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Stanford students taste ancient beer

Unraveling a 5,000 year old way to get brick-facedby Alexander Quebec

Students at an archeology class at Stanford University have created beer using a 5,000 year old recipe from ancient China.

Professor Li Liu leads a course on Chinese Archeology at Stanford University. Along with doctoral candidate Jiajang Wang and a team of experts, they were able to extract the recipe from residue found inside pots used to make the brews that consisted of Barley, Millet and Tears of Job. Even more surprising was the presence of barley, which was not known to have been in China 4,000 years ago.

“Studying the evolution of alcohol and food production provides a window into understanding ancient human behavior” Liu said.

The beer would’ve tasted sweeter and resembled porridge, rather than the heady, clear liquor we know of now.

The students in this course attempted to brew beer using two different methods; the first method involved a multi stepped process using malting (allowing the beans to sprout, then grinding them up and putting more water back in), mashing (heating up the mixture for a set time) and letting the mixture ferment for a week in an enclosed container. The second method involves chewing and spitting a grain called Manioc, then boiling the mixture and allowing it to ferment. This process is popular throughout indigenous cultures in South America.

Madeline Ota is one of the students in the class. Her red wheat brew had a fruity smell and tasted like citrus, closely resembling and tasting like an ale. The Manioc brew, however, had an unpleasant, rotten cheese smell to it.

Ota comments “Food plays such an important role in who we are and how we’ve developed as a species, We can use the information that we gain in these experiments to apply to the archaeological record from thousands of years ago and ask questions about what these processes reflect and what we can say about alcohol fermentation and production.”

Beer has been around for thousands of years, thought to have originated in Mesopotamia and Egypt, with the techniques behind making beer spread all across the world. Barley, however, was originally not endemic to China, but these findings shed new light into the spread of grains and agricultural across the world; according to Liu “Our results suggest the purpose of barley’s introduction in China could have been related to making alcohol rather than as a staple food,”

Below is a video from Stanford of the students trying out their beers for the first time. What do you guys think? Would you be interested in making beer this way? Let us know in the comments below

Source: Stanford University

Cover photo credit
L: Thenewstrack.com
R: Explosion.com

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