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law of 1516. Brewmasters certainly know it: Originally restricting the allowable ingredients in beer to water, barley, and hops, the law guided the next 500 years of brewing history away from experimentation by telling everyone what was—and wasn't—a real beer.

But don't try telling that to the ancients. Thousands of years before Germany laid down its beer law, humans in every great civilization were experimenting with booze and letting their inebriated imaginations soar. These long-forgotten brewmasters were the original artisanal microbrewers, combining whatever ingredients they found around them into concoctions that don't easily fit into today's classifications for potent potables.

"There wasn't beer, there wasn't wine, there wasn't mead. Every beverage was a hybrid," says Sam Calagione, founder of the Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware.

For the last dozen-plus years, Calagione and biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum have been using chemical and plant residues found in ancient archaeological sites to rediscover the recipes of ancient booze.

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