Brewery recreates 3,500-year-old Scandinavian alcohol
New research has found that ancient Scandinavians drank alcohol made from a combination of barley, honey, cranberries, herbs and grape wine. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery have now recreated the Nordic drink, with the help of archaeologists, and it is now available in liquor stores throughout the United States.
Biological archaeologist Patrick McGovern, from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, managed to piece together the ancient recipe from discoveries of pottery shards buried in tombs alongside warriors and priestesses, which still contained traces of the beverage.
McGovern and his team analysed samples from four sites, two of which were grave sites in Sweden and Denmark. The oldest sample came from a large jar buried with a male warrior in Denmark that dates back to more than 3,500 years ago. The other three came from strainer cups, used to serve wine, found in Denmark and Sweden. One of the strainer cups came from a tomb where four women were buried. One of the women, who died at around age 30, clutched the strainer in her hand.
The results of the analysis showed that the Nordic grog, which pre-dates the Vikings, was a complex mixture of ingredients. Wheat, rye and barley — and, occasionally, imported grape wine from southern Europe — formed a base for the drink. Herbs and spices — such as bog myrtle, yarrow, juniper and birch resin — added flavour and possibly medicinal qualities.
"You'd think, with all these different ingredients, it sort of makes your stomach churn," McGovern said. "But actually, if you put it in the right amounts and balance out the ingredients, it really does taste very good."
With McGovern's help, Dogfish Head recreated the ancient alcoholic drink in October 2013, using wheat, berries, honey and herbs. They named it Kvasir after a wise man who, according to Nordic mythology, was created by gods spitting into a jar. Two dwarfs later murdered Kvasir and mixed his blood with honey, creating a beverage that was said to confer wisdom and poetry onto the drinker.