Turns out, he was producing alcohol in his gut, and getting drunk off it, too
Guys, we've been getting drunk all wrong; turns out, you can brew beer in your own body, which is pretty much like getting alcohol for free.
NPR stumbled across the craziest case of "auto-brewery syndrome" in an issue of the International Journal of Clinical Medicine, where a 61-year-old man complained of getting dizzy and feeling drunk at random times during the day. The man, who has a history of home-brewing, walked into a Texas emergency room with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.37, although he claimed he hadn't had any alcohol that day.
"He would get drunk out of the blue — on a Sunday morning after being at church, or really, just anytime," Barabara Cordell, of Panola College in Carthage, Texas, told NPR. "His wife was so dismayed about it that she even bought a Breathalyzer."
The hospital quarantined the man for 24 hours, feeding him carbohydrate-rich foods and testing his blood for alcohol. His BAC rose 0.12 percent at one point.
Turns out, the man had what they've dubbed "auto-brewery syndrome," where an overabundance of yeast in his gut was brewing up alcohol, processing starch to ferment the sugars into ethanol. And while this might sound awesome, we can imagine getting drunk without being able to control it is probably a huge annoyance. We retract our lede.
A Man Kept Getting Drunk Without Using Alcohol. It Turns Out, His Gut Brews Its Own Booze.
A man with auto-brewery syndrome would become drunk after eating carbs.
For six long years, a man would experience mysterious bouts of drunkenness without ever drinking a drop of alcohol.
Eventually, he was diagnosed with a rare condition that filled his gut with booze.
The 46-year-old man had auto-brewery syndrome (ABS), a condition that causes bacteria in the gut to transform carbohydrates into intoxicating alcohol, according to a report of the man's case, published Aug. 5 in the journal BMJ Open Gastroenterology. The condition flares up when people consume sugary or carb-heavy foods and beverages, and throws them into a drunken haze just as if they'd knocked back too many beers, the man's doctors wrote.
The man was "unable to function, and it was mainly after meals," Dr. Fahad Malik, co-author of the report, told the Today show. The man's symptoms emerged after he received antibiotics in 2011 following a "complicated traumatic thumb injury," the report said. The medication likely disrupted his gut microbiome, or the community of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, living there. "No one believed him" when the man said he didn't drink, Malik said.
The patient experienced a "brain fog," displayed uncharacteristically aggressive behavior and was even arrested for drunk driving. On that occasion, the man's blood alcohol concentration registered at twice the legal limit, but he insisted he hadn't been drinking. The hospital personnel and police didn't buy it, the report noted.
Following his arrest, the man's aunt came across a case report describing a patient in Ohio who was treated for a similar condition. She and the man traveled to the Ohio clinic, where doctors searched the man's poop for boozy microbes. They uncovered strains of Saccharomyces boulardii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, otherwise known as brewer's yeast, in the stool samples. At this point, they suspected the man had auto-brewery syndrome but asked him to chow down on some carbs, to make sure.
Eight hours later, the man's blood-alcohol concentration spiked to more than 0.05% (close to the legal blood alcohol limit for driving), confirming his unusual diagnosis.
Despite receiving anti-fungal treatment and being placed on a no-carb diet, the man still experienced flare-ups. He saw internists, psychiatrists, neurologists and gastroenterologists in attempts to get his spontaneous drunkenness under control. During this time, one extreme episode left the man with a dangerous head injury and a potentially fatal blood alcohol concentration of 0.4%. "Here too, the medical staff refused to believe that he did not drink alcohol despite his persistent denials," the report said.
Then, the man sought help at Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, New York, where doctors placed him on antibiotics and monitored him closely for about two months. The therapy successfully rid the patient's gut of the boozy microbes, though, at one point, the man "ate pizza and drank soda while on this treatment, resulting in a severe [auto-brewery syndrome] relapse," the report said. The patient was then prescribed probiotics to promote the growth of helpful gut bacteria. Slowly, the man was able to incorporate carbs back into his diet.
A year and a half later, the man can enjoy a slice of pizza without fear of intoxication &mdash or potential alcohol-induced liver damage.
1. Beck’s Premier Light
Beck's Premier Light is one of the lowest calorie beers in the market. At only 64 calories, this light lager is perfect for those who are trying to cut calories but still enjoy a beer. So how exactly do beer companies make low-cal beer? The methods vary depending on the preference of the brewer. However, two commonly used methods are using higher fermentation temperatures to help reduce the alcohol content and thus the calories, and adding enzymes to break down unfermented dextrins usually are found in regular beers. CALORIES: 64. ALCOHOL CONTENT: 3.8%.
Beck's Premier Light is one of the lowest calorie beers in the market. At only 64 calories, this light lager is perfect for those who are trying to cut calories but still enjoy a beer. So how exactly do beer companies make low-cal beer? The methods vary depending on the preference of the brewer. However, two commonly used methods are using higher fermentation temperatures to help reduce the alcohol content and thus the calories, and adding enzymes to break down unfermented dextrins usually are found in regular beers. CALORIES: 64. ALCOHOL CONTENT: 3.8%.
Beer in Mesopotamia
Countless Mesopotamian poems, paintings, and myths depict both gods and human beings enjoying beer, which they consumed via a straw to sift out herbs and pieces of bread in the drink.
For example, the famous poem, Hymn to Ninkasi, is both a recipe for beer and a song of praises to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer. This poem was first written down around 1800 BCE.
Turns out, the Mesopotamian beer was thick like modern-day porridge. Historians also believe that Babylonians and Sumerians made their straws for drinking beer.
Smoked turkey and sweet potato fried pie a burger is stacked over a foot tall with three beef patties, mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers, onion rings, bacon, ham, eggs chile-rubbed duck breast.
A triple meat-stacked sandwich with smoked pork belly, bologna and chicken liver pate deep-fried soft-shell crab patty jumbo, spicy, fried chicken wings zing with a Szechuan peppercorn sauce in Seattle.
Fried chicken and pancake tacos are a delicious reinvention of classic chicken and waffles a burger with a house-made chorizo patty smoked pulled pork with a Kansas City-style barbecue rub.
