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Beer China Education

How Beer Brewed 5,000 Years Ago In China Tastes Today (thestreet.com) 109

schwit1 quotes The South China Morning Post: Stanford University students have recreated a Chinese beer using a recipe that dates back 5,000 years. The beer "looked like porridge and tasted sweeter and fruitier than the clear, bitter beers of today," said Li Liu, a professor in Chinese archaeology, was quoted by the university as saying. Last spring, Liu and her team of researchers were carrying out excavation work at the Mijiaya site in Shaanxi province and found two pits containing remnants of pottery used to make beer, including funnels, pots and amphorae. The pits dated to between 3400BC and 2900BC, in the late Yangshao era. They found a yellowish residue on the remains of the items, including traces of yam, lily root and barley...Liu taught her students to recreate the recipe as part of her archaeology course.
One student following a second ancient beer recipe created a beverage that "smelled like funky cheese."
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How Beer Brewed 5,000 Years Ago In China Tastes Today

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  • Makes sense. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Beer in ancient times was often a way of preserving calories (due to the alcohol) and a means of sustenance, as opposed to today when it is primarily a way to get goofy at NASCAR events.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Beer, especially without hops, and bottled without knowledge of sanitation, spoils really quickly. I doubt they were preserving calories for a couple of weeks, when the raw product (dry grain) survives decades.

      • Keeping the rats and fungi at bay can be tricky; so long-term survival is only assured in optimal cases. That said; the fact that ancient-recipe booze tends to be aggressively unfiltered by the standards of even the most yeast riddled modern variants quite possibly has something to do with the fact that you definitely lose calories if you do the filtering and clarifying necessary to get the 'suitably tinted; but otherwise optically clear' results that are currently favored.

        You can recover at least some o
        • The biggest thing beer brought to the table?
          It was made by BOILING something in water...
          In those days, a drink of water was an insane gamble due to things like E. coli, cholera, dysentery, and the many other gifts of raw sewage and runoff. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterborne_diseases [wikipedia.org]

          Here is what beer REALLY did for us:
          https://vimeo.com/23278902 [vimeo.com]

          • The same could be said of tea; and tea won't get you shitfaced enough to numb the pain of being a subsistence mud farmer; so while I don't deny the sanitary virtues of alcohol; I suspect that some of the other benefits may have been a bigger seller.
      • Small beer, which is generally low alcohol was brewed regularly (daily?) particularly in the Middle Ages, because, as you assert, people had no knowledge of sanitation, but they did know they would get sick if they drank the water, but not if it was fermented first, so it was the drink for working people in many places.

        I did read that the only time the British Army refused to march during the Peninsula Campaign was when they didn't get their beer ration, but I can't find a link now, so maybe the story is a

      • It could also be that the student flunked while trying to recreate a clear tasty beer.
    • Re:Makes sense. (Score:5, Informative)

      by YouGotTobeKidding ( 2884685 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @05:54PM (#53852607)
      Nope. It was a way of getting 'clean' water in a time when water could, would, and did kill every day. The calories were just a nice bonus/side-effect.
      • Thats a myth.
        Clean water is not difficult to optain.
        And 'unclea' water is not necessarily poisoness.

        Man kind lived millenia without beer and just drank water any other animal was drinking.

        • by cptdondo ( 59460 )

          and died at 22-25.

          A lot of what we do when we cook dates back to preserving health. Most of kosher and halals techniques are used today in commercial kitchens, without the religious overtones.

          Beer, or any boiled substance, is sterile and thus less likely to kill you. People who drink boiled water live longer, and have more children who survive to have more children. It's simple, really. Once agriculture started, and cities started to form 7,000 years ago, people had to have some form of sanitation.

          • Titus Petronius died with 66 ... suicide.
            Gaius Julius Caesar died with 65 ... murdered.

            The idea that people died around 22-25 is idiotic. We have plenty of Neanderthalian graves with remains of people in their 60s or older.

            Why did I bring the two romans as example (could bring a few hundred if you want)? Because they had aqueducts bring fresh water -- untreated -- into the cities and sewers that transported waste water considerably far away.

            The idea that rain water or water from a creek can not be drunken o

            • by cptdondo ( 59460 )

              A bit of research will bear out what I said. The AVERAGE expectancy in the Roman Empire was 20-30 years. Sure, the wealthy lived a long time but those in the countryside died young. The wealthy always live longer.

              The reason we can drink the water from rivers today is because of stringent surface water regulations; as recently as 60 years ago rivers burned quite regularly. I went to high school in New York City; if you fell into the Hudson River they would take you to the hospital and pump your stomach,

              • You could not drink surface water because of modern industries poisoning it.

                The average live expectancy was low because plenty of people died as children.

                Also taking Rome as an example, my fault, means we have to include slaves, which where "burned" especially on farmland and in mines.

                If you go out into the Rockies or Apalachians you can drink most surface water untreated ... or can clean it with extremely simple means.

