Archaeologists uncovered beer-making facility back from 3400 and 2900 BC in Shaanxi province, the Guardian reports.
“China has an early tradition of fermentation and evidence of rice-based fermented beverage has been found from the 9,000-year-old Jiahu site. However, to our knowledge, [the new discovery] is the first direct evidence of in situ beer making in China,” said Jiajing Wang of Stanford University, author of the new research.
The research group found pots and ancient grains, which showed “the beer was made by going through three processes, including malting, mashing, and fermentation,” said Wang. The 5,000-year-old beer recipe was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and included a mix of fermented grains: broomcorn millet, barley, lily, yam, and Job’s tears, a chewy Asian grain also known as Chinese pearl barley, or snake gourd root (Trichosanthes pilosa).
What did this 5000-year-old beer taste like? Wang, told NPR that “it would taste a bit sour and a bit sweet.”
Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, said this finding shows that Chinese were making barley beer in the same period as “the earliest chemically attested barley beer from Iran and the earliest beer-mashing facilities in Egypt, as well as the earliest wine-making facility in Armenia.”
In an effort to truly experience what this ancient beer tasted like, in 2013, a team from Great Lakes Brewing and University of Chicago used another 5,000-year-old beer recipe and co-brewed a batch of era-appropriate beer. They even used ancient wooden tools, ceramic fermentation pots, and cooking methods, such as a manure-fueled fire, based on the artifacts found in 1930s Iraq, and even hired a baker to prepare the bappir (beer bread) as the source of their yeast.
After two days of fermentation, they tasted it and found it was “too sour,” according to Bathroomreader. A brewer at Great Lakes, Nate Gibbon, hoped to try the process again, saying he would sweeten the beer with honey or dates.