A whole smoked hog is getting the royal treatment with a marinade injection a burger gets topped with smoked pulled pork, bacon, a stout barbecue sauce and beer mustard a whole game hen sitting on a beer can.
Chef Michael Symon sinks his teeth into a burger in Memphis, Tenn. pizza gets a brunch makeover in Atlanta with creamy scrambled eggs and crispy pancetta Thai-style fried chicken Caribbean jerk smoked ribs.
Sweet and savory pork belly sliders with bacon jam and bourbon sauce eggs baked in a tomato and pepper stew make the best shakshuka alligator ribs smothered in honey mustard barbecue sauce.
A triple-layered twist on regional dry-rub ribs a succulent corned beef that's a 30-day labor of love classic mac and cheese gets a boozy boost from a special in-house brew classic favorites like pizza and PB&J into the city's best burgers.
A burger that originated as an off-menu secret and accidentally became the talk of the town a beer hall serves a mammoth, pretzel-breaded, deep-fried pork shank baby back ribs get a spicy, fruity makeover with a homemade guava-habanero glaze.
Juiciest, meatiest, triple-stacked burger with beef, lamb and turkey authentic Mexican lamb barbacoa wrapped in fresh banana leaves one barbecue joint is smoking everything from meatloaf to turkey tacos and even their guacamole.
A burger loaded to the max with beef, ham, bacon and sausage Korean-style smoked pork sandwich with miso-barbecue sauce makes Atlanta the frontier of barbecue fusion a spicy, fried Cornish hen in Houston.
Michael Symon starts in Boston with triple-processed pork belly that's cured, brined and smoked tender braised lamb shoulder amps up a traditional breakfast hash fresh, local cinnamon rolls as buns for an insanely sweet and savory burger.
A whole pig on a super-sized indoor smoke pit slow-smoked rib-eye steak sandwich complete with melted cheddar and caramelized onions double beef patty burger that gets the royal treatment with two bacon grilled cheese sandwiches for buns.
A slammin' sandwich with three different cuts of pork smothered in triple-cheese sauce a flaming hot burger stuffed with spicy jalapeno Jack cheese and covered in Buffalo sauce a brewery's drunken chicken pot pie.
Cheeseburger tacos with a house-made beer cheese sauce and a Jamaican jerk fried fish taco with mango salsa and cilantro sour cream bone-in pork chop smoked lamb sandwich with homemade mint sauce smoked brownies.
Smoking a whole hog and making chorizo from scratch for a saucy barbecue brunch burrito with two different fire-roasted salsas Caribbean roasted pork sandwich the breakfast burger of champions with hash browns, bacon and a fried egg.
A Sloppy Jai with lamb hash and 30 Indian spices towers of Japanese-American fusion with katsu-style deep-fried burger patties pastrami-spiced burnt ends pork belly and spicy, jalapeno-glazed lamb pops fresh out of the smoker.
Michael Symon heads to Asheville, N.C., where he smokes a whole hog in traditional Carolina style for the juiciest pulled pork sandwich beignets stuffed with crawfish, shrimp and andouille sausage burger with Atomic Death sauce and Hell Relish.
Michael Symon gets in touch with his Greek heritage with a classic lamb and feta cheeseburger an Italian-style burger stuffed with smoky mozzarella and prosciutto a rabbit-meat hot dog with chili pepper toppings so spicy there's a release waiver.
Dana loves homebrewing so much that despite being a busy family man and highfalutin technical type that he's a member of two homebrew clubs - The Maltose Falcons (go team me!) and TOaked Homebrewers. He's even the co-webmaster for the Falcons and chief web dude and co-education officer for TOaked. With all that work, you know you need a good quaffable beer to keep going. Here's Dana's spin on a slightly stronger Dark English Mild called "Proper 1420". It was inspired by Ward Walkup's winning mild from the 2016 Doug King Memorial Competition. Oh and just to prove that even for the hard working, the world isn't perfect a report from Dana:
Brew day disaster! Lost about a gallon cause my whirlpool valve was open.
Do you know how hard it is to take a selfie while mashing in by yourself?
For 11 gallons at 1.050 OG (12.3P), 17.2 IBUs, 23.5 SRM, 4.2% ABV, 60 minute boil, 77% efficiency
1.5 lb Simpsons Pale Chocolate
1.25 lb Crystal 50L (British)
Single Infusion - 158F for 60 minutes
3.0 oz East Kent Goldings Pellets 5.0%AA First Wort Hop
1 tablet Whirlfloc, 15 minutes in boil
Ancient Beer Recipes Lead to Modern Health Remedies
While today beer is mostly thought of as a fun and savory drink that makes us social, talkative and happy, it might also be much more than that. It could be a key to unlocking the secrets of ancient medicinal remedies that humans created over millennia to fight diseases that plagued them from the beginning of time.
It's not a moon shot. It's not even that far-fetched. In the days before pills and ointments filled our medicine chests, the sick were treated with brews and herbal cocktails&mdashoften of the alcoholic variety. In fact, before the advent of modern medicine, alcohol was the universal drug, Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology wrote in a 2010 study looking at the anti-cancer potential of fermented beverages.
The core health benefits of alcohol are obvious, he points out: It relieves pain, stops infection and kills bacteria and parasites in contaminated water. It also has nutritional advantages. During fermentation, yeast and bacteria break some of the ingredients into easily digestible nutrients that the body can absorb quickly, says Brian Hayden, an anthropologist at Simon Fraser University in Canada.
But over the years, beer also was used as a medium by which many other medicines were delivered. Cultures all over the world crafted their own versions of beer. Egyptians used barley, Incas brewed a corn beer they called chicha, and Chinese made rice "wine" (which should probably be called "rice beer" because rice is a grain and wine is technically a drink of fermented fruit). As brewers perfected the process, they realized that alcohol had another advantage: It could dissolve many compounds that water couldn't. They began to experiment with potentially beneficial additives in their concoctions, from leaves and roots to berries, nectar, honey and even tree sap and resins.
