Chateau Jiahu is part of Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales series, in which beer recipes were created based upon the chemical analysis of residue found on pottery and drinking vessels from various archaeological sites. These beers have been produced in collaboration with molecular archaeologist Dr. Pat McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania.
Similar to a beer brewed in China some 9,000 years ago, Chateau Jiahu used a recipe that included rice, honey, Muscat grape and Hawthorn fruits. Special approval had to be obtained from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because Hawthorn fruit is so unusual in foods that it was not on the approved list of ingredients for beverages. The bright red Hawthorn fruits, which resemble small crabapples, are used in many Chinese snacks and medicines. The formula was obtained from archaeologists who derived it from the residues of pottery jars found in the late Stone Age village of Jiahu in northern China. The residues are the earliest direct evidence of brewed beverages in ancient China.
A careful pour leaves behind some chunky sediment in the bottle and results in a lively, two-fingers head which dies down to a wispy layer quickly. The color is a bright golden with a tiny bright white head that leaves some smooth lacing. This is pretty typical for a high ABV ale.
The first thing that hits me is orange blossom honey sweetness with a gentle whiff of alcohol. It also has a fruity nose with notes of berry, citrus and a preponderance of apple which I assume is derived from the Hawthorn fruit. Very pleasant! It almost has a wine quality to it.
The medium sweet front glides into a moderate sweet apple middle with a touch of grape and undertones of effervescence that last throughout. The finish adds a restrained citric orange zest with some grape, plum and melon flavors, almost like a fruit salad, which move into the aftertaste where the zest lingers and then slowly fades. The alcohol is dangerously well hidden.
Feels lively and prickly over the tongue. Has a slight boozy-warming effect. Finishes clean and slightly dry.
OVERALL IMPRESSION (8/10)
To me, Dogfish Head Ancient Ales are hit-and-miss. The extreme experimentation doesn’t always end in a enjoyable experience. However, Chateau Jiahu blew me away! It’s like beer meets mead and the result? An unsceduled afternoon rendezvous with the couch. This baby packs a wallop!
FINAL SCORE (45/50)