Beer Review 0098: Dogfish Head Ta Henket

Dogfish Head, located in Milton, Delaware, has a series of beers they term Ancient Ales, of which Ta Henket is the newest member. The Ancient Ales are a group of beers produced by the brewery that are based off of recipes that are thousands of years old — I’ve reviewed a couple of their Ancient Ales here on this website, including Midas Touch (83 points) and most recently, Chateau Jiahu, a 9,000 year old Chinese beer (87 points).

Ta Henket is brewed from hints gleaned from Egyptian hieroglyphics. If you watched the show Brew Masters, which aired on the Discovery Channel in late 2010 and was all about the Dogfish Head brewery, then you saw Ta Henket in all it’s glory. If you didn’t see the show, then you really owe it to yourself to seek it out — it is available on iTunes. The episode in which Ta Henket is created is the fifth episode, and was the last one to air. Although six episodes were made, Discovery canceled the series after only showing five episodes. The channel never confirmed why Brew Masters was canceled, but rumor has it that the big three makers of the fizzy yellow lager threatened to pull advertising dollars if “that show about the craft brewery” kept airing. I cannot confirm or deny that rumor, but it definitely seems plausible.

Ta Henket is made with an ancient form of wheat, and loaves of hearth-baked bread, along with dom-palm fruit, and is flavored with a blend of Middle Eastern herbs called Za’atar, and chamomile.

Most of Dogfish’s beer that comes in the big 750 ml bottles are usually high ABV (alcohol by volume) monsters, but this one rings in at just 4.5%. Apparently a concoction like this would be given to workers constructing the pyramids and was more of a source for nutrition rather than pleasure.

The pour produced an average size head that very quickly diminished into, well… nothing. The beer was straw yellow in color, and was crystal clear with tons of carbonation bubbles streaming to the surface. There was never any lacing to speak of.

The aromas were very much like a fizzy yellow lager, only without any adjuncts like corn or rice. There were notes of grain and biscuit, and definitely a big theme of chamomile. It was musty and earthen, and there were faint hints of the same grape scent found in Midas Touch and Pearl Jam Faithfull Ale.

On the palate, I thought this one was all about the chamomile, with a little grain in between sip and swallow. Honestly, I thought I might have been drinking a Celestial Seasonings tea at first; the beer does finish with an ever so slight note of coffee and more of that chamomile, which gave a twangy, grassy ending.

Alright, so a couple of things here: A beer such as this is hard to rate. On one hand, you have to appreciate the effort Sam and the crew at Dogfish put in to trying things like this. There is no other brewery out there doing the stuff they do — think of another beer maker that might brew a 4.5% ABV beer that is based off a recipe thousands of years old on Monday, and then brew an 18% ABV juggernaut of a stout on Tuesday. You aren’t going to find it.

But then you have to really think about this beer — and despite Ta Henket’s easy drinkability, and the fact that it is refreshing, this beer just isn’t very good. Chamomile in beer?! Really?! And this thing costs $11.99 for one bottle?!

Look, I’m stuck on this one. I don’t know which side of the fence I am on. I feel like I am a little biased when it comes to Dogfish, because I love a lot of what they do, and I especially find solace with their free spirit. But I do think I rate them fairly, and Ta Henket just isn’t a great beer, or a beer that I would return to again at this price point in this size bottle format.

At this point, Dogfish’s greatest challenge might be to make a beer that is exceptionally ordinary…

Dogfish Head Ta Henket, 71 points. Price: $11.99 US for a 750 ml bottle.

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