Ancient texts list plenty of therapeutic cocktails. McGovern wrote that of the thousand prescriptions found in ancient Egyptian medical papyri, a large number included wine and beer "as dispensing agents," with "numerous herbs (bryony, coriander, cumin, mandrake, dill, aloe, wormwood, etc.)" added. Mixed, soaked and steeped in beers and wines, the plants were administered for specific maladies. Traditional Chinese medicine also features an extensive list of medicinal plants delivered via fermented beverages. For example, wormwood and mugwort, plants belonging to the Artemisia genus, were often added to rice brews.
"Whenever we looked in different parts of the world, fermented beverages are the ones used to administer various medicinal agents," McGovern says. In addition to its dissolving properties, alcohol made these mixtures more palatable, just like "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down," says Max Nelson, a professor at the University of Windsor.
In his book The Barbarian's Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe, Nelson discusses several ancient brews found in medical texts. Antyllus, a Greek surgeon who lived in Rome in the second century, wrote about mixing brews with unripe sesame plant fruit or crushed earthworms and palm dates for "good and plentiful breast milk in women." Later, Greek physician Philumenus recommended "beer with crushed garlic as an emetic for poisonous asp bites." Marcellus Empiricus, a Latin medical writer from Gaul, suggested using beer "to soak an herbal suppository to expel intestinal worms," and also noted that beer works well "against coughs when drunk warm with salt." Greek physician and medical writer Aëtius of Amida suggested applying beer with mustard on arrow wounds.
Later on, medieval European medics came up with their own therapeutic libations: Hot ale was recommended for chest pains, "old ale" for lung disease and "new ale" for sleep problems. Welsh ale, mixed with various herbs and other fixings, was advised for several ailments. One recipe suggested rubbing "plain ale" into the scalp to get rid of lice. The Nordic cultures made grog, a complex hybrid beverage in which cereals and other ingredients were brewed together&mdashwheat, rye or barley fermented with cranberries, lingonberries and honey. The concoction was then spiced up with herbs&mdashbog myrtle, yarrow, juniper and birch tree resin&mdashthat likely had medicinal qualities, McGovern says.
Whether any of these things actually worked is still up for debate. Many of history's remedies have been lost due to "cultural collapse and destruction by natural and man-made calamities," says McGovern. But modern research into primordial medical remedies has been incredibly fruitful. For example, Egyptian and Greek texts mention willow tree bark, from which acetylsalicylic&mdashmore commonly known as aspirin&mdashwas eventually derived. Locals of what is now Peru used the bark of some South American trees to treat malarial fever. Later, the bark's medicinal compound was isolated into quinine, which remained a staple for malaria care for over a century.
Similarly, Native Americans steeped Canadian yew needles into a tea used as an arthritis treatment researchers later discovered a compound in the tree's bark that eventually led to the cancer-fighting drug Taxol. In addition, in the past decade several plant-based drugs have been introduced into modern medicine. To name just a few: Capsaicin, from Capsicum annuum (a variety of pepper), is now used as a pain reliever, and galantamine, from Galanthus nivalis (the pretty snowdrop flower that blooms in many spring gardens), is being used to treat Alzheimer's disease.
Of course, not all early pharmaceuticals possessed the curative effects they were believed to have. "Superstitions, misguided religious injunctions, or unfounded psychological notions might creep into a tradition over time," McGovern wrote&mdashsuch as "submerging a rhinoceros horn or bull's penis in a modern Chinese wine to convey its strength or other sympathetic attribute." But there's been enough gold flakes in the stream of historical remedies that McGovern, working with Caryn Lerman, deputy director of the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center, decided to launch a project they dubbed Archeological Oncology: Digging for Drug Discovery. The goal is to investigate whether the remnants of antediluvian leftovers of beer and other bevvies gathered from the clay and metal jars buried in tombs next to kings, pharaohs and emperors possessed any anti-cancerous properties.
As part of that project, McGovern investigated the medicinal properties of drops of liquid found in a bronze Chinese pot from the Shang dynasty, circa 1050 B.C., and a yellowish residue scraped off a clay jar from the tomb of Egyptian king Scorpion I, circa 3150 B.C. After zeroing in on a few promising compounds, cell line researchers tested their anti-cancer efficacy by adding them to various malignant cells in test tubes. The results were encouraging. Several ingredients showed anti-cancerous activity against certain types of lung and colon cancer. For example, isoscopolein (from the sage and thyme added to Egyptian beers) stimulated a protein that protects against DNA mutations and acts as a tumor suppressor. Artemisinin (from wormwood and mugwort in Chinese rice wine) and its synthetic derivative, artesunate, were very promising in inhibiting the growth of lung cancer cells.
Ancient beers may hold keys to promising therapeutics, but modern brews are also filled to the brim with potential. Chemists at the University of Washington, for example, are investigating humulones, which are substances derived from hops, in hopes that they may lead to new meds for treating diabetes and some forms of cancer. Other studies found that in addition to its pharmaceutical promises, beer offers a slew of preventive medicinal benefits. It lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney stones and even improves cognitive performance in the elderly, says Charles Bamforth, a professor of malting and brewing sciences at the University of California, Davis. Beer also contains vitamin B, an antioxidant compound named ferulic acid and a lot of grain-derived fiber, which Bamforth posits in his study may work as a prebiotic&mdasha food source for the beneficial bacterial colonies that live in the human gut.
Some studies suggest that beer may help fend off osteoporosis because it's high in silica, a mineral important for maintaining bone density and promoting connective tissue formation. Naturally present in the grain, silica is released during the brewing process, says Jonathan Powell at MRC Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge, England, and unlike pill supplements it is fully absorbed by the body because of its liquid form. When you look at its overall nutritional value, beer is superior to wine, says Bamforth, who is also quick to dispel the "beer gut" myth. It's not the "empty calories" that give beer drinkers their round bellies but rather their overall lifestyle and the type of food typically served with the ales and stouts&mdashlike burgers, for example. "To pin that blame on beer alone is simply unfair," Bamforth says.
So as you raise your frothy mugs this Oktoberfest, take notice&mdashyour pints will be brimming with minerals, nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and loads of fiber. You just need to consume this healthy fusion in moderation, beer scientists caution. "Drinking beer shouldn't be an end in itself," Bamforth says. "It should be a pleasurable, sensual experience."
The Beer Archaeologist
It’s just after dawn at the Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where the ambition for the morning is to resurrect an Egyptian ale whose recipe dates back thousands of years.
