Funnels used at the ancient brewery — Jiajing Wang/PNAS
❝ A 5,000-year-old brewery has been unearthed in China.
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.
❝ For instance, the scientists found a pottery stove, which the ancient brewers would have heated to break down carbohydrates to sugar. And the brewery’s underground location was important for both storing beer and controlling temperature — too much heat can destroy the enzymes responsible for that carb-to-sugar conversion…
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…
Gotta love it. I think any culture that bumps into natural fermentation – and the products thereof – would have carried on to research and expand uses of the process.
Of course, I’m a devotee. I started my weekly “poolish” a couple hours ago – that will end up in a home-baked loaf of bread Wednesday morning. And my wife brews hard cider every couple of weeks. For a couple of geek hermits, we keep occupied in pretty traditional ways.