A 5000-year-old Chinese beer recipe known as the easiest craft brew in history has been reconstructed after archaeologists at Stanford University found it while digging along China’s Wei River.
The recipe turned out to be an incredible discovery with a complete set of brewing equipment, NPR News reports. And at the bottom of that equipment was something even more wonderful: Residue from the drink it once brewed.
After scrapping that gunk from the pots, researchers analyzed it and confirmed that it was, indeed, leftover froth from a 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe. Researchers extracted and analyzed residues from the artifacts.
Yellowish remnants found in the pottery and funnels, as well as the presence of stoves in the pits which could have been used in the brewing process, provided the first direct evidence of on site beer brewing. They also found traces of oxalate, a byproduct of beer brewing that develops during the steeping, mashing, and fermentation process.
They were also able to pin down the recipe of that beer to an unlikely, but delicious-sounding, combination of broomcorn millet, barley, Job’s tears, and tubers, Live Science reported.
The recipe was just published in the journal PNAS. But besides suggesting some delightfully unconventional paths for craft brewers to explore, what does this tell us about beer and its place in the world 5,000 years ago?
Quite a bit-particularly about just how important it must have been. But that’s not all. The finding also could rewrite the history of a key grain in the ancient civilization.
This recipe sets the date of the crop’s arrival in China back at least 1,000 years. That means that, long before people were eating barley in China, they were brewing with it.
The site, in a site called Mijiaya, was excavated from 2004 until 2006. Professor Li Liu, co-author of the study, realized that some of the assemblages of pottery, which were similar to brewing equipment used during the period of 3400-2900 BC, might have been used to make alcohol. It had been suggested that ancient Chinese funnels were used for making alcohol for years, but this is the first direct evidence ever found of local beer brewing in the area.
People were growing it to brew beer and eventually ended up eating it, too-not the other way around. In other words, brewing beer wasn’t an agricultural sidestep that happened because people had so much of a crop that they were trying to come up with extra uses for it.
The early presence of barley suggests the grain was initially introduced to the area as an ingredient for alcohol production rather than for agriculture. This contradicts previous beliefs that the grain had only been introduced 1,000 years later for farming purposes.
The authors of the study believe that the beer brewing could be “associated with the increased social complexity in the Central Plain during the fourth millennium BC,” contributing to the emergence of hierarchical societies in the area.
Ars Technica said the evidence suggests that the Yangshuo people may have concocted a 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe that ushered the cultural practice of beer brewing into the ancient world. Beer was an important part of ancient diets, so much so that they were literally planting farms to accommodate it.