Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Poor Man's Touch

Some of you reading this probably know about the beer based off an ancient recipe, Midas Touch by Dogfish Head. For those who don't I'll give a brief overview before jumping into this week's cooking blog.

King Midas' tomb was discovered in what was Phyrgia (now modern Turkey), by a team of archaeologists in 1957. Archaeologists determined that there had been a ceremonial feast performed in the tomb before the exalted King was put to rest. The dirty dishes from this feast were still on site, and samples were scraped from them then shipped off to be stored at the University of Pennsylvania Museum where they would sit for almost 40 years. Using modern scientific methods, a group of scientists were able to derive the ingredients of this ancient banquet, including the "beer". Dogfish Head was contracted to recreate this beer as best they could.

The drink's key ingredients was a strange combination of what one would expect in beer, wine, and mead. It included a malt, honey, grape juice, yeast, and an unknown spice. Dogfish Head chose to use saffron to fit the bill, but I'll be using star anise to save cost (and because it's delicious). Some ingredients were harder to find, but I did my best with what I could find at the local brew store. I also took the liberty of scaling down my recipe to a 1 gallon version that anybody can make in their own kitchen. Serious brewers, do the math.


1/2 LB Light Munich Malt
1 LB Sorghum Extract
1 OZ Saaz Hops
1 Cup Honey
5 Full Pods of Star Anise
2 cups 100% grape juice (white or red, choose your favorite)
1 Balloon

I started out by taking a large stock pot and filling it full of water. Get up to a low boil, then turn the heat off. Add your milled malt to the water and let steep for about 20 minutes. If you forgot to mill your malt at the brew store, feel free to use your mortar and pestle to break the hull of the seeds, just as the ancients would.

Malt Being "Milled"

Next, I turned the heat back on the boiler and kept our brew (again) just below a full boil for another 20 minutes. This part is important if you want to avoid any "off flavors", according to my friend the Brewmaster Dave (hand pictured above).

After the brew has been steeping for the 40 minutes described above, remove your malt from the water. You can use a large steeping bag (available at most brew stores) or if you're like me and don't own such things, you can strain it out using a metal sieve. Good job!

Next, the strained mixture needs to return back to the stove and begin boiling. Stir the mixture (called a wort now) and add the sorghum extract, making sure it dissolves before touching the bottom of the pot. Also feel free to add the honey and about half of your hops. I chose Saaz for their light flavor, hoping not to intrude too much into the dynamic mixture of this beer. Although hops were probably not used by the ancients of Turkey, I added them anyway because they taste good to the modern palate. After all, a bunch of long-dead royals aren't going to be drinking this, we are!

 Sorghum Extract

Allow to boil for about 45 minutes, adding your star anise at whatever point you deem necessary. Make sure to stir the wort occasionally throughout the duration its boiling time. Remember, the longer it boils in the wort and the longer you keep it in, the stronger its taste will be in the beer. Perhaps better to err on the side of caution.

Star Anise

Add the last bit of your hops and allow to boil for another fifteen minutes.  When this is done, let the mixture cool to room temperature, covered. If it's cold out side, put some of the electricity tab on Old Man Winter by setting the wort outside to chill for about an hour. Alternatively, if you want to filter the hops/stray grains from your beer, run the wort through a cheese cloth and return to a boil for an additional ten minutes before cooling.  Once it's cooled, pour the mixture into a sterilized gallon  container through a sterilized funnel and dilute to 3/4ths full.

Remember anything that touches the wort when it's not being boiled needs to be sterile to prevent contamination. Ask the bearded guy at the brew store for more info.

Next, you'll want to add the yeast. Yeast is a living organism and needs to be treated as such. This is why we allowed the yeast to come down to room temperature before adding it. Additionally, this is why we boiled the mixture in the first place: to kill bacteria that may compete with your yeast. Remember, since you're fermenting this mix, it'll probably get copiously foamy at some point. If you don't want your brew closet all full of sticky gunk, give it some breathing room!

The Fermentation Vessel
 (I chose to use an old Carlo Rossi bottle)

Once the yeast is added, put a balloon on the top of your bottle and put it in a dark, dry, lukewarm location. The balloon will begin to swell in about 24 hours, which is the yeast metabolizing sugars into alcohol, producing a biproduct of carbon dioxide.We put the balloon on top of the bottle so it does not burst from the pressure, as it would if we capped it. Nor does it allow unwanted bacteria, molds, or wild yeasts into the bottle, as would happen if we simply left it uncovered.

After about four days, once the most vigorous fermentation is done, add the grape juice, rocking your fermentation vessel lightly. Allow to ferment for about a month, then bottle, let it set for about another week or two, and enjoy. The beer will taste different the longer you let it hang out in the bottle, so maybe try it a little at a time. This blog covers how to make the beer, which I'll be bottling later. I'll throw in an update in a few weeks when that happens.

Happy brewing all,


Sources for further reading:

King Midas' Modern Mourners
Jessica Gorman
Science News , Vol. 158, No. 19 (Nov. 4, 2000), pp. 296-298

1 comment:

  1. Update: The sorghum made this a strange-tasting brew, but not bad. After setting in the bottle for about 2 weeks, it cleared up to a light purple color and the flavor of the anise really came out. As imagined, it turned out to taste like a mixture of beer, wine, and mead with just a hint of licorice. Recommended if you're feeling adventurous.