Ancient Italians Were Beer Aficionados

You guys all know I’m a big fan of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware, right? Well, they really outdid themselves with their most recent Ancient Ales beer. Dogfish’s Sam Calagione recruited biomolecular archeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern to take a pilgrimage to Tuscany and the 8th century B.C. Etruscan tombs. With the help of Birreria Brother Brewers Leo DeVencenzo of Birra del Borgo and Teo Musso of Baladin, a chemical and botanical analysis was done on ancient drinking vessels and their contents. What happened next was pretty cool.

Apparently, before wine arrived in what is now Italy, the Etruscans liked to get their beer on, if you know what I mean. The ingredients used, for the 2,800 year old beer and the one Dogfish just shipped to Florida, include honey, hazelnut flour, heirloom wheat, myrrh, gentian root, raisins, and pomegranates. Good luck to me identifying half of those. But I am a scientist too. Remember that!

Finally, to add one last touch, each of the three breweries used (or will use) a different material that was common in that ancient period. Dogfish actually added bronze to their tanks while aging the beer. Baladin will use wood, and Birra del Borgo will use terra cotta when they make their versions. I asked the brewery about that part and was told by Dogfish’s Mariah Calagione on Twitter, “It definitely changes the taste. All three are very different… Kinda cool!”

Bottle presentation as usual is great. My wine-sized bottle has a label that simply has the beer name on a background covered with birds. The whole label is created and colored to resemble the walls and symbols that decorate the Etruscan tombs. There is a story on the side, but I’ve pretty much told you that story here already.

I usually post my beer reviews on If you have never visited, what are you waiting for? You can even have new content delivered to your inbox to go with your morning coffee if you wish. It’s that easy. This beer, however, seemed to match up so perfectly with UnderTheTuscanGun, I decided to do my first unique beer review here!

Faint berry, light nuts and something sweet in the aroma. Hazelnuts and tangy pomegranate flavors come out front and center at the start. There are LOTS of other interesting flavors, too. I’m sure the many specialty ingredients are being tasted right now. Rich fruit but crisp and light in the mouth. Good carbonation, effervescent to some extent.

There is a complex herbal and spicy character that carries throughout. The tartness from the pomegranates is also pervasive, but that is balanced by a nice sweetness. Very interesting, good flavors, a lot going on. By the finish, you will feel a building hazelnut and dominating pomegranate combination starting to take over. Oh, and the 8.5% alcohol really helps both of those pop.

Good beer and worth a try. If it was good enough for Ancient Italians, it’s good enough for you guys to check it out!