Ancient Ales With The Beer Archaeologist

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum
Dr. Pat McGovern The Beer Archaeologist

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum will celebrate ancient ales on September 21 with a special event featuring famed beer archeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern and a 231-year-old brass keg tap recovered from the ocean floor.

An academic and a connoisseur, Dr. McGovern is known as the Indiana Jones of ancient ales, wines, and extreme beverages.  In conjunction with the Dogfish Head Brewery, he has turned the scientific knowledge of beverages dating back to biblical times into brews that history buffs and beer connoisseurs can enjoy such as the medal-winning Midas Touch.


Dr. McGovern will appear in St. Augustine during the Sea Your History Weekend hosted by the lighthouse. When not exploring ancient recipes or appearing at special events, Dr. McGovern is an adjunct professor and director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

The collection of Dr. McGovern’s recreated ancient ales began with Midas Touch, winner of the bronze medal at the Brewer’s Association 2008 World Beer Cup as well as two bronze (2011, 2009), two silver (2005, 2007) and one gold medal (2004) from the Great American Beer Festival. Described as a sweet, yet dry beer somewhere between wine and mead, Midas Touch is made with ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas.

   After the success with Midas Touch, McGovern expanded his collaboration with Dogfish Head to include two more ancient ales. Chateau Jiahu is a mixture of orange blossom honey, Muscat grape juice, barley malt and hawthorn fruit, which is then fermented with sake yeast – a recipe that dates back 9,000 years to Northern China.

A thorough analysis of pottery shards in Honduras led Dr. McGovern to discover the world’s oldest known alcoholic chocolate beverage – a recreated delicacy made by Dogfish Head called Theobroma, the team’s most recent collaboration.

On Saturday during the Sea Your History event, guests can meet the beer archaeologist in the lighthouse courtyard, explore the grounds and climb the tower of St. Augustine’s historic light station, established in 1871. Beers are available for purchase all day. 

At 5 p.m., a special sampling of the handcrafted ancient ales will be available along with the chance to investigate how archaeology is re-creating the ancient art of brewing. Dr. McGovern will share his work and secrets with those who choose to be part of this one of a kind experience.

Tickets are $15 and include both general admission to the lighthouse and the chance to tap into history at the exclusive event with Dr. McGovern.

Daytime visitors will also want to stop and see the weekend’s second guest honoree – a brass keg tap recovered off a British vessel that ran aground in St. Augustine’s inlet in December 1782. In near perfect condition, the tap was found by divers from the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program just this past July after resting in the ship’s wreckage for over two hundred years.

Still stuck in the “open” position, LAMP’s archaeologists acknowledge the item might have been packed for shipping to St. Augustine, but are more inclined to believe it was in use. When the ship, loaded with British Loyalists evacuating Charleston following the Revolutionary War, ran aground on a sandbar, the marine archaeologists believe discipline could have broken down – leaving sailors to throw open the tap and empty the kegs before they were forced to abandon the sinking vessel.

In addition to the keg tap, LAMP divers have recovered a pair of Queen Anne pistols, two loaded Brown Bess muskets, uniform buttons, clothes irons, cauldrons and an assortment of other artifacts from the ancient wreckage. Sea Your History guests will get a chance to see some of these items up close, including a cannon and carronade currently undergoing electrolysis as part of the conservation process.

LAMP Shipwreck TapLAMP Shipwreck Tap

Guests who arrive on Friday can also take the new Lost Ships Tour, led by one of the LAMP archaeologists. The tour takes visitors behind closed doors for an exclusive look at how the items were recovered from the ocean wreck and how each artifact helped archaeologists piece together the origins of the ship and its story.

To purchase tickets for the event online, visit

Receive 10 percent off your ticket purchase by using the promo code BEER at checkout. Space is limited for the special reception with Dr. McGovern and advance purchase is recommended.