Beer Review 0056: Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu

Chateau Jiahu is part of Dogfish Head’s ancient ale series, which also includes Midas Touch, a beer I’ve reviewed on this website before, Theobroma, and Sah’tea. The recipes for these ancient ale beers are literally thousands of years old, and are faithfully reproduced by Dogfish Head in Milton, Delaware.

The recipe for Chateau Jiahu is 9,000 years old, dating back to the village of Jiahu, located in Henan Province, China. Pottery jars dating that far back revealed they once contained a fermented beverage consisting of rice, honey, and fruit, right about the same time barley beer and wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East.

The result of that fermentation has been recreated by Dogfish, with the help of molecular archeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern. Dogfish uses brown rice syrup, Orange Blossom honey, Muscat grape, barley malt, and hawthorn berry to make this brew. It’s fermented for one month with Sake yeast until being ready for packaging.

You might be asking yourself (because I certainly was), what exactly is a hawthorn berry? According to Wikipedia, a hawthorn or thornapple is a fruit that resembles “stones” of plums and peaches and grow on shrubs that are in the rose family. They are native to northern regions of Asia, like the village of Jiahu.

Chateau Jiahu is presented in a 750 ml bottle, and comes in at 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 10 IBUs (International Bittering Units).

Yes, my normal picture of just a bottle and one glass has been replaced by two glasses. Hey, this is a 10% ABV beer — and it’s 750 ml worth. You have to split this one with a friend, don’t bogart it! The pour produces an average sized head that quickly disappears about as fast as you pour. What did form was extremely fizzy. The beer itself is a hazy orange color, with heavy particles and sediment floating about in bright yellow chunks. It’s a cool looking beer, a faded burnt orange colliding with sunspots of sediment. There is no lacing to account for, as is standard with most of these Dogfish ancient ales.

The aromatics were more like a nice wine than a beer — right up front were the grapes, a very sweet grape, mixed with a bubble gum aroma. It’s not quite grape Bubble Yum, but it did put me in the mindset of my favorite childhood tooth rottener, which isn’t a bad thing… but it’s very similar to Midas Touch, frighteningly so. All classic beer aromas are absent here; there does seem to be a minute bit of caramel malt, but other than that, it’s mainly sweet and grape-y.

This transitions to the palate almost word for word, but with a complex finish. First, there’s a grape explosion — ripe, sweet, and chewy. Then the finish starts with hints of honey, followed by an orange rind flavor that warms with some spiciness and a bit of the high alcohol. Despite being overly sweet, it’s never cloying and is an outstanding drink.

Chateau Jiahu is another in a long line of winners for Dogfish Head. This is a brewery that is just the bomb. If you haven’t tried any of their beers, you need to remedy that situation right now; yes, get off your ass and go pick up something by them. They’re doing things all the other breweries wish they could do.

This is yet another Dogfish beer that you could bring to any gathering in the place of wine, and you’d hear nothing but gushing things about it.

Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu, 87 points. Price: $12.99 for one 750 ml bottle.

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