                If water would be "poisonous" per se, then there would be no animal surviving 30 years or

                • If you go out into the Rockies or Appalachians you can drink most surface water untreated

                  Sure, there are many places here in Australia where you can still drink from a mountain stream. However the vast majority of our ancestors over the last 5-10,000yrs did not live in next to a pristine mountain stream. They lived in towns and villages with open sewers running thru the streets and into the waterways. The local water was not fit for human consumption, people did not drink it because even though they knew nothing of germs they knew that dirty water could/would give them cholera and/or dysentery,

                • by quenda ( 644621 )

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

                  When the high infant mortality rate is factored in (life expectancy at birth) inhabitants of the Roman Empire had a life expectancy at birth of about 25 years. However, when infant mortality is factored out, life expectancy is doubled to the late-50s. If a Roman survived infancy to their mid-teens, they could, on average, expect near six decades of life, although of course many lived much longer or shorter lives for varied reasons.[clarification needed] Although this figure

            • Re:Makes sense. (Score:4, Informative)

              by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Monday February 13, 2017 @01:22AM (#53854261) Homepage Journal

              Well, don't forget how statistics work. Infant deaths tends to pull the average life span down. If you lived to be 60 you were above average, but not surprisingly so.

              • by cusco ( 717999 )

                My in-laws lived in rural Peru, and had 13 children. Five of the first eight died before their third birthday. Then they moved to the city where they had access to clean water, health care, and a variety of foods, and the next five lived to adulthood. If they all lived to 100 years old their average life span is under 63.

          • and died at 22-25.

            This is a known myth, listed on the Wikipedia page for common misconceptions. It's based on the mean lifespan of humans, which for most of human history is heavily skewed by infant mortality. Humans who survived infancy have always routinely survived into their 60s.

            • by cptdondo ( 59460 )

              And children died of mostly water-borne diseases like cholera and dysentery. Water borne diseases were quite common (and still are.)

              • When Are Averages Useless [blogspot.com]
                I'm not disagreeing with the idea that beer has utility in public health in certain contexts. I just don't like poor arguments.
                Although, as to your argument, I may have an amendment. Besides boiling, there's some scientific credence to the idea that fermenting can help to protect humans from food poisoning. Here's a sample. [nih.gov] Of course, there's some notorious caveats with that, e.g. coconut tempeh is not legal to sell in some places due to its propensity to foster a lethal type of
    • Beer was popular because of the difficulty obtaining potable water and keeping it from turning stagnant. For example, the pilgrims were forced to land at Plymouth rock because they were running out of beer/wine and had to go find some fresh water.
  • I have made a lot of beer, and every batch smelled like funky cheese or worse for the first few days or even weeks. That is normal. And as the alcohol is developing, you can drink it and get a buzz. I guess that the ancient chineese, and egyptians, and sumerians, and all other beer drinking civilizations found like me that it pays to be patient.

    Paai

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @05:30PM (#53852523)

    I thought this was the most interesting thing from the whole article:

    The research team was surprised to find barley in the ancient Chinese beer as barley had not become a staple crop for another 3,000 years.

    Think about someone making beer but the ingredients not really catching on in a big way for three thousand years!

    Or maybe the estimate of when barley because a staple crop is way off.

    • by dj245 ( 732906 )

      I thought this was the most interesting thing from the whole article:

      The research team was surprised to find barley in the ancient Chinese beer as barley had not become a staple crop for another 3,000 years.

      Think about someone making beer but the ingredients not really catching on in a big way for three thousand years!

      Or maybe the estimate of when barley because a staple crop is way off.

      Depends on what they mean by "barley". Corn and watermelon are unrecognizable compared to what they were just 200 years ago. This is mostly related to good old fashioned selective breeding. 3,000 years is a very long time in agricultural terms.

  • Chemist? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @05:32PM (#53852539)
    Shouldn't you be a food chemist to 'recreate' a recipe from a 5000-year old sample?
    • You'd be right. Except that all they're doing is creating a work of fiction to steal headlines.
    • by the sounds of it they aren't recreating a 5000 year old recipe at all, merely using similar ingredients. But I doubt that makes a good headline.
  • Stale, probably? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by mark-t ( 151149 )
    If it was brewed 5,000 years ago, I can't imagine it'd still be any good by now.
  • The odds that the absurd methods they used to recreate the recipe have anything to do with how beer tasted 5000 years ago is exactly the same as the odds that anything else in a history book about people 5000 is remotely realistic. Exactly Zero.

    Gotta love history. Make the whole thing up and pretend it's real.
    • The odds that the absurd methods they used to recreate the recipe have anything to do with how beer tasted 5000 years ago is exactly the same as the odds that anything else in a history book about people 5000 is remotely realistic. Exactly Zero.

      It isn't noted in anything I can find, but its almost certain that they determined the ingredients via proteomics and chromatography. The vegetable matter used in the process would have left proteins that would have been identifiable. The vessel used would give a good clue as to the purpose of putting those things in the vessel. Nothing is 100 percent sure, But Occam's razor will give you a good idea that a liquid holding vessel that contained the products that were determined by their protein signatures wa

      • Which is exactly my point. The process by which we make beer (or bread) is very, very non-obvious. 3000 years ago, it's likely they had very different ideas then we do today.

