St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum: Tap Into Your Past

Tap Into History
Event Date: 
Fri, 09/20/2013 - 9:00am - Sat, 09/21/2013 - 6:00pm

Beer Archaeologist to Headline St. Augustine Lighthouse Event

As far as historical re-enactments go, it’s a widely accepted rule that the best ones involve drinking beer. When the beer drinking is actually a centerpiece of the re-enactment, it’s even better.

On September 20th and 21st, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is celebrating ancient ales with an exclusive Sea Your History Weekend event featuring two special guests: Dr. Patrick McGovern (a.k.a. the Beer Archaeologist) and a 231 year-old brass keg tap recovered from the ocean floor.

Both an academic and a connoisseur, 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– but he prefers the slightly shorter (and more informal) title of “The Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages.”

In conjunction with Delaware’s Dogfish Head brewpub, Dr. McGovern has turned his scientific knowledge of beverages dating back to Biblical times into a tangible treat for history buffs, beer geeks and the common consumer to enjoy.

His collection of 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 such great 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 alcoholic chocolate beverage – a delicacy he recreated with Theobroma, the team’s most recent collaboration.

During Saturday’s Sea Your History event, guests can meet the famed 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 five p.m., a special sampling of the handcrafted ancient ales will be available along with the chance to investigate how archaeology is untapping 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 for the event are $15 and include both general admission to the lighthouse all day and the chance to personally 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 easily 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.

Guests who arrive on Friday can also take the lighthouse’s 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% off your ticket purchase by using the promo code BEER at checkout. Space is limited for the special reception with Dr. McGovern, so buy your tickets in advance to secure your spot!

Friday, September 20

3 P.M. - 6 P.M. - Lost Ships Tour: Help our archaeologists unlock the secrets of long-lost shipwrecks. 

Click here to purchase your tickets. 

Saturday, September 21

9 A.M. - Traditional Wooden Boatbuilding: Be more than a visitor as you and our artisans build a boat from centuries gone by.

2 P.M. - 4 P.M. Book signing with Dr. Patrick McGovern

5 P.M. – Meet, Drink and Learn with the Beer Archaeologist!

Uncorking the Past- Dr. Patrick McGovern is the Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia.  Known as “The Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages,” Dr. McGovern’s research shows what Molecular Archaeology is capable of achieving and has involved reconstructing the “King Midas funerary feast” (Nature 402, Dec. 23, 1999: 863-64) and chemically confirming the earliest fermented beverage from anywhere in the world—Neolithic China, some 9000 years ago.

Sample ancient ales, meet Dr. McGovern and learn how science is truly tapping into the past! 

Get your tickets in advance here.