Scientists at Stanford uncovered a 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe, then brewed it

Beer takes around two weeks to brew, and can last in a fridge for anywhere up to two years. So how do you think 5,000-year-old beer would taste? Stanford archaeologists are giving us the opportunity to find out.

In a new piece of research, students from Stanford Archaeology Center have brewed up a fresh batch of millennia-old alcohol, under the careful eye of archaeologist Professor Li Liu. Liu, along with doctoral candidate Jiajing Wang and other experts, found the recipe by analyzing the inner walls of pottery pieces excavated in northeast China.

Recreating it involves using ancient brewing techniques invented by early human civilizations.

“The beer we discovered at the site of Mijiaya was a multi-ingredient brew,” Wang told Digital Trends. “It was made of broomcorn millet, barley, Job’s tears and some kinds of tubers. We suggest that barley was initially introduced to the Central Plain for alcohol production rather than as a staple food.”

5000 year old beer 3 mijiaya funnel residue by jiajing wang
Not the most typical place to find a beer recipe, perhaps. Jiajing Wang

The beer itself looks and tastes a whole lot more like sweet porridge than today’s clear bitters, but it’s a fascinating insight into a society that, in some ways, is so far removed from our own. (And in other, alcohol-downing ways appears incredibly similar!)

“Modern beer usually relies on barley as a single ingredient,” Wang continued. “This beer was a mix of a variety of starchy plants. We also suspect that the Mijiaya beer might not have the level of clarity like the modern ones.”

So will you and I get to try ancient Chinese beer, even if we can’t get accepted into Stanford? Maybe.

“Collaborating with Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology in China, we are planning recreate Mijiaya beer,” Wang said. “But I will not be the person who sells this. This is a project to be done by private brewing companies.”

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