Classical Beer Review: Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch

Ever since becoming involved in this blog, I’ve been meaning to review this beer: Midas Touch by Dogfish Head Brewing is the first beer in their Ancient Ales series, in which the brewery collaborates with dr. Pat McGovern to brew beers inspired by ancient recipes. 

Midas Touch is described as ‘somewhere between beer, wine, and mead.’ Upon drinking, a bubblegum herbiness initially comes through – which reminded me of a beer brewed with bog myrtle I tried at Borefts in 2016. The concoction is definitely more beer than anything else, a bit like a Belgian strong ale. I definitely got the mead-like qualities with notes of honey, the grapes for the wine come through somewhat less. This beer is also reported to contain saffron as a bittering agent, but my inexperience with saffron meant I could not pick up on its presence during my tasting.

Background
The recipe on which Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch is based was reconstructed by dr. Pat McGovern, based on residue analysis conducted on vessels discovered in a royal tomb dating to ca. 740 BC at the site of Gordion in central Turkey. The tomb is thought to have belonged to the legendary King Midas or his father, King Gordius. According to Greek mythology, King Midas had the ability to turn everything he touched into gold. From this, we get the phrase ‘Midas touch’ and hence, the brew’s name.

Dr. McGovern’s analyses showed that the vessels found in the tomb contained chemical compounds for tartaric acid, indicating the presence of grapes, bees’ wax, a proxy for the presence of honey, and calcium oxalate or beerstone, evidence for the presence of barley beer. Consequently, dr. McGovern reconstructs the ancient alcoholic beverage that these vessels once contained as a mix of beer, wine, and mead.

Dr. McGovern recently published a book with recipes for homebrewers that would like to have a go at recreating ancient brews at home. While Merryn Dineley has rightly pointed out that some of his recipes use modern ingredients and are thus not entirely faithful to ancient brewing techniques, we cannot wait to try some of the recipes ourselves! When we do, we will be sure to report back here on Brewing Classical Styles.

Please visit Dr. McGovern’s site for more information about Midas Touch: https://www.penn.museum/sites/biomoleculararchaeology/?page_id=143

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Just for the record, I do not claim to be a modern “homebrewer,” although I have learned a great deal at the sides of Sam Calagione at Dogfish and many other craft brewers here and abroad when we have “re-created” ancient brews based on the available archaeological, chemical, botanical, and other evidence. I am currently working on a project with Martin Zarnkow, and have read widely in the modern beer literature. Still, my expertise lies primarily in the scientific evidence for ancient fermented beverages around the world. You can’t do everything!

    My book on Ancient Brews does not pretend to provide “fully” authentic recipes, since there is much we don’t know. The “interpretations” there for the homebrewer, which Doug Griffith of Xtreme Brewing (and others) developed, are meant to play with the possibilities and stimulate more experimentation. If you read the book carefully, the argumentation for “authenticity” is laid out.

    If you are familiar with the ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Celtic evidence, a case can be made for toasting malts in antiquity, e.g., see the article on Hochdorf beer by Hans-Peter Stika referred to in the bibliography and on pp. 151-52 in Ancient Brews. Of course, intensely fired dark malts came much later with the Industrial Revolution.

    Hope that helps to explain how a passing comment on Beersmith should be understood (I have made beer “from the grain,” a strange expression), and not deter the interested homebrewer from trying some of the interpretations of Ancient Ales in the book. By the way, I have tried the overnight cold mashing of barley, and it does produce about a 2-3% ABV and tastes reasonably good. I’m not so sure about that beverage having been made by ancient Mesopotamians, because the evidence is limited–perhaps, only at Tell Bazi.
    Dr. Pat

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kimberley says:

      Dear Dr. Pat,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to our post! We completely understand that the recipes in the book cannot be 100% authentic, but we wanted to add Merryn’s note as a point of clarification. Your comments certainly help to provide additional information and context, and, as we wrote before, we cannot wait to read and try some recipes out from the book!

      Kind regards,
      BCS

      Like

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