Yes, this is the same aromatic resin mentioned in the Bible as one of the gifts of the Magi. Myrrh is one of the ingredients (it replaces hops as the primary bittering agent) in Birra Etrusca, the latest in Dogfish Head’s series of Ancient Ales.
Dogfish Head President Sam Calagione, in collaboration with Italian microbrewers Leo DeVencenzo and Teo Musso, says he reconstructed this brew based on a chemical analysis of 2,800-year-old drinking vessels unearthed in Etruscan tombs. The sweet-and-spicy brew also contains hazelnut flower, pomegranates, honey from the United States and Italy and gentian root. With so many ingredients mixing together, it’s hard to pick out individual flavors, but the Dogfish Web site describes the myrrh, sourced from Ethiopia, as “sarsaparilla-like.”
The peripatetic Calagione was in Washington last week for a panel discussion on anti-trust issues in the beer industry and to introduce two new beers at ChurchKey. Handing out Dogfish openers and other swag, Calagione gauged the reaction to L’Interimaire (French for “interim”), a collaboration he hashed out with Megan Parisi, head brewer of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Bluejacket brewery. (That operation won’t open until next spring, so Parisi, in the interim, has been practicing her art at other brewers’ facilities.)
This small-batch, draft-only beer (brewed at the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach) is a saison containing honey (Hawaiian macadamia and Delaware wildflower), sweet herb and Verjus Rouge from the Napa Valley. Verjus Rouge is juice from unripened grapes; it lends a fruity acidity that stops short of being vinegary. At 6 percent alcohol by volume, the beer is quite reasonable by craft-beer standards (the Birra Etrusca measures 8.5 percent) and would make an excellent refresher if global warming gives us a mid-December heat wave.
Meanwhile, Calagione is working on a new entry in his series of musically inspired beers. American Beauty, a strong pale ale crafted from 100 percent American barley and hops, will be Calagione’s homage to the Grateful Dead. He’s asking Deadheads to help in the formulation by suggesting a special added ingredient and submitting a Dead-inspired story that ties in with their suggestion. (“Maybe your dad first laid eyes on your mom sipping a cup of green tea in the parking lot of the legendary Cornell ’77 show?” the Web site provides as an example.)
As of Dec. 12, Calagione said that he had received about 1,000 responses. Unfortunately, about 20 percent of them suggested adding a controlled substance to the beer, he said.
What a long, strange sip it’s been, indeed.
Kitsock’s Beer column appears twice a month in Food.