Science! Recreating Ancient Brews

Beer science!

Ever wonder what our ancient forebears were drinking and what it tasted like? No? Too bad, because you’re gonna find out anyway. By analyzing gunk found in pottery, dedicated scienticians are working with joints like Dogfish Head and Great Lakes Brewing to resurrect ancient brews. From The Columbia Chronicle:

Patrick McGovern, scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, is currently using beer residue extracted from ancient pottery to determine centuries-old beer recipes—in the name of science, of course.

To determine what makes up ancient ales, McGovern runs samples through an infrared spectrometer, which passes light through the residue sample and produces a chromatogram, or visible record, detailing where the chemical absorptions occur, giving clues as to what compounds are then present. According to McGovern, a sample’s compounds are separated and fed into a mass-spectrometer, which can determine the compounds’ weights. The information from the infrared spectrometer and gas or liquid chromatography-mass spectrometer allows him to identify the residue’s compounds and recreate the beers, McGovern said.

I don’t really understand any of that, as I was an art student. (Totally paid for itself! Told ya, ma!) But it’s not just about the chance to taste Sumerian ale. By learning about booze brewed in the far-flung past, we can better understand how alcohol connected different regions and cultures together via trade. That’s right, booze is the foundation of our very civilization. You know it’s true. Read the whole thing here.