From This Story
Video: Inside Dogfish Head Brewery
A brief history of happy hour: a 19th-century Japanese geisha holds sake. (Keisai Eisen, Victoria and Albert Museum, London / Art Resource, NY) A Dutch tapestry depicts a wine harvest c. A.D. 1500. (Musee National du Moyen Age - Thermes de Cluny, Paris / Réunion de Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY) In a first-century fresco, Romans enjoy libations, presumably wine. (Iberfoto / The Image Works) In ancient Egypt, pyramid workers received a daily ration of beer. (AKG-Images) Ancient cultures used an array of ingredients to make their alcoholic beverages, including emmer wheat, wild yeast, chamomile, thyme and oregano. (Landon Nordeman) Archaeologist Patrick McGovern—better known to his brewery buddies as "Dr. Pat"—scours fragments of old vessels for residues that allow him to reverse-engineer ancient beverages. He discovered the world's oldest-known booze, a Neolithic grog brewed in China some 9,000 years ago. (Landon Nordeman) Sam Calagione, the founder of the Dogfish Head brewpub in Delaware, uses McGovern's recipes to recreate and market beverages once enjoyed by kings and pharaohs. Part alchemist, part brewmaster, Calagione travels the world searching for rare ingredients, such as yeast gathered from an Egyptian date farm. (Landon Nordeman) Vintage science: Bowls recovered from King Midas' 700 B.C. tomb. (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Gordion Archive) The discovery of the King Midas bowls led to the creation of Midas Touch beer. (Landon Nordeman) Vessels like those found near the head of a skeleton buried 9,000 years ago in China inspired Chateau Jiahu. (Juzhong Zhang and Zhiqing Zhang / Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Henan Province, Zhengzhou, China) Chateau Jiahu is a blend of wild grapes, hawthorn, rice and honey. (Landon Nordeman) A King Tut exhibit in New York City was the venue for unveiling Dogfish Head's latest brew, Ta Henket, ancient Egyptian for "bread beer." It was the fifth collaboration between Calagione and McGovern. "He's one of us," Calagione says of the archaeologist. "He's a beer guy." (Landon Nordeman)
But will the za’atar—a potent Middle Eastern spice mixture redolent of oregano—clobber the soft, floral flavor of the chamomile? And what about the dried doum-palm fruit, which has been giving off a worrisome fungusy scent ever since it was dropped in a brandy snifter of hot water and sampled as a tea?
“I want Dr. Pat to try this,” says Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head’s founder, frowning into his glass.
At last, Patrick McGovern, a 66-year-old archaeologist, wanders into the little pub, an oddity among the hip young brewers in their sweat shirts and flannel. Proper to the point of primness, the University of Pennsylvania adjunct professor sports a crisp polo shirt, pressed khakis and well-tended loafers his wire spectacles peek out from a blizzard of white hair and beard. But Calagione, grinning broadly, greets the dignified visitor like a treasured drinking buddy. Which, in a sense, he is.
The truest alcohol enthusiasts will try almost anything to conjure the libations of old. They’ll slaughter goats to fashion fresh wineskins, so the vintage takes on an authentically gamey taste. They’ll brew beer in dung-tempered pottery or boil it by dropping in hot rocks. The Anchor Steam Brewery, in San Francisco, once cribbed ingredients from a 4,000-year-old hymn to Ninkasi, the Sumerian beer goddess.
“Dr. Pat,” as he’s known at Dogfish Head, is the world’s foremost expert on ancient fermented beverages, and he cracks long-forgotten recipes with chemistry, scouring ancient kegs and bottles for residue samples to scrutinize in the lab. He has identified the world’s oldest known barley beer (from Iran’s Zagros Mountains, dating to 3400 B.C.), the oldest grape wine (also from the Zagros, circa 5400 B.C.) and the earliest known booze of any kind, a Neolithic grog from China’s Yellow River Valley brewed some 9,000 years ago.
Widely published in academic journals and books, McGovern’s research has shed light on agriculture, medicine and trade routes during the pre-biblical era. But—and here’s where Calagione’s grin comes in—it’s also inspired a couple of Dogfish Head’s offerings, including Midas Touch, a beer based on decrepit refreshments recovered from King Midas’ 700 B.C. tomb, which has received more medals than any other Dogfish creation.
“It’s called experimental archaeology,” McGovern explains.
To devise this latest Egyptian drink, the archaeologist and the brewer toured acres of spice stalls at the Khan el-Khalili, Cairo’s oldest and largest market, handpicking ingredients amid the squawks of soon-to-be decapitated chickens and under the surveillance of cameras for “Brew Masters,” a Discovery Channel reality show about Calagione’s business.
The ancients were liable to spike their drinks with all sorts of unpredictable stuff—olive oil, bog myrtle, cheese, meadowsweet, mugwort, carrot, not to mention hallucinogens like hemp and poppy. But Calagione and McGovern based their Egyptian selections on the archaeologist’s work with the tomb of the Pharaoh Scorpion I, where a curious combination of savory, thyme and coriander showed up in the residues of libations interred with the monarch in 3150 B.C. (They decided the za’atar spice medley, which frequently includes all those herbs, plus oregano and several others, was a current-day substitute.) Other guidelines came from the even more ancient Wadi Kubbaniya, an 18,000-year-old site in Upper Egypt where starch-dusted stones, probably used for grinding sorghum or bulrush, were found with the remains of doum-palm fruit and chamomile. It’s difficult to confirm, but “it’s very likely they were making beer there,” McGovern says.
The brewers also went so far as to harvest a local yeast, which might be descended from ancient varieties (many commercial beers are made with manufactured cultures). They left sugar-filled petri dishes out overnight at a remote Egyptian date farm, to capture wild airborne yeast cells, then mailed the samples to a Belgian lab, where the organisms were isolated and grown in large quantities.
Back at Dogfish Head, the tea of ingredients now inexplicably smacks of pineapple. McGovern advises the brewers to use less za’atar they comply. The spices are dumped into a stainless steel kettle to stew with barley sugars and hops. McGovern acknowledges that the heat source should technically be wood or dried dung, not gas, but he notes approvingly that the kettle’s base is insulated with bricks, a suitably ancient technique.
