Last year, Dogfish Head’s Chicha proved to be much more difficult to produce than anticipated; the brewing of this year’s installment of the latest ‘new/old’ beer apparently went a little more smoothly, thanks to a bit more experience and research. However, it’s still not easy to make this beer in any sort of quantity, since the production method goes well beyond ‘hand-crafted’ – there are many mandibles involved. But fear not the saliva exchange – the chewing and spitting happens pre-boil, so the resulting drink won’t give everyone mono, and you have to like a beer that comes with its own beautifully-designed handout.
As someone with too many degrees in archaeology, I have great admiration for all of Dogfish Head’s historical recreations (or, if you prefer, reinterpretations) – Sah’Tea and Theobroma are some of my favorite beers, and I love a little Chateau Jiahu from time to time. Each one combines solid research with an experimental sense of adventure – it has been suggested elsewhere that historical beer styles are becoming a trend throughout the craft beer continuum; I would certainly be in favor of that – but I digress.
And so back to the tasting of Chicha 2010 – while it’s quite light in body and low in alcohol, something about it makes it seem like an ideal sipping drink. The spearmint creates an interesting contrast with the overall grainy character, imparting an almost cooling sensation. There are some notes similar to clove oil or banana that might appear in a hefeweizen, but the mouthfeel (I know, I know) is so different that it never suggests that direction. Perhaps as some sort of psychological counterpoint to its production, it comes across as extraordinarily ‘clean-drinking’ – it’s refreshing and leaves an absolutely unique overall impression.