The oldest sample, which was buried with a male warrior, was an anomaly. The jug found in that grave contained only traces of honey, suggesting that the occupant went to his grave with a jar of unadulterated mead. Because the warrior had well-crafted weapons in his tomb, he was likely of high status. Pure mead was probably a drink for the elite, because honey was expensive and scarce, the researchers reported online Dec. 23 in the Danish Journal of Archaeology. (Raise your Glass: 10 Intoxicating Beer Facts)
The grog was likely a high-class beverage, McGovern said. In the 1920s, archaeologists uncovered a remarkably well-preserved burial of a young blond woman in Denmark. Dubbed "Egtved Girl" (pronounced "eckt-VED"), the corpse was buried wearing a wool string skirt with a bucket of grog at her feet. The young woman's clothes and ornaments suggest that she was a priestess who likely danced in religious ceremonies, McGovern said.
In other graves, wine-serving kits imported from southern Europe are also associated with women, McGovern said.
"That gives the impression that the women were the ones who would make the beverages in antiquity, and they were the ones that would serve it to the warriors," he said.
The imported wine strainer cups and traces of grape wine, which was only produced in southern Europe, suggest a robust trade network in this period, McGovern said. Northerners likely shipped Baltic amber southward in return for the wine and drinking utensils.
With McGovern's help, Dogfish Head recreated the Nordic grog in October 2013, using wheat, berries, honey and herbs. The only difference was that Dogfish Head's brew contains a few hops, the bittering agents used in most modern beers. Hops weren't used in beers in Europe until the 1500s.
Dogfish Head's grog is called Kvasir, a name that hints at its roots. In Nordic legend, Kvasir was a wise man created by gods spitting into a jar. Two dwarfs later murdered Kvasir and mixed his blood with honey, creating a beverage that was said to confer wisdom and poetry onto the drinker.
The grog tastes sour, like a Belgian lambic, McGovern said. But there are other options available to those who want a taste of Bronze Age Europe. The Swedish brewery Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri created another version of grog called Arketyp, and it is available at state liquor stores in Sweden. And on the Swedish island of Gotland, locals still brew a mixture of barley, honey, juniper and herbs that tastes much like what their ancient ancestors drank.
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