As the beer boils during lunch break, McGovern sidles up to the brewery’s well-appointed bar and pours a tall, frosty Midas Touch for himself, spurning the Cokes nursed by the other brewers. He’s fond of citing the role of beer in ancient workplaces. “For the pyramids, each worker got a daily ration of four to five liters,” he says loudly, perhaps for Calagione’s benefit. “It was a source of nutrition, refreshment and reward for all the hard work. It was beer for pay. You would have had a rebellion on your hands if they’d run out. The pyramids might not have been built if there hadn’t been enough beer.”
Soon the little brew room is filled with fragrant roiling steam, with hints of toast and molasses—an aroma that can only be described as intoxicating. The wort, or unfermented beer, emerges a pretty palomino color the brewers add flasks of the yellowish, murky-looking Egyptian yeast and fermentation begins.
They plan on making just seven kegs of the experimental beverage, to be unveiled in New York City two weeks later. The brewers are concerned because the beer will need that much time to age and nobody will be able to taste it in advance.
McGovern, though, is thinking on another time scale entirely. “This probably hasn’t been smelled for 18,000 years,” he sighs, inhaling the delicious air.
The shelves of McGovern’s office in the University of Pennsylvania Museum are packed with sober-sounding volumes—Structural Inorganic Chemistry, Cattle-Keepers of the Eastern Sahara—along with bits of bacchanalia. There are replicas of ancient bronze drinking vessels, stoppered flasks of Chinese rice wine and an old empty Midas Touch bottle with a bit of amber goo in the bottom that might intrigue archaeologists thousands of years hence. There’s also a wreath that his wife, Doris, a retired university administrator, wove from wild Pennsylvania grape vines and the corks of favorite bottles. But while McGovern will occasionally toast a promising excavation with a splash of white wine sipped from a lab beaker, the only suggestion of personal vice is a stack of chocolate Jell-O pudding cups.
The scientific director of the university’s Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health, McGovern had had an eventful fall. Along with touring Egypt with Calagione, he traveled to Austria for a conference on Iranian wine and also to France, where he attended a wine conference in Burgundy, toured a trio of Champagne houses, drank Chablis in Chablis and stopped by a critical excavation near the southern coast.
Yet even strolling the halls with McGovern can be an education. Another professor stops him to discuss, at length, the folly of extracting woolly mammoth fats from permafrost. Then we run into Alexei Vranich, an expert on pre-Columbian Peru, who complains that the last time he drank chicha (a traditional Peruvian beer made with corn that has been chewed and spit out), the accompanying meal of roast guinea pigs was egregiously undercooked. “You want guinea pigs crunchy, like bacon,” Vranich says. He and McGovern talk chicha for a while. “Thank you so much for your research,” Vranich says as he departs. “I keep telling people that beer is more important than armies when it comes to understanding people.”
We are making our way down to the human ecology lab, where McGovern’s technicians are borrowing some equipment. McGovern has innumerable collaborators, partly because his work is so engaging, and partly because he is able to repay kindnesses with bottles of Midas Touch, whose Iron Age-era recipe of muscat grapes, saffron, barley and honey is said to be reminiscent of Sauternes, the glorious French dessert wine.
In the lab, a flask of coffee-colored liquid bubbles on a hot plate. It contains tiny fragments from an ancient Etruscan amphora found at the French dig McGovern had just visited. The ceramic powder, which had been painstakingly extracted from the amphora’s base with a diamond drill, is boiling in a chloroform and methanol solvent meant to pull out ancient organic compounds that might have soaked into the pottery. McGovern is hoping to determine whether the amphora once contained wine, which would point to how the beverage arrived in France in the first place—a rather ticklish topic.
“We think of France as sort of synonymous with wine,” McGovern says. “The French spent so much time developing all these different varietals, and those plants were taken all over the world and became the basis of the Australian industry, the Californian industry and so forth. France is a key to the whole worldwide culture of wine, but how did wine get to France? That’s the question.”
Francophiles might not like the answer. Today wine is so integral to French culture that French archaeologists include the cost of cases in their excavation budgets. McGovern, however, suspects that wine was being produced in Etruria—present-day central Italy—well before the first French vineyards were planted on the Mediterranean coast. Until Etruscan merchants began exporting wine to what is now France around 600 B.C., the Gauls were likely guzzling what their epicurean descendants would consider a barbaric blend of honey or wheat, filtered through reeds or mustaches.
McGovern’s Etruscan amphora was excavated from a house in Lattes, France, which was built around 525 B.C. and destroyed in 475 B.C. If the French were still drinking Etruscan vintages at that point, it would suggest they had not established their own wineries yet. The trick is proving that the amphora contained wine.
McGovern can’t simply look for the presence of alcohol, which survives barely a few months, let alone millennia, before evaporating or turning to vinegar. Instead, he pursues what are known as fingerprint compounds. For instance, traces of beeswax hydrocarbons indicate honeyed drinks calcium oxalate, a bitter, whitish byproduct of brewed barley also known as beer stone, means barley beer.
Tree resin is a strong but not surefire indicator of wine, because vintners of old often added resin as a preservative, lending the beverage a pleasing lemony flavor. (McGovern would like to test the Lattes samples for resin from a cypress-like tree its presence would suggest the Etruscans were in contact with Phoenician colonies in Northern Africa, where that species grows.) The only foolproof way to identify ancient wine from this region is the presence of tartaric acid, a compound in grapes.
Once the boiling brown pottery mixture cooks down to a powder, says Gretchen Hall, a researcher collaborating with McGovern, they’ll run the sample through an infrared spectrometer. That will produce a distinctive visual pattern based on how its multiple chemical constituents absorb and reflect light. They’ll compare the results against the profile for tartaric acid. If there’s a match or a near-match, they may do other preliminary checks, like the Feigl spot test, in which the sample is mixed with sulfuric acid and a phenol derivative: if the resulting compound glows green under ultraviolet light, it most likely contains tartaric acid. So far, the French samples look promising.
