I had no idea that a curious branch of archaeology is focused on reconstructing the hooch guzzled by the ancients . . . but it seems like a very worthwhile scientific endeavor.
Using high-tech chemical analysis of residues found at ancient archaeological sites — and some scientific guesswork — the researchers have developed the actual recipes that ancient civilization used in their brew. In the town of Jiahu in China at approximately 7000 B.C., for example, the locals quaffed a beer-wine-sake concoction made of grapes, grain, hawthorne fruit, and more. The Norsemen circa 3300, on the other hand, were tipping back a brew made of bog myrtle, honey, lingonberries, and bog cranberries. (Hey, nothing like bog myrtle and bog cranberries to really add that extra kick!)
Of course, alcohol was an essential element in the development of human civilization. Some archaeologists believe that the reason early humans stopped their hunter-gatherer lifestyle and decided to settle down is that they wanted to raise grain crops that they knew could be fermented in all kinds of interesting ways. Studying the development and consumption of alcoholic beverages therefore seems like a good way to learn something meaningful about human civilization.
Interestingly, Dogfish Head Brewery will actually be producing some of these ancient recipes for our modern consumption. That development will allow us to determine for ourselves the most important element of these antique cocktails: how do they really taste? And, upon careful reflection, would the ancients probably have rather cracked open a Budweiser?