History can feel a bit hard to relate to sometimes, but when it comes to alcohol everyone can understand the long standing desire to get shitfaced because of reasons, which is why discovering a 5,000 year old Chinese brew can feel both enlightening and rouse anyone’s curiosity, after all, how does a 5,000-year-old beer recipe compare to our own modern day versions?
Turns out, nobody knows.
The ancient brewery was unearthed at an archaeological site at Mijiaya, a site near a tributary of the Wei River in modern-day Shaanxi province that dates back to around 3,400 – 2,900 BC, according to a paper that the archaeological team published on their find.
The ancient beer-making kits discovered proved that the people of the era had already mastered an advanced technique of of brewing, which employed a mix of Western and Eastern elements and used advanced tools. Yellowish residue left in the pottery funnels and wide-mouthed pots showed traces of the fermented ingredients.
The residue was tested to find out just what was in a beer recipe from 5,000 years ago. As it turns out: a mixture of broomcorn millet, barley, a chewy grain known as Job’s tears and tubers. Scientists don’t know what the beer would taste like as there wasn’t a way to find out the proportions, but it’s assumed it would be both sour from the cereal grains and sweet from the tubers.
A pottery stove was also found, which ancient brewers used to break down carbohydrates into sugar. The brewery’s location was also noted for being important for storing beer and controlling temperature.
The presence of barley was surprising to scientists, as scientists had never discovered barley this early in China before and no one knows how it exactly came to be in China, despite it being common today.
Scientists have also stated that it seems that the introduction of barley fits with the timeline of fermented beverages becoming important in social interaction among the elite, and that Chinese brew masters were making beer just as early as other societies, such as brewers in Iran, Egypt, and wine-makers in America.
Thankfully, we can all get drunk without needing to be members of the elite. Gan bei, guys.
By Kitty Lai