McGovern already sent some material to Armen Mirzoian, a scientist at the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, whose primary job is verifying the contents of alcoholic beverages—that, say, the gold flakes in the Italian-made Goldschlager schnapps are really gold. (They are.) His Beltsville, Maryland, lab is crowded with oddities such as a confiscated bottle of a distilled South Asian rice drink full of preserved cobras and vodka packaged in a container that looks like a set of Russian nesting dolls. He treats McGovern’s samples with reverence, handling the dusty box like a prized Bordeaux. “It’s almost eerie,” he whispers, fingering the bagged sherds inside. “Some of these are 5,000, 6,000 years old.”
Months later, McGovern e-mails me with good news: Mirzoian has detected tartaric acid in the Lattes samples from France, making it all but certain they contained imported Etruscan wine. Also, the project’s archaeologists have unearthed a limestone treading vat from 400 B.C.—what would seem to be the earliest French wine press, just about 100 years younger than the Etruscan amphora. Between the two sets of artifacts, McGovern hopes to pinpoint the advent of French wine.
“We still need to know more about the other additives,” he says, “but so far we have excellent evidence.”
McGovern’s Irish ancestors opened the first bar in Mitchell, South Dakota, in the late 1800s. His Norwegian predecessors were teetotalers. McGovern credits his relationship with alcohol to this mixed lineage—his interest is avid, not obsessive. In his student days at Cornell University and elsewhere, when McGovern dabbled in everything from neurochemistry to ancient literature, he knew little about alcohol. It was the late 1960s and early 1970s other mind-altering substances were in vogue the California wine revolution had barely begun and Americans were still knocking back all manner of swill.
One summer, during which McGovern was “partly in grad school,” he says with the vagueness frequently reserved for the s, he and Doris toured the Middle East and Europe, living on a few dollars a day. En route to Jerusalem, they found themselves wandering Germany’s Mosel wine region, asking small-town mayors if local vintners needed seasonal pickers. One winemaker, whose arbors dotted the steep slate slopes above the Moselle River, took them on, letting them board in his house.
The first night there, the man of the house kept returning from his cellar with bottle after bottle, McGovern recalls, “but he wouldn’t ever show us what year it was. Of course, we didn’t know anything about vintage, because we had never really drunk that much wine, and we were from the United States. But he kept bringing up bottle after bottle without telling us, and by the end of the evening, when we were totally drunk—the worst I’ve ever been, my head going around in circles, lying on the bed feeling like I’m in a vortex—I knew that 1969 was terrible, was good, was superb.”
McGovern arose the next morning with a seething hangover and an enduring fascination with wine.
Earning his PhD in Near Eastern archaeology and history from the University of Pennsylvania, he ended up directing a dig in Jordan’s Baq’ah Valley for more than 20 years, and became an expert on Bronze and Iron Age pendants and pottery. (He admits he was once guilty of scrubbing ancient vessels clean of all their gunk.) By the 1980s, he had developed an interest in the study of organic materials—his undergraduate degree was in chemistry—including jars containing royal purple, a once-priceless ancient dye the Phoenicians extracted from sea snail glands. The tools of molecular archaeology were swiftly developing, and a smidgen of sample could yield surprising insights about foods, medicines and even perfumes. Perhaps ancient containers were less important than the residues inside them, McGovern and other scholars began to think.
A chemical study in the late 1970s revealed that a 100 B.C. Roman ship wrecked at sea had likely carried wine, but that was about the extent of ancient beverage science until 1988, when a colleague of McGovern’s who’d been studying Iran’s Godin Tepe site showed him a narrow-necked pottery jar from 3100 B.C. with red stains.
“She thought maybe they were a wine deposit,” McGovern remembers. “We were kind of skeptical about that.” He was even more dubious “that we’d be able to pick up fingerprint compounds that were preserved enough from 5,000 years ago.”
But he figured they should try. He decided tartaric acid was the right marker to look for, “and we started figuring out different tests we could do. Infrared spectrometry. Liquid chromatography. The Feigl spot test. They all showed us that tartaric acid was present,” McGovern says.
He published quietly, in an in-house volume, hardly suspecting that he had discovered a new angle on the ancient world. But the 1990 article came to the attention of Robert Mondavi, the California wine tycoon who had stirred some controversy by promoting wine as part of a healthy lifestyle, calling it “the temperate, civilized, sacred, romantic mealtime beverage recommended in the Bible.” With McGovern’s help, Mondavi organized a lavishly catered academic conference the next year in Napa Valley. Historians, geneticists, linguists, oenologists, archaeologists and viticulture experts from several countries conferred over elaborate dinners, the conversations buoyed by copious drafts of wine. “We were interested in winemaking from all different perspectives,” McGovern says. “We wanted to understand the whole process—to figure out how they domesticated the grape, and where did that happen, how do you tend grapes and the horticulture that goes into it.” A new discipline was born, which scholars jokingly refer to as drinkology, or dipsology, the study of thirst.
Back at Penn, McGovern soon began rifling through the museum’s storage-room catacombs for promising bits of pottery. Forgotten kitchen jars from a Neolithic Iranian village called Hajji Firuz revealed strange yellow stains. McGovern subjected them to his tartaric acid tests they were positive. He’d happened upon the world’s oldest-known grape wine.
Many of McGovern’s most startling finds stem from other archaeologists’ spadework he brings a fresh perspective to forgotten digs, and his “excavations” are sometimes no more taxing than walking up or down a flight of stairs in his own museum to retrieve a sherd or two. Residues extracted from the drinking set of King Midas—who ruled over Phrygia, an ancient district of Turkey—had languished in storage for 40 years before McGovern found them and went to work. The artifacts contained more than four pounds of organic materials, a treasure—to a biomolecular archaeologist—far more precious than the king’s fabled gold. But he’s also adamant about travel and has done research on every continent except Australia (though he has lately been intrigued by Aborigine concoctions) and Antarctica (where there are no sources of fermentable sugar, anyway). McGovern is intrigued by traditional African honey beverages in Ethiopia and Uganda, which might illuminate humanity’s first efforts to imbibe, and Peruvian spirits brewed from such diverse sources as quinoa, peanuts and pepper-tree berries. He has downed drinks of all descriptions, including Chinese baijiu, a distilled alcohol that tastes like bananas (but contains no banana) and is approximately 120 proof, and the freshly masticated Peruvian chicha, which he is too polite to admit he despises. (“It’s better when they flavor it with wild strawberries,” he says firmly.)