        To take an approximate guess of the ingredients and then assume you can recreate the recipe is idiocy. Can you take a fresh bottle of modern beer as a finished product, analyze it in a lab and create an identical copy? Of course not. And we know all the modern beer making techniques. So you think you can take 3000 year old res
        • Which is exactly my point. The process by which we make beer (or bread) is very, very non-obvious. 3000 years ago, it's likely they had very different ideas then we do today. To take an approximate guess of the ingredients and then assume you can recreate the recipe is idiocy.

          Some folks find it as fun. I'm not certain why this has your hackles up. It is interesting to see what the ancients ate and drank.

          I really don't think that anyone is believing that it is an exact copy. It's a fermented beverage made using the ingredients they sussed out via analytical methods.

          So you think you can take 3000 year old residue of beer and figure out what they did 3000 years ao?

          You can have a pretty good idea though.

          I think you are getting a little wrapped around the axle about the wrong thing. The idea isn't to recreate the exact beer - as you note using other words, how would we even k

  • There were humans 5,000 years ago? And they ate CARBS too? #falsenews

  • by burhop ( 2883223 ) on Sunday February 12, 2017 @07:46PM (#53852973)

    ' The beer "looked like porridge and tasted sweeter and fruitier than the clear, bitter beers of today," '

    Do you know how many types of beers there are today? Just go to any local microbrewery (well, maybe not in Germany- beer purity laws and all) and you will find 3-10 very different beers that are completely different from the next microbrewery.

    So, someone 5000 years from now finds a beer recipe from some "ancient" brewery and concludes all our beer tastes like PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon).

    (OK, a little beer porridge might be fun to try)

    • Do you know how many types of beers there are today? Just go to any local microbrewery (well, maybe not in Germany- beer purity laws and all)

      The reinheitsgebot is a bullshit excuse. If your beverage doesn't meet its requirements, you simply can't call it beer. This has been explicitly the case since 2005, but there were already examples.

    • I suppose in 5000 years people thinking we drank nothing but PBR is better than Bud Light, Keystoneor Olde English 800.
  • If it looks like porridge then it's still in the middle of fermentation.
    If it's sweet, ITS STILL IN THE MIDDLE OF FERMENTATION.

    honestly, did they even look at some of the early recipes out of europe or the middle East? Pharaoh Beer is from 2570bc and if you do it properly is not sweet and not "like porridge"
    What makes beers bitter is Hops, and if you don't have hops in it then it's not bitter Hops were not known to the middle east or china and were not even used until europe in the 9th century.

    archeolog

    • If it looks like porridge then it's still in the middle of fermentation.
      If it's sweet, ITS STILL IN THE MIDDLE OF FERMENTATION.

      Yeah, but lots of people drink beverages which are still fermenting, mostly people in the jungle. Booze made from palm trees and booze made from corn are commonly consumed while still young.

  • Yeah my first attempts at brewing beer disn't taste much like beer either.
  • Sounds like infection. I wonder if they even understood what they were doing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Already Done.

    Let's travel back in time again for another Dogfish Head Ancient Ale (Midas Touch was our first foray and Theobroma our most recent). Our destination is 9,000 years ago, in Northern China! Preserved pottery jars found in the Neolithic villiage of Jiahu, in Henan province, have revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey and fruit was being produced that long ago, right around the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East!

    Fast forward to 2

    • In keeping with historic evidence, Dogfish brewers use brown rice syrup, orange blossom honey, muscat grape, barley malt and hawthorn berry. The wort is fermented for about a month with sake yeast until the beer is ready for packaging.

      So you have evidence of the fermenting time? And the yeast strain? No, you don't. So, no, you don't have a historical beer. (And that's setting aside the fact that 'brown rice syrup' isn't brown rice. Etc... etc..)

  • 5000 yrs beer:
    It was actually expired fruit treat, but the Chinese ate them and found out it still tastes good.

    5,500 bc cheese:
    It was actually expired milk, but the Egyptian ate them and found out it still tastes good.
    .
    . /joke

  • One of the main things that ancient beers provided was something potable that did not have serious infectious bacteria, which most of the water then did have. Drink been - get drunk. Drink water - get typhoid!
  • ... the stuff they found was the waste water.

  • This sounds more like an Ale whereas a lot of what we drink today is some form of Lager. A lot of today's Ales are milder (IBU) like what is described here.
    • Just for some education on beer styles. The primary difference between Ales and Lagers is in both the strain of yeast used and what temperatures they ferment best in.

      Ales are less cold tolerant, are most active on the top of the wort, and produce more fruity esters.

      Lagers are far more cold tolerant, are most active on the bottom of the wort, and produce a cleaner "crisper" beer. Lagers are then left post fermentation in a 40 degree or cooler chamber for a couple weeks. A process which has come to be know

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      The major distinction between ale and lager is the yeast, and then, due to the conditions the yeast requires, the temperature at what it was fermented. Other things, like the type of grains, other additives, amount of hops, are unrelated to whether it's an ale or lager.

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