Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales' founder Sam Calagione has commercially produced several unique beers over the years, including the Midas Touch, created from sediment found on drinking vessels in the tomb of King Midas in Turkey, and Chateau Jiahu, inspired by trace ingredients from a 9,000-year-old dig in China.
His latest endeavor will be to recreate chicha, a Latin American corn beer, traditionally made by chewing and moistening the corn in the maker’s mouth. Yes, that's right, the fermentation process is initiated by the brewer's spit.
"You need to convert the starches in the corn into fermentable sugars,” the always entertaining Mr. Calagione said by phone from his headquarters in Rehoboth Beach. “One way is through the malting process. But another way — there are natural enzymes in human saliva and by chewing on corn, whether they understood the science of it, ancient brewers through trial and error learned that the natural enzymes in saliva would convert the starch in corn into sugar, so it would ferment. It may sound a little unsavory. ...”