5,000-year-old Chinese brewery, and beer recipe

By Elema (Flickr: Beer making) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m a bit behind blogging about this, but I thought it was pretty interesting: evidence of a 5,000 year old brewery was recently uncovered in China. What seems to be significant about this find is that barley had not been known to be in China this early; researchers suggest the possibility of barley arriving with the knowledge of its use in brewing, which could have interesting implications.

Archaeologists uncovered ancient “beer-making tool kits” in underground rooms built between 3400 and 2900 B.C. Discovered at a dig site in the Central Plain of China, the kits included funnels, pots and specialized jugs. The shapes of the objects suggest they could be used for brewing, filtration and storage.

It’s the oldest beer-making facility ever discovered in China — and the evidence indicates that these early brewers were already using specialized tools and advanced beer-making techniques.

The research group inspected the pots and jugs and found ancient grains that had lingered inside. The grains showed evidence that they had been damaged by malting and mashing, two key steps in beer-making. Residue from inside the uncovered pots and funnels was tested with ion chromatography to find out what the ancient beer was made of. The 5,000-year-old beer “recipe” was published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The recipe included a mix of fermented grains: broomcorn millet, barley and Job’s tears, a chewy Asian grain also known as Chinese pearl barley. The recipe also called for tubers, the starchy and sugary parts of plants, which were added to sweeten and flavor the beer, the researchers write.

Unfortunately I can’t see the full article (I was hoping to see if they had any additional recipe details, such as a rough idea of ingredient proportions). It might be interesting to try to recreate it (of course everyone expects Dogfish Head to do so, I’m sure); also knowing what kind of “tubers” you’d find in China circa 3000 BC would be helpful.

Speaking of Dogfish Head—any bets on when they will attempt a recreation? Or will another brewery beat them to it?

Comments are closed.