Many describe beer as "the nectar of the gods." In the case of King Midas, evidence found in his tomb indicates he may have shared this sentiment. During an excavation in 1957 by the University of Pennsylvania Museum, compounds were discovered in the tomb of King Midas that resembled what today would be considered a mixture of mead and beer.
Pat McGovern is a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia. He has discovered many ancient beverages. One of the oldest discoveries dates back to 3400 B.C. McGovern issued the challenge to brewers to recreate the beverage after he aided in the discovery of remains of the last feast honoring King Midas. Over twenty-five breweries accepted this challenge. After many submissions, a winner was revealed at a New York tasting.
Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware was one of the participants. He appropriately named his ale Midas Touch. Calagione and his team at Dogfish Head won the challenge. Here is how he and his team accomplished and created a golden winner.
- Honey. Calagione used honey as one ingredient. In the original tomb of King Midas, they discovered beeswax. Since all beeswax cannot be removed from honey, it was a good sign that honey was one of the ingredients of this drink.
- White muscat grapes. Calagione chose this particular varietal for geographical reasons. The white muscat grape traces back to the Middle East. Midas reigned in Pessinus, a region in Asia Minor.
- Barley. Calagione used barley as the base for his Midas Touch. Emmer wheat was a grain commonly used during Midas' reign. Calagione noted that barley was a good alternative for emmer wheat. They share many of the same characteristics.
- Saffron. In order to stay historically accurate with resources available in 8th century B.C., Calagione could not use hops in his ale. Hops were not discovered until 77-79 A.D. The challenge was to add the bitterness that hops provides while being mindful of historical correctness. Though an excellent choice, saffron is one of the most expensive spices known to the world today. And this is one of the most expensive beers Calagione has produced.
- Fermentation. Dogfish Head made only seven kegs of the Midas Touch Handcrafted Ancient Ale. The entire fermentation process took two weeks. Staying true to the original form, the brewers at Dogfish Head infused the formula with Egyptian yeast samples, similar to ones used in ancient Egyptian times. They harvested the yeast in petri dishes and sent their samples to a lab in Belgium.
Midas Touch has a golden-like appearance. They believe the original version enjoyed during the Iron Age was very similar in form. This was an important factor — Dogfish Head wanted to make sure their version closely resembled the original and coveted Egyptian ale.
Midas Touch, which was originally produced in 1991, is still in production. The brewery has won many awards for their royal inspired ale. It contains 9 percent alcohol by volume and is drunk either warm or chilled. For more information on this beer and others produced by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, visit their website at http://www.dogfish.com.