Ancient Brews

Rediscovered and Re-created

Patrick E. McGovern (Author)

With a Foreword by Sam Calagione


Patrick E. McGovern—part modern scientist, part Indiana Jones—uncovers and re-creates the oldest alcoholic beverages ever found.

In Ancient Brews, Patrick E. McGovern takes us on a fascinating journey through time, back to the beginning when our ancestors were likely already experimenting with high-sugar fruits, honey, roots and cereals, herbs and tree resins to concoct the perfect drink.

Early beverage-makers must have marveled at the magical process of fermentation. Their amazement would have grown as they drank the mind-altering liquids, which were to become the medicines, religious symbols, and social lubricants of later cultures.

Interweaving archaeology and science, McGovern leads us on his adventures to China, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Scandinavia, Honduras, Peru, and Mexico. We share in his laboratory discoveries, including an early Neolithic “cocktail” from China made of wild grapes, hawthorn fruit, rice, and honey; an elite New World cacao beverage that gods and kings delighted in; and the Midas Touch of central Turkey. These liquid time capsules defied modern conventions by mixing wines, beers, meads, and botanicals together into heady, delicious extreme beverages.

For the intrepid reader, homebrew interpretations of each ancient beverage and culturally appropriate matching meal recipes are provided, transporting our senses and imaginations “back to the future.”

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • June 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-393-25380-1
  • 6.5 × 9.6 in / 336 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“Good and fun. . . . Ancient Brews is an excellent example of science outreach.” — Martin C. Doppelt, Science

“In his compulsively readable new book, Patrick McGovern takes us on a rollicking journey to discover how our ancient ancestors around the world made their ‘extreme’ beers and other fermented beverages—and how he and his gifted associates are re-creating them today. A must-read not only for brewers, but for anyone who loves to drink these emblems of civilization.” — Ian Tattersall, author of A Natural History of Wine

“Imagine: an archaeologist travels the world, testing the residue on pottery shards to unlock ancient recipes for beer and wine. And then—it gets better—he re-creates those recipes so that you, too, can raise a glass of King Midas’s brew. Ancient Brews is an extraordinary, globe-trotting journey through the remarkable history of our ancient connection with alcohol. Patrick McGovern is both a brilliant scientist and a gifted storyteller. This astonishing book belongs on the shelf of every wine and beer aficionado. The historical and scientific perspective is sure to astonish and delight, and the recipes will lead to some lively experimentation among homebrewers.” — Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist

“A lively travelogue through time and space! Dr. McGovern, our amiable guide, brings us on board with the promise of good beer and well-prepared food, both of which he offers in abundance. But he also takes us much farther afield to discover ourselves and our ancestors in the near and far corners of the world.” — Roger Barth, author of The Chemistry of Beer: The Science in the Suds

“One might assume not much Venn exists between diagrams of beer and archeology. One would be wrong. Learning what we drank and why makes for a superb adventure. Dr. Pat—America’s foremost barstool archaeologist—is back from the trenches to entertain, educate, and quench your thirst. Pull up a barstool!” — Wayne Curtis, author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in 10 Cocktails

“McGovern’s joyful treasure hunt through time is pint after pint of proof that the best beers have the best stories, and are best enjoyed with all the trappings of a feast. Alcohol, McGovern shows, is fundamental, setting the heavens in motion, stirring the souls of birds and bees alike. What sets us apart isn’t that we drink, but how—and that’s where this book shines. Because the beers themselves—and there are plenty of them—are only the beginnings of delicious tales of swashbuckling scientists, gods and pharaohs, warriors and kings, and, oh yes, the best roasted goose I’ve ever had.” — William Bostwick, author of The Brewer’s Tale

Ancient Brews is an engaging journey through the history of humankind’s relationship with fermented beverages. Sprinkled with anecdotes from the field, the lab, and the brew house, Dr. Pat tells the story of investigating these primeval draughts and bringing them back to life. Whether armchair adventurer, curious homebrewer, or culinary historian, Ancient Brews will allow the reader to truly appreciate and understand these historic libations.” — Mike Smith, brewer and coauthor of The Comic Book Story of Beer

“Dr. Pat McGovern is Sherlock Holmes with a time machine: employing the most modern laboratory tools, he travels into the distant past to unlock the recipes of botanical brews of the ancient world. Ancient Brews is a feast for the mind, the heart, the soul, and (above all) for those with a thirst!” — Mark Plotkin, Ph.D.

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