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Brewery Recreates Booze Found in a 2500-Year-Old Grave

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After uncovering a cauldron containing 14 liters of alcohol from an Iron Age tomb, it’s normal to have some questions. One of the thoughts pestering University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee archaeologist Bettina Arnold was, "I wonder what this tasted like?" With some help from a Milwaukee brewery, she now has the answer. As NPR reports, Arnold collaborated with the Lakefront Brewery to recreate the 2500-year-old brew from scratch.

Fourteen liters of the ancient beverage were discovered in a bronze cauldron during Arnold's excavation of a burial plot in Germany, and date to between 400 and 450 BCE. As is often the case today, ancient cadavers weren’t always sent to their graves alone. They were sometimes buried with objects from life—like a supply of booze. "It’s a BYOB afterlife, you know?" Arnold told NPR. "You have to be able to sort of throw a party when you get there."

A paleobotanist analyzed the contents of the liquid concoction and made an educated guess as to the original recipe. The drink was likely braggot: an alcoholic beverage made from barley and honey. The tests also indicated the presence of mint and meadowsweet.

From there, cellarmaster Chad Sheridan and the rest of the team at Lakefront Brewery took over the project. After brewing for seven hours and fermenting for two weeks, the libation brought back from the dead was finally ready to be tasted.

According to NPR’s Bonnie North, the flavor was reminiscent of a "dry port, but with a minty, herbal tinge to it." Unfortunately, the product won’t be getting a commercial launch—mainly because the brewery isn’t convinced there would be much interest in it—but Arnold hopes it’ll lead to similar projects in future. She plans to develop a course at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where students can whip up ancient brews based on archaeological finds. One team in Israel has demonstrated how this concept can be taken even further: Earlier this year, the Herzl Beer brewery made a batch of beer from a 2000-year-old wheat strain.

[h/t NPR]
 
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History
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
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It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.


A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
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Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.


Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.


New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.


American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
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With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.


Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
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A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.


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Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

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Courtesy New District
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Food
Say ‘Cheers’ to the Holidays With This 24-Bottle Wine Advent Calendar
Courtesy New District
Courtesy New District

This year, eschew your one-tiny-chocolate-a-day Advent calendar and count down to Christmas the boozy way. An article on the Georgia Straight tipped us off to New District’s annual wine Advent calendars, featuring 24 full-size bottles.

Each bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine is hand-picked by the company’s wine director, with selections from nine different countries. Should you be super picky, you can even order yourself a custom calendar, though that will likely add to the already-high price point. The basic 24-bottle order costs $999 (in Canadian dollars), and if you want to upgrade from cardboard boxes to pine, that will run you $100 more.

If you can’t quite handle 24 bottles (or $999), the company is introducing a 12-bottle version this year, too. For $500, you get 12 reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines from various unnamed “elite wine regions.”

With both products, each bottle is numbered, so you know exactly what you should be drinking every day if you really want to be a stickler for the Advent schedule. Whether you opt for 12 or 24 bottles, the price works out to about $42 per bottle, which is somewhere in between the “I buy all my wines based on what’s on sale at Trader Joe’s” level and “I am a master sommelier” status.

If you want to drink yourself through the holiday season, act now. To make sure you receive your shipment before December 1, you’ll need to order by November 20. Get it here.

[h/t the Georgia Straight]

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