I think beer and the brewing process itself can transcend time and place, connecting us to long lost cultures. This is why I’ve always enjoyed Dogfish Head Craft Brewery‘s commitment to reviving ancient brewing techniques and beer styles in its Ancient Ales series. Its latest (and 10th in the series) is a modern take on an ancient Celtic gruit-style beer, a fermented beverage the ancient Celts crafted in southwest Germany as early as the 6th millennium B.C.
Clocking in at 6.5% ABV, Tree Thieves is brewed in collaboration with Dr. Pat McGovern, the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archeology Project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, and the Technical University of Munich Research Center Weihenstephan for Brewing and Food Quality. In addition to Sam Calagione and Dr. Pat, brewing scientists Dr. Martin Zarnkow and Dr. Mathias Hutzler from the Technical University of Munich RCW offered historical insight and helped source the beer’s yeasts.
“Our ancient Celtic brew represents the apotheosis of our Ancient Ales program, the first of its kind, that Sam and I began over 20 years ago,” said Dr. Pat McGovern. “Tree Thieves, the tenth in the series, has similar origins to our first and most awarded brew, Midas Touch. Both are extreme fermented beverages — combining barley, wheat, honey and native herbs — that ultimately derive from Indo-European cultures of the Neolithic period, some 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. Although Gordion in central Turkey, home to Midas Touch, is separated by over 1,500 miles from Hochdorf in southwest Germany that provided the main inspiration for Tree Thieves, the archeological and other scientific evidence for the re-creations of both brews came from huge burial mounds (so-called tumuli) for the rulers, who were ushered into the afterlife with funerary feasts highlighted by serving very similar mixed beverages in magnificent metal vessels.”
McGovern, who has traveled the world collecting samples from inside well-excavated and well-dated ancient vessels used for making, storing, transporting, serving and drinking ancient beverages. Applying the latest chemical and other scientific techniques, he and his colleagues analyzed the contents of those vessels with a goal to determine the beverages’ original ingredients and recipes, and then retro-engineer facsimiles as close to the original drinks as possible. The resulting “liquid time capsules” are meant to transport the drinker “Back to the Future.”
The technique: Tree Thieves was brewed using superheated rocks, flavored with botanicals and honey, and fermented using yeasts “thieved” from the sacred trees of the early denizens of southern German (formerly Celtic) forest regions.
The history: Archeological, archaeobotanical and other scientific investigations show original Celtic gruit-style beers likely contained honey and malts kilned over wood fires. Instead of hops, botanicals like carrot seed and mugwort were used to bitter the beer. To facilitate mashing and boiling, two integral steps in the beer brewing process, early beverage makers used rocks made hot over a fire. The wort was then transferred into wooden and/or metal vessels for fermentation. If wooden vessels were used, then natural yeasts and bacteria associated with the wood caused spontaneous fermentation, which – in this case – presumably resulted in a somewhat dark and smokey beer with notes of honey and herbs, alongside a slight sourness.
The ingredients: A medley of German malts, honey from beehives in southern Germany’s Alpine Forest region and three locally harvested German yeast strains from flora held sacred by the Celts, oak trees, ash trees and mistletoe. A nod to the way the beer’s yeasts were harvested, the name Tree Thieves not only references the beer’s yeasts being “stolen” from trees, but it is a loving gesture to the scientific name for mistletoe, Phoradendron, meaning “thief of trees.”
The result: A dark, copper-brown beer with aromas of dark fruit, sage, chamomile, smoke and honey. The beer’s aromas are complemented by lightly smoky and slightly tart flavors of toffee, dark caramel, herbs, bread crust, stewed fruit and sweet honey.
“It was great fun to work with Dr. Pat to resurrect yet another Ancient Ale together, and to have such an experienced and diverse group of experts involved with this historically significant collaboration made it extra poignant,” said Dogfish Head Founder & Brewer, Sam Calagione. “It’s fair to say we are now collectively as thick as thieves.”
The beer was released on Friday, Dec. 16 and is available for $15 per 500ml bottle (only 600 available) exclusively at Dogfish Head’s coastal Delaware locations.
Lakewood Brewing finishes 10th year with slew of seasonal releases
To close out its 10th year in business, Lakewood Brewing released an insane lineup of fall and winter beers ranging from seasonal favorite Punkel to its Salted Caramel Temptress, a twist on the family-owned brewery’s classic top-selling Temptress milk stout.
“We just marked ten years of making seriously fun beer and our first decade deserves a big beer line-up to close the year,” said Wim Bens, Founder and President of Lakewood. “We explored some past recipes and brought back updated fan favorites while also launching new varieties. This year marks a milestone for our little brewery that we won’t soon forget.”
The standout here is the Bourbon Barrel Temptress X (BBT X), the tenth iteration of Lakewood’s annual barreling project, which was released at a special VIP event earlier this month. The 2-year blend consists of a variety of bourbon barrels from across the “Bourbon Belt.” Each year’s release has subtle differences that highlight the multi-faceted nature of Temptress, which helps make BBT X sought-after barrel-aged masterpiece.
