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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu: A Tuesday Review

Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu
By Doug Dorda

Atop the end-cap I hoisted the peculiarly shaped bottles and thought very little of doing so. However, I found myself stricken by the simple, yet beautiful, artwork that adorns the package for Chateau Jiahu, the ancient ale meant to mimic a beverage of yesteryear as presented by Dogfish Head. I twirled the bottle in my hand and reminded myself that it must have been at least three years since this libation has passed my lips, and I thought that I might play into the archaeological theme of the “beer” by digging into my own past and daring myself to compare a fresh taste with the dusty recollections of days gone by.

For those readers that may find themselves unaware of what Dogfish Head has done with their lineup of Arachaeo ales, a primer on the subject can be found here. As with most fermented beverages that pre-date the practiced use of hops, or may be considered merely a cousin to what we now consider beer, honey and fruit are the prominent source of fermentable sugar in the Chateau, and as such the beer pours a brilliant pale golden color that suggests muscat grapes dangling from sun drenched vines on a summer day. High levels of carbonation offer a large, though fleeting, stark white head that is a fragile though beautiful crown atop the ale. A wave of enchanting melon, honey, and caramel flow from the glass and find the nose well, if not begging to be entirely inundated with the intoxicating aroma.

As the golden glass is tilted toward the mouth there is an immediately recognizable presence of honey that haunts the palate before any liquid has even met the tongue, a sensation that I am sure most who regularly consume honey are all too aware of. The prelude does not disappoint, as barely peppered honey mingles with delicate melon and crisp white grapes on the palate. The sensation is in danger of becoming just too sweet when the highly carbonic ale meets the mid palate and completely cuts what may have otherwise been a cloying aperitif. Indulging in Chateau Jiahu is a bit like biting into a marshmallow speckled fruit salad that has been drizzled with honey while a scant amount of finely ground peppercorn provides a welcome contrast to the richly sweet surroundings.

I, and those who helped me to enjoy the ale, were wholeheartedly pleased to discover that though we had most definitely had the beer before, within its depths we were able to unearth entirely new reasons to fall in love with it all over again. Perhaps there is a beer on a shelf somewhere that you have not coerced into the light of day for quite some time? Should that be the case, I’ll wager that regardless of how you find the beer, you will find yourself entirely intrigued by the assessment of it. Should you choose to try Chateau Jiahu again—or for the first time—it is available on our shelves for $14.39.

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