5,000 Year Old Beer Recipe Found In China; Did It All Start Here?

By mikey b , May 25, 2016 05:00 AM EDT

Great news for the world of archeology and beer! It has just been discovered that beer was being made in China some 5,000 years ago. This automatically puts China at par with other civilizations of the same period that are known to have fermented alcohol for consumption.

The “beer making tools” were found in underground rooms built around 3400 BC and 2900 BC in the Central Plain of China. Tools included funnels, pots and special jugs—possibly growlers. There were other finds as well like a pottery stove which was used for breaking down carbohydrates to sugars.

The underground rooms were curious as well. It shows an advanced understanding of how to best brew beer and create the perfect environments for it, NPR reported.

Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, who was not connected with the research, gave his comments. He said, “All indications are that ancient peoples [including those at this Chinese dig site], applied the same principles and techniques as brewers do today.” McGovern is known in the archeology community as the “Indiana Jones” of ancient fermented drinks.

As for the actual finds, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published that broomcorn millet, barley, Job's tears, and a unique ingredient called Chinese pearl barley. Also included were tubers or the parts of plants loaded with starch and sugars.

Now, how about the taste? Lead researcher Jiajing Wang, archeologist from Stanford University, thinks that the mix would have tasted “a bit sour and a bit sweet.”

One of the ingredients is of particular interest: barley. Simply said, nobody has ever seen barley in these parts of China from this time period before. How it got there in the first place is subject to a lot of mystery.

McGovern commented that the Chinese became brewmasters very early on. They were brewing their beer at the same time when barley beer was being made in Iran, beer-mashing facilities were up and running in Egypt and even the earliest wine-making facilities in Armenia.

As to why would the ancient Chinese be brewing beer? It must not be that hard to imagine. However, it may have been a way to impress peers and stay in power, “much like when we serve up that $70,000 bottle of 1982 Petrus from Bordeaux today.”

TAG beer, China
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