Archaeologists Discover Surprising 5,000-Year-Old Beer Recipe From Ancient China

A new study suggests that the people of ancient China loved nothing more than sinking a few beers some 5,000 years ago.

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be the earliest direct evidence of beer brewing in China, a trove of beer-making equipment dating from between 3400 and 2900 BCE, discovered at the Mijiaya site in Shaanxi province. Along with this archaeological find, scientists conducted an analysis of residue on the ancient pottery, jars, and funnels found, revealing a surprising recipe for the beer.

“To our knowledge, our data provide the earliest direct evidence of in situ beer production in China, showing that an advanced beer-brewing technique was established around 5,000 years ago,” the researchers said in the study, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research looked at the shape of starch grains and phytoliths found in the residue to identify what was used to brew the beer. This chemical examination found the recipe included broomcorn millet, a grain called Job’s tears, lily, yam, snake gourd root, and – most surprisingly – barley. Although barley is a staple ingredient of modern beer, this came as a shock to the researchers as it suggests that this cultivated grain arrived in the Central Plain of China 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.

A beer funnel found at the Mijiaya site which was used in the brewing process. No, not a beer bong. Courtesy of Jianjing Wang.

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