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The pottery fragments in Mc Govern's laboratory hail from Jiahu, a Neolithic dig site in the province of Henan in central China, where they were excavated in the 1980s.
Little was left after nine millennia but a few salts and organic chemicals. Mc Govern boiled the shards in the solvents methanol and chloroform, then evaporated away the solvents, leaving behind an organic residue.
They have made ales with beet sugar and raisins, with chicory and St. Their Pangaea ale used ingredients from all seven continents.
Five years ago, Calagione and Mc Govern collaborated on Midas Touch, a beverage informed by the 2,700-year-old remains of a funerary feast discovered in central Turkey and believed to have been that of King Mita, the historical figure behind the Midas legend.
Joining him is his boss, Sam Calagione, Dogfish's founder.
Down from Philadelphia for the day is Patrick Mc Govern, an archaeological chemist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.
I could not get my mind around the stretch of human culture it embodied—a time period twice the span from the pyramids of Egypt to the pyramids of Las Vegas; Christianity rising four and a half times.
When I visited Mc Govern's basement laboratory the day before, he handed me a plastic bag containing one of the shards.
Mc Govern has made a name for himself tracking down and studying traces of prehistoric alcohol, the details of which he reveals in a recent book, Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture.
For many years, the analytic machines in Mc Govern's laboratory were too expensive to fit the modest budgets of most archaeology departments.
In 1996 Delwen Samuel of England created what became Tutankhamen Ale, a beer based on analyses of an ancient Egyptian tomb, and in 2000 followed it with Heather Ale, based on druidic digs in Great Britain.
Mc Govern's collaboration with Dogfish on Midas Touch garnered so much attention that when he mentioned the Jiahu findings to Calagione, the question was not whether but how soon.
He ran some of the residue through his spectrometers and chromatographs, which shoot a beam of light at a sample to measure its absorption. When the results were pooled and collated, Mc Govern found matches for rice, beeswax, and a fruit containing tartaric acid.