5,000-Year-Old Chinese Pottery Reveals The Oldest Beer Recipe

Posted: May 24 2016, 4:36am CDT | by , Updated: May 25 2016, 10:14pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


5,000-Year-Old Chinese Pottery Reveals the Oldest Beer Recipe
Credit: Jiajing Wang

Study suggests that people in ancient China started to use barley in beer brewing much earlier than previously thought.

Archeologists have uncovered a 5,000 year old brewery in China and with that the secret recipe of the oldest beer brewing too.

Yellowish leftovers on pottery from archaeological side suggests that the artifact was used for making beer and shows the earliest evidence of brewing in China. It also reveals that Chinese people were already familiar with the advanced techniques of brewing and their beer combined the elements of both East and West as researchers have found traces of ingredients like broomcorn millet, tubers, seeds of Job’s tears and more importantly barley – a grain from temperate climates of west. Today, almost every beer includes barley due to majority of starch. The grain has been first cultivated in western Asia around 13,000 years ago.

“The discovery of barley is a surprise. This beer recipe indicates a mix of Chinese and Western traditions - barley from the West; millet, Job's tears and tubers from China,” said lead author Jiajing Wang of Stanford University.

“Barley may have been used as a beer-making ingredient long before it became an agricultural staple.”

It is the earliest known evidence of the use of barley in China, indicating the ingredient transported to China almost 1,000 years earlier than previously estimated.

The brewery was discovered in Mijiaya near Wei River of Northern China and it has yielded artifacts that point to a proper mechanism for beer production from milling ingredients to fermentation to underground storing. 

This is the same time frame when evidences of beer brewing in Iran and Egypt were also found. It is an indication that China may have borrowed brewing techniques from western Eurasia and started to use barley in the making of beer.

Patrick McGovern, an expert on biomolecular archeology at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study, said.“The introduction of Middle Eastern barley into a Chinese drink fits with the special role of fermented beverages in social interactions and as an exotic ingredient which would appeal to emerging individuals.” 



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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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