Roadhouse Brewing ready to get funky
In response to the beckoning winter weather and holiday party decrees for specialty, warmth-invoking beer, Jackson Hole’s Roadhouse Brewing Co. debuts a new batch of its beloved, barrel-aged Funk House series. The fourth installment of the vintage-collectible foeder-aged beers will be available across Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana for a limited time.
All Funk House series beers have been foeder aged for 20 months and finished in a single oak cask for an additional seven months, either with or without fresh fruit. This season’s collection includes:
- Vixen (5.5% ABV) Oud Bruin. Tart with a touch of vanilla and caramel
- Vixen Mistress (5.5% ABV) Oud Bruin with Blackberries. Ripe notes reminiscent of pie
- Vixen Goddess (5.5% ABV): Oud Bruin with Plums. Think tangy, notes of poached plums
BrewLab customizes three beers for Uptown Hospitality Group
“We really wanted the beers to mirror the character of each of our concepts,” says Keith Benjamin, Uptown Hospitality Group Co-Founder and Director of Operations. “As a local brewery offering high-quality beers, Brewlab was a natural partner to help bring the beers to life with their distinct flavor profiles and delicious taste.”
- House Party ($10/can) – Inspired by Share House’s easy-going atmosphere, the 5.1% Mexican Lager is a crisp, light bodied Mexican-style lager
- Great in Bread ($10/can) – A tribute to Bodega’s classic carb-filled menu, the 5.3% Hefeweizen offers a classic German wheat beer, straw in color and noticeable banana and clove esters from the Bavarian yeast
- Social Butterfly ($10/can) – A nod to Uptown Social’s famous rooftop mural and status as a leading King Street bar, enjoy this 7.5% Hazy IPA with tropical fruit centric hop aroma and flavor. Less bitter and fuller body than a traditional IPA
Living the Dream teams with nearby ROCKER Spirits
Living The Dream Brewing has been experimenting with barrel projects for years now, and the brewing team is especially excited to work with fellow Littleton, Colo., company ROCKER Spirits, for an imperial stout aged in ROCKER Spirits Whiskey barrels and finished in Port wine barrels.
ROCKER has been crafting whiskey, rum, and vodka since 2016. Their whiskey boasts sweet cereal aromas and notes of caramel, butterscotch, and honey, with a light citrus and moderate oak finish. This corn and wheat-based whiskey ages for a minimum of 3 years in 53-gallon virgin American oak barrels before finishing in Port wine barrels.
Enter Living The Dream Imperial Stout. This beer is brewed with a Root Shoot Genie Pale base with layered specialty malts to create its dark color and roasty complexity. Living The Dream’s brewing team filled freshly emptied ROCKER Spirits whiskey barrels with this full-bodied Stout, which took quickly to the oak, vanilla, and bourbon, and dark red fruit flavors of the original spirit.
The final product is a big-bodied 10% ABV Imperial Stout with aromas of caramel, toasted almonds and hints of red fruit. Its big chocolate and roasted flavors are complemented by red cherry, blackberry, and oak overtones.
“It’s always great to collaborate locally and help support the other small producers here in Colorado,” says Living The Dream Founder Jason Bell. “This is our first venture with a distillery, and ROCKER has really shown to make some fantastic spirits. We couldn’t be more excited to work with them on this project.”
Sycamore Brewing brings back Sticky Crystals for limited time
Sycamore Brewing, the Charlotte-based craft brewery announced the return of Sticky Crystals (7.04% ABV) for a limited time only. The flavor-packed IPA loaded with all-new Sabro hops and New Zealand varietals is now available for purchase at select stores in eight states including North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia and Kentucky.
“For this beer, we use different cellaring and dry hopping techniques that result in bigger, bolder and punchier hop flavors,” says Sycamore Brewing Co-Owner, Sarah Taylor Brigham. “The extra love given pays off with the enticing flavors and aroma that result.”
A hazy IPA by design, Sticky Crystals boasts lower bitterness, a rounder mouthfeel and fruit-forward tasting notes for an overall “juicy” vibe. Potent mango and tangerine flavors are most apparent up-front, followed by punchy grapefruit and passion fruit and finished with supporting notes of pineapple and a touch of spearmint.
Neshaminy Creek releases Marley from his chains
Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co. ) is celebrating the holiday season with a beer release that’s as festive as fruitcake in a glass. Marley’s Chains was originally brewed as a German-style Weizenbock with a touch of zesty and pleasantly sweet orange blossom honey. It then took a long winter’s nap for 18 months in Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey barrels before brewers added a generous helping of pomegranate puree.
The final product is layered and complex with dessert-like notes of fig, plum, banana bread and spicy clove with just a hint of tartness from the fresh pomegranate.
“Marley was dead, to begin with, but this beer is alive with the holiday spirit!” says Neshaminy Creek Head Brewer, Jason Ranck. “When we first set out to make a themed beer for the winter season, we knew we wanted to harness great old-school fruit flavors with rich maltiness and spicy finishes, and once we tasted the delicious barrel-aged beer we knew we created something reminiscent of a classic Dickensian Christmas. Bring some to your holiday party, and you’re sure to be the Founder of the Feast!”