Penn prof Dr. Pat McGovern does plenty of serious work, but tucked within his official title — Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health — is the hint that his rigorous studies touch on a universally appealing subject. “Fermented beverages”? That would be booze.
Yep, Philadelphia is home to the man known as the “Indiana Jones of Beer.” He’s releasing a new book just in time for Philly Beer Week, and you can win a pair of tickets to chat about it with him over a cold brew on Tuesday.
In anticipation of the June 13 launch of Ancient Brews: Rediscovered and Recreated, McGovern will be hanging at the Free Library’s rooftop beer garden on Tuesday during the annual fundraiser for the Raven Society, the library’s young friends group. The event is even more exciting because joining Dr. Pat (as he’s commonly known) will be none other than Dogfish Head founder and craft beer rock star Sam Calagione, who wrote the book’s forward.
The pair have a long history — and you might have even tasted the fruits of their partnership.
Back in the ‘90s, McGovern pioneered the field of biomolecular archaeology. Again, sounds fancy, but really it means he began analyzing shards of ancient drinking vessels in order to suss out ingredients and recipes used to create the liquid that filled them. Knowing what an antique recipe might have consisted of is all well and good, but even better? Tasting it.
So in 1999, McGovern, an avid beer-drinker himself, reached out to the community of local brewers and challenged them to recreate what he had determined to be the libation buried with King Midas in his famous tomb. Calagione came up with the best result, and the brew — actually a combination of beer, wine and mead — became a hit in its own right. It’s still sold in stores today under the label “Midas Touch.”
It was the start of a beautiful friendship. Over the past decades, Dogfish has translated McGovern’s research into real, drinkable stuff via its Ancient Ales beer series.
Because it includes several of the actual recipes the duo worked out, McGovern’s new book gives homebrewers a chance to try doing that, too, along with a food pairing recipe suggestion for each one.
Ancient Brews isn’t just a cookbook, though. It’s part history lesson (humans discovered alcohol at the dawn of civilization), part philosophical exploration (how much influence did drinking traditions have in the development of various cultures?) and part adventure tale (divining ingredients of a liquid that has long since disappeared takes a lot of effort).
You can hear lots more about the content of the tome when Calagione interviews McGovern on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Parkway Central Library’s auditorium. Like all of the library’s Author Events, the discussion is free to attend, with a chance to buy a signed copy of the book right after.
But if you want to get up close and personal with the two brew luminaries, you’ll want to hit up the Raven Society biergarten, where Dr. Pat and Sam will be chilling both before and after their talk — which will also be livestreamed to the rooftop so you don’t have to interrupt your al fresco drinking to follow along.
Tickets to the event, which runs 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 6, usually run $40 per person. But we’re giving away a pair. To enter to win, tweet @billy_penn with a haiku about what beer means to human civilization. The contest ends at 12 noon on Tuesday. Good luck!