Craft beer, an ever dynamic industry, demands inovation to drive sales, unlike the Big Beer industry that relies on clever marketing.  The utilization of technology, never hurts.  Dogfish Head’s Chateau Jiahu is one of those risky beers that not only exemplifies insane innovation, but cutting edge scientific savy.  Dogfish Head collaborated with molecular archeologist, Dr. Patrick Mcgovern, to analyze alcoholic residue found on a 9000 year old pottery shard found in the Neololithic Chinese village of Jiahu.  The recipe called for rice, Chrysanthenum flowers, honey, grape extract, hawthorn fruit, the innovation of barley (to be considered beer!), a gutsy brewer and an adventurous consumer.

From the Wuxia Society website, we get some insight on the complexity of this brew:

Mike Gerhart, distillery manager at Dogfish Head’s brewery in Milton, Delaware, led the Chateau Jiahu project. “It was one of the more creative and exciting projects I’ve ever worked on,” he said.

McGovern, the archeochemist, knew the ingredients of the ancient drink from Jiahu, “but he wasn’t sure how to use them or how they would go into action,” Gerhart said.

The trick for Gerhart was to mimic the brewing process used in China 9,000 years ago.

To get the fermentation started, McGovern imported a mold cake—traditionally used in making Chinese rice wines—from a colleague in Beijing. Gerhart mashed the cake into the rice. Once that became “funky and began to grow,” he added other ingredients, including water, honey, grapes, hawthorn fruit, and chrysanthemum flowers.

“We also turned up the brew kettle much higher than we ever would today—we know back then they would have had some type of earthen pot with a fire burning directly below it—to replicate those flavors we know formed, somewhat burnt and caramelized,” he said.

To comply with U.S. federal brewing regulations, Gerhart had to add barley malt, though he said he mashed and fermented out most of the barley flavor.

Defying Description

Given the requisite addition of barley malt to Chateau Jiahu, Dogfish Head’s concoction is classified as a beer, Calagione said. However, McGovern said the beverage made in China 9,000 years ago defies description.

“We called it a mixed beverage, because we’re not sure where it fits in,” he said.

After months of passing this, I crumbled to the allure of the bottle and the story.

The Pour:

Pours a hazy thin bright yellow.  Not what I was expecting!  It almost looks like a thin belgian witbier.  I let my bottle sit for a week before drinking, as there is a good deal of sediment.  A few particles made their way into my glass.  A thin bubbly two finger head wastes no time in slinking into the body of the beer.

The Smell:

Very up front floral aroma.  Past the flowery notes the honey aroma is very apparent, as well as a white grape/white wine aroma.  In fact, it reminded me a bit of a pinot grigio.  A thin bready aroma pushes past as you swirl the glass.

The Taste:

If you are bored with your beer life, pick up a bottle of this tonight.  From the description, one does not expect it to resemble beer.  But it does.  The malt body is much clearer in the taste than in the smell, but is not the prominent flavor.  In fact, the honey is a bit in your face.  The floral notes fantastically balance out the sweet honey blast.  White grapes, a mild cider flavor, acidic citrus, and a saki-esque (saki yeast was used) rice flavor hides beneath the surface.  A wild sour note sticks to the tongue.


A satisfying drink, this thin beer goes down quickly and smoothly.  In fact, the beer actually quenches ones thirst.  I would definitely buy this beer again, as the off the wall flavor is slightly addicting.  I suggest introducing this brew to the beloved wine-snob in your life who considers you a barbarian for prizing malts over grapes.   You may have a young covnert on your hands afterwards.

Nate’s Rating:

Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★☆ 

Among other Ancient Chinese Brews: ★★★★★