Partaking is important, he says, because drinking in modern societies offers insight into dead ones.
“I don’t know if fermented beverages explain everything, but they help explain a lot about how cultures have developed,” he says. “You could say that kind of single-mindedness can lead you to over-interpret, but it also helps you make sense of a universal phenomenon.”
McGovern, in fact, believes that booze helped make us human. Yes, plenty of other creatures get drunk. Bingeing on fermented fruits, inebriated elephants go on trampling sprees and wasted birds plummet from their perches. Unlike distillation, which human beings actually invented (in China, around the first century A.D., McGovern suspects), fermentation is a natural process that occurs serendipitously: yeast cells consume sugar and create alcohol. Ripe figs laced with yeast drop from trees and ferment honey sitting in a tree hollow packs quite a punch if mixed with the right proportion of rainwater and yeast and allowed to stand. Almost certainly, humanity’s first nip was a stumbled-upon, short-lived elixir of this sort, which McGovern likes to call a “Stone Age Beaujolais nouveau.”
But at some point the hunter-gatherers learned to maintain the buzz, a major breakthrough. “By the time we became distinctly human 100,000 years ago, we would have known where there were certain fruits we could collect to make fermented beverages,” McGovern says. “We would have been very deliberate about going at the right time of the year to collect grains, fruits and tubers and making them into beverages at the beginning of the human race.” (Alas, archaeologists are unlikely to find evidence of these preliminary hooches, fermented from things such as figs or baobab fruit, because their creators, in Africa, would have stored them in dried gourds and other containers that did not stand the test of time.)
With a supply of mind-blowing beverages on hand, human civilization was off and running. In what might be called the “beer before bread” hypothesis, the desire for drink may have prompted the domestication of key crops, which led to permanent human settlements. Scientists, for instance, have measured atomic variations within the skeletal remains of New World humans the technique, known as isotope analysis, allows researchers to determine the diets of the long-deceased. When early Americans first tamed maize around 6000 B.C., they were probably drinking the corn in the form of wine rather than eating it, analysis has shown.
Maybe even more important than their impact on early agriculture and settlement patterns, though, is how prehistoric potions “opened our minds to other possibilities” and helped foster new symbolic ways of thinking that helped make humankind unique, McGovern says. “Fermented beverages are at the center of religions all around the world. [Alcohol] makes us who we are in a lot of ways.” He contends that the altered state of mind that comes with intoxication could have helped fuel cave drawings, shamanistic medicine, dance rituals and other advancements.
When McGovern traveled to China and discovered the oldest known alcohol—a heady blend of wild grapes, hawthorn, rice and honey that is now the basis for Dogfish Head’s Chateau Jiahu—he was touched but not entirely surprised to learn of another “first” unearthed at Jiahu, an ancient Yellow River Valley settlement: delicate flutes, made from the bones of the red-crowned crane, that are the world’s earliest-known, still playable musical instruments.
Alcohol may be at the heart of human life, but the bulk of McGovern’s most significant samples come from tombs. Many bygone cultures seem to have viewed death as a last call of sorts, and mourners provisioned the dead with beverages and receptacles—agate drinking horns, straws of lapis lazuli and, in the case of a Celtic woman buried in Burgundy around the sixth century B.C., a 1,200-liter caldron—so they could continue to drink their fill in eternity. King Scorpion I’s tomb was flush with once-full wine jars. Later Egyptians simply diagramed beer recipes on the walls so the pharaoh’s servants in the afterlife could brew more (presumably freeing up existing beverages for the living).
Some of the departed had festive plans for the afterlife. In 1957, when University of Pennsylvania archaeologists first tunneled into the nearly airtight tomb of King Midas, encased in an earthen mound near Ankara, Turkey, they discovered the body of a 60- to 65-year-old man fabulously arrayed on a bed of purple and blue cloth beside the largest cache of Iron Age drinking paraphernalia ever found: bronze buckets, vats and bowls. And as soon as the archaeologists let fresh air into the vault, the tapestries’ vivid colors began fading before their eyes.
Archaeology is, at heart, a destructive science, McGovern recently told an audience at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian: “Every time you excavate, you destroy.”
That may be why he likes dreaming up new beers so much.
Dogfish Head’s Ta Henket (ancient Egyptian for “bread beer”) was unveiled last November in New York, in the midst of a glittering King Tut exhibit at Discovery Times Square. Euphoric (or maybe just tipsy) beer nerds and a few members of the press file into an auditorium adorned with faux obelisks and bistro tables, each with a bowl of nuts in the center. The words dog, fish and head in hieroglyphics are projected on the walls.
Onstage beside McGovern, Calagione, swigging an auburn-colored ale, tells the flushed crowd about how he and the archaeologist joined forces. In 2000, at a Penn Museum dinner hosted by a British beer and whiskey guidebook writer, Michael Jackson, McGovern announced his intention to recreate King Midas’ last libations from the excavated residue that had moldered in museum storage for 40 years. All interested brewers should meet in his lab at 9 the next morning, he said. Even after the night’s revelry, several dozen showed up. Calagione wooed McGovern with a plum-laced medieval braggot (a type of malt and honey mead) that he had been toying with McGovern, already a fan of the brewery’s Shelter Pale Ale, soon paid a visit to the Delaware facility.
When he first met Dr. Pat, Calagione tells the audience, “the first thing I was struck by was, ‘Oh my God, this guy looks nothing like a professor.’” The crowd roars with laughter. McGovern, buttoned into a cardigan sweater, is practically the hieroglyphic for professor. But he won over the brewer when, a few minutes into that first morning meeting, he filled his coffee mug with Chicory Stout. “He’s one of us,” Calagione says. “He’s a beer guy.”
Ta Henket is their fifth collaboration—along with Midas Touch and Chateau Jiahu, they’ve made Theobroma, based on an archaic Honduran chocolate drink, and chicha. (All are commercially available, though only five barrels of the chicha are made per year.) McGovern is paid for his consulting services.
Now the inaugural pitchers of Ta Henket are being poured from kegs at the back of the room. Neither Calagione nor McGovern has yet tasted the stuff. It emerges peach-colored and opaque, the foam as thick as whipped cream.
The brew, which will be available for sale this fall, later receives mixed reviews online. “Think citrus, herbs, bubblegum,” one reviewer writes. “Rosemary? Honey? Sesame? I can’t identify all the spices.”
“Nose is old vegetables and yeast,” says another.
As soon as he has sampled a mouthful, McGovern seizes a pitcher and begins pouring pints for the audience, giving off a shy glow. He enjoys the showmanship. When Midas Touch debuted in 2000, he helped recreate the ruler’s funerary feast in a gallery of the Penn Museum. The main course was a traditional lentil and barbecued lamb stew, followed by fennel tarts in pomegranate jus. Midas’ eternal beverage of choice was served with dessert, in wine glasses that showed off its bewitching color—a warm caramel with glimmers of gold.
In his laboratory, McGovern keeps an envelope containing Neolithic grape seeds, which he wheedled out of a viticulture professor in Georgia (the country, not the state) years ago. The man had six desiccated pips in good condition, ideal for DNA analysis.
“I said, ‘Maybe we could take some of those back and analyze them,’” McGovern recalls. “He said, ‘No, no, they’re too important.’” “This would be for the cause of science,” McGovern persisted.
The Georgian left the room for a moment to agonize, and returned to say that McGovern and science could have two of the ancient seeds. Parting with them, he said, was like “parting with his soul.” The scholars raised a glass of white Muscat Alexandrueli to mark the occasion.
But McGovern has still not tested the seeds, because he’s not yet confident in the available DNA extraction methods. He has just one chance at analysis, and then the 6,000-year-old samples will be reduced to dust.
One day I ask McGovern what sort of libation he’d like in his own tomb. “Chateau Jiahu,” he says, ever the Dogfish Head loyalist. But after a moment he changes his mind. The grapes he and his wife helped pick in the summer of 1971 turned out to yield perhaps the best Mosel Riesling of the last century. “We had bottles of that wine that we let sit in the cellar for a while, and when we opened them up it was like some sort of ambrosia,” he says. “It was an elixir, something out of this world. If you were going to drink something for eternity you might drink that.”
In general, though, the couple enjoys whatever bottles they have on hand. These days McGovern barely bothers with his cellar: “My wife says I tend to age things too long.”
Staff writer Abigail Tucker last wrote about Blackbeard’s treasure. Photographer Landon Nordeman is based in New York.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article mentioned an Egyptian ale recipe that dates back hundreds of centuries. The article now says the recipe dates back thousands of years.
The Barrel Hoop [ edit | edit source ]
The Barrel Hoop mini-game is located at the back of the Abyss Bar.
Players stand behind a barrel which is dispensed from above, and attempt to kick the barrel into a moving hoop that incinerates barrels, beer mugs and dwarves that pass through it. Scores can be reset via the red button to the right of the game. The player will die if they jump into the incinerator hoop, only to respawn in the medbay afterwards. If the player dies while intoxicated, they will receive an achievement.
The Barrel Hoop area from the bottom of the ramp
The Barrel Hoop itself and counter
Scoring and point values [ edit | edit source ]
The game consists of four phases, with the first phase active while no barrels have been passed through the hoop.
Upon entry of a barrel, the game will allocate the appropriate points, and proceed to the next multiplier phase.
All phases above first phase remain active until the hoop 'bounces' back 3 times from the time of a barrel's entry into it.
If another barrel is passed through the hoop within the time limit, the game will progress to the next phase, capping out at Phase 4 where the point values are multiplied by 4.
If a barrel is not passed through the hoop within the time limit, or a shot is missed, the game is returned to phase 1.
|Item||Phase 1 (1x Modifier)||Phase 2 (2x Modifier)||Phase 3 (3x Modifier)||Phase 4 (4x Modifier)|
|Beer Mug||1 Point||2 Points||3 Points||4 Points|
|Normal Barrel||10 Points||20 Points||30 Points||40 Points|
|Green Barrel||10 Points||20 Points||30 Points||40 Points|
|Yellow Barrel||10 Points||20 points||30 Points||40 Points|
|Red Barrel||25 Points||50 Points||75 Points||100 Points|
|Forge Hammer||Hammer Time (No Score)|
|Forge Toolbox||No Score|
|Player||No score (but see Achievements)|
First phase has a 1x point modifier, Second phase 2x, Third phase 3x, and 4th phase 4x. Phases are indicated by the size of the text on the scoreboard located above the moving hoop, although the text size does not increase between phases 3 and 4.
O’so Brewing prepares for new digs at ‘Artists and Fare’
PLOVER, Wis. (WSAW) - The former Shopko site in Plover will soon become a multi-tenant commercial building with enough space for nearly 20 different businesses.
As construction continues inside the former Shopko, businesses like O’so Brewery are preparing to move themselves in, providing much more space for everyone.
It’s been a long year of hard work for construction workers and O’so Brewery’s workers by completely gutting the former retail giant with over 12 hour shifts.
“It’s long days,” O’so Brewing Company President Marc Buttera said. “We’re tired, but it is very exciting, it’s been a team effort.”
Buttera is ready to move his business across the street to the old Shopko site. His business has been in its current location since 2011.
“We’ve been talking about doing this for some time and it’s real, it’s happening and we got two weeks of dedication and hard work ahead of us just to get out of that other building and then that’s a huge milestone,” Buttera said.
The entire Shopko development is called “Artists and Fare,” it will have several other businesses including a coffee shop, fitness center, salon, restaurant and much more.
“It’s just a really cool center for Plover… and we’re really excited about that,” Buttera said.
O’so Brewery’s new space will be 32,000 square feet, which is triple of its current size across the road.
This means more space for events such as weddings, along with more room for social distancing on a regular basis.
Buttera is also excited to brew the beer before your eyes.
“You’re gonna be able to sit down, have some pizza, have a beer and watch us can beer, which is pretty cool,” Buttera said. “People wanna see it behind the scenes, we put it right out in front of ‘em.”
O’so Brewery plans to be out of their current building by April 30 and be ready for business at Artists and Fare by mid-May.