Patrick McGovern is a professor of archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania who studies fermented beverages. His work reveals their long history. Just like modern nutritionists, modern archaeologists overlook this:
Many of McGovern’s most startling finds stem from other archaeologists’ spadework; he brings a fresh perspective to forgotten digs, and his “excavations” are sometimes no more taxing than walking up or down a flight of stairs in his own museum to retrieve a sherd or two. Residues extracted from the drinking set of King Midas—who ruled over Phrygia, an ancient district of Turkey—had languished in storage for 40 years before McGovern found them and went to work. The artifacts contained more than four pounds of organic materials, a treasure—to a biomolecular archaeologist—far more precious than the king’s fabled gold.
Beer figures more in his work than wine. I’m not surprised. I’m a beer snob. The best beers at a recent beer tasting were far better than the best wines at similar wine tastings. The upper-class preference for wine over beer may have the same explanation as earlier upper-class preferences for white rice over brown rice (rich Japanese got beriberi more than poor Japanese) and white bread over dark bread. Or it may also have something to do with the fact that cheap beer in America is terrible.
Thanks to Melissa McEwen.