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.