A 5,000-year-old beer-making facility recently unearthed in China was identified as the oldest ever discovered. Ion chromatography also revealed the recipe used to brew beer using the kit, which in all probability, must be even older.
The beer-making facility was found in rooms dating from between 3400 and 2900 B.C. in China’s Central Plain. The tools, namely pots, funnels, and jugs, suggest the makers were using highly specialized beer-making techniques. Close inspection showed that the tools unearthed were used for activities such as brewing beer, filtration, and storage.
The remains were unearthed at the Mijiaya archeological site located in the Shaanxi province. The site, located near the center of the city of Xi’an, was uncovered by Swedish archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson in 1923. Chinese archeologists worked at the site for two years, between 2004 and 2006, before it was turned into a site for residential buildings.
According to expert Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania Museum, ancient peoples used pretty much the same principles as today’s brewers. Moreover, the recipients found revealed ancient grains that showed signs of two key stages in beer-making, malting, and mashing.
What is more, ion chromatography conducted on remains of grains found inside the pots revealed a recipe that is at least 5,000 old. According to lead researcher Jiajing Wang, an archeologist from Stanford University, the taste of the beer produced may have been a mix of sour and sweet. The recipe included barley, broomcorn millet and a typical Asian grain, Job’s tears, also known as Chinese pearl barley. The researchers also identified tubers, which were reportedly used to sweeten and add flavor to the beer.
According to Wang, finding barley so early was a surprising fact. The grain was already known at the time as an essential ingredient in beer-making. That is why researchers believe that the knowledge may have motivated the introduction of barley to China that the crop was a key ingredient for brewing beer. Researchers also noted that the grain could have been used as an ingredient in beer-making long before it became a staple of the Chinese diet.
The discovery of the 5,000-year-old beer-making facility also established that the inhabitants of China’s Central Plain were brewing beer as early as people living in Egypt and Iran. It is in those countries that the earliest beer-making facilities were discovered.
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