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5,000-Year-Old Beer-Brewing Operation Uncovered in China

It's the earliest evidence of Chinese brewing


It's a tale as old as time: Human finds grain, human makes beer. After archaeological excavations in the central plains of China, scientists are improving our understanding of that history, having now identified 5,000-year-old brewing equipment and beer residues within — so far the earliest evidence of Chinese brewing.

The scientists uncovered pottery fragments from several different vessels which they believe to be part of early "beer-making toolkits," Science reports. The unique shape of each vessel they discovered corresponds to different stages of the beer-making process: brewing, filtration, and storage. Chemical analysis of the ancient yellowish residues on the vessel fragments confirmed the equipment was used for brewing; starch grains were mangled and swollen, a result of malting and mashing steps early in the brewing process. With their results, the scientists pieced together a historic beer recipe. They found a brew made of millet and barley grain and for sweetening, yam and lily (but no hops).

Finding a barley-based Chinese beer this old surprised the archaeologists, since barley — which initially came from the western Eurasia region — didn't achieve staple food status in central China until 2,000 years ago. The discovery of barley in the