4/12/20: Tales from the Cellar #6--Dogfish Head Craft Brewery's Chateau Jiahu (2015)

2:47 PM

Happy Easter! It's a weird one, what with Ohio still being under Stay at Home orders and all. That's okay, though. I hid some candy for Michelle this morning and I've been playing Final Fantasy VII Remake something crazy. Oh, and I'm still doing my Tales from the Cellar series.

Today we're throwing it back to how the series started. Michelle picked this bottle for me. It's a special one (I found it last January for $12!): Dogfish Head's Chateau Jiahu, one of the brewery's ancient ales, and one that hasn't been brewed since 2015.

There's a lot I can say about DFH. The Milton, DE-based brewery was started by Sam Calagione after he got super deep into homebrewing. The craft brewery (yes, they're still craft) has been one of my favorites forever and even though their beer's historically been on the pricier side of the spectrum, it's always been worth the price of admission. Since their founding, the once-little brewery that could has opened an inn and started distilling. Hit up their "Meet Dogfish Head" page for the full story on who they are.

I can't write about DFH here anymore without mentioning the Sam Adams' buyout. Last year, my favorite Milton brewery was acquired by the Boston Beer Company (the linked NPR story says "merger," but it was a full-on buyout). By the time you're reading this, Sam Adams controls DFH. While the only major change to DFH's beer has been a Utopias-Barrel Aged World Wide Stout (Utopias, Boston Beer's $200+ beer, is too excessive for me to even think about),  I'm still waiting to see if my favorite craft beer remains my favorite craft beer.

The good news is that, back in 2015 (when this Chateau Jiahu was bottled), DFH was still controlled by Calagione. It is, like I said, part of DFH's Ancient Ales program. The recipe was inspired by Dr. Patrick McGovern's discovery of ancient alcohol residue on 9,000 year-old pots in the neolithic village of Jiahu, in China's Henan province. The 10% ABV ale's brewed with orange blossom honey, hawthorn fruit, barley malt, and muscat grape juice. It was also fermented on sake yeast. Now, over five years after being bottled, I'm breaking into it.

Bottled on 01/12/15
I get heavy grape juice and honey aromatics on the nose. Sure, there's barley sweetness, too, but it's definitely playing second fiddle. I was expecting some dryness from the sake yeast, but, nope, it's not here. Really, this has a very similar bouquet to Midas Touch (another DFH brew), which is fine because that ale smelled as good as it tasted. Lottie was rearing to take in my bottle's nose and she wasn't disappointed--she gave the beer a whopping thirty-seven whiffs (it's tough to count her whiffs because they're so quick).

That sake dryness I was looking for on the nose is here in the ale's flavor profile. The honey is here, but just barely--it's a hint of it, ghost-like more than actual sweetness. The maltiness is present but that's subdued, too. The grape flavor's more like what you'd find in a dry white wine than grape juice at a methodist communion. I've never had hawthorn fruit so I can't comment very well on how that applies here. One thing's for certain, though: This isn't a super boozy brew. At 10% ABV, I thought the alcohol flavor would be prominent, but I'm happy that's not the case.

So, my bottle's a slow gusher which made me think this would be a bubbly brew. Again, I'm surprised. It's not; there's a subtle, bitey carbonation that compliments the ale's dryness well, but that's it. No root beer bubbliness, no champagne bright sturdiness. Just solid mellowness.

As I sit on my porch drinking this ale, I find myself thinking about our first Cincinnati apartment. It was at the end of a dead-end street. It was on the second floor of a two-story building and had a sunroom.

I never used that sunroom as much I as I thought I would, nor did I use it as much as I wished I had. See, we moved in during September. I wanted to sit out there and read. In fact, I did once or twice. But it was too damn hot. Then, as soon as October hit, it was too damn cold to use it. I regret that. But I don't regret breaking into this bottle and enjoying it today.

Dogfish Head's Chateau Jiahu is drinking beautifully these days. Calagione knew what he was about. I'm giving my bottle a 9.0/10. Drink 'em if you got 'em!

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