Archaeologists Have Recreated Beer From the 1800s and it Tastes Minty

By Irene Plagianos on August 26, 2014 7:04am 

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 Brew up some minty, 1800s beer from unearthed 'California Pop' recipe.
19th-Century Mint-Infused Beer Recipe
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EAST VILLAGE — Archaeologists who recently recreated a recipe for centuries-old beer have brewed up a limited 5-gallon supply — which they're offering on an upcoming historic pub crawl.

The team at Chrysalis Archaeology discovered a glass bottle embossed with the label "California Pop Beer" dating back to the 1800s during an excavation beneath a hotel site at 50 Bowery earlier this year. They then researched the recipe for the drink and brewed up a limited-edition supply, which they're going to share during their tour through the East Village Sept. 6.

“It’s actually pretty refreshing,” said Alyssa Loorya, president of Chrysalis. “You add some wintergreen, spruce oil, ginger root and sassafras to brew with hops, and even though it sounds really weird, it tastes rather good.”

The archaeologists' dig also unearthed hundreds of liquor and “medicinal" bottles, including ones labeled the “Elixir of Long Life." Loorya and her team first recreated the Elixir of Long Life recipe, and then they decided to continue their "experimental archaeology" by making the beer as well.

“The elixir was so bitter, [but the beer] sounded like it might actually taste OK, so we figured, let’s try it out,” Loorya said. “It took a couple of weeks to brew, but it turned out pretty well.”

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California Pop Beer was originally made more than 150 years ago in a brewery in Newark, New Jersey, according to the archaeologists. They believe it was served in the Atlantic Tavern, a German beer hall that opened at 50 Bowery around 1860. The venue was a fashionable spot to eat German food, listen to music and drink beer, Loorya said.

Loorya's team will offer sips of California Pop Beer to attendees of next month's pub crawl, which they will host in conjunction with the Historic Districts Council.

The walking and drinking tour will stop at some of the city's oldest bars, including McSorley’s and Pete’s Tavern, Loorya said.

Tickets for the 2 1/2-hour tour are $10 and include the historic beer, but not other drinks purchased at the bars. The crawl will end at the Old Town Bar, with snacks and conversation with Loorya and the historians. The tour will likely be capped at 20 people. You can reserve a spot on the Historic Districts Council's website.

If you'd like to try your hand at brewing the beer yourself, here's the recipe:

California Pop Beer Recipe

Makes about 5 gallons of beer

For the yeast:

3 1/2 teaspoons of wheat flour

4 1/2 ounces of cold water

1/4 teaspoon of hops

2 teaspoons of ground malt

1/2 teaspoon of grain alcohol

For the “essence”:

1 1/2 teaspoons of grain alcohol

1/4 teaspoon of wintergreen oil

1/8 teaspoon of sassafras oil

1/8 teaspoon of spruce oil

Additional ingredients for final step:

2 1/2 ounces of hops

4 teaspoons of cream of tartar

2 1/2 teaspoons of ginger

1/2 gallon of water

3 1/2 pounds of sugar

To make the yeast, steep the hops in 3 ounces of water for an hour and strain. Dissolve the flour into 1 1/2 ounces of cold water and add the strained hops. After 30 minutes, add the malt and the alcohol and let it sit for 12 hours.

Separately, mix the essence together: combine alcohol, wintergreen, sassafras and spruce oil and set aside.

For the final mixture, combine the 2 1/2 ounces of hops, cream of tartar and ginger root and set aside. Combine 1/2 gallon of water and sugar in a separate container and add the hops, cream of tartar and ginger-root mixture. Then, add the "essence" and heat up the combined mixture until it hits 90 degrees. Add the yeast mixture, and let it sit for four hours. Then, place the mixture in a bottle and let it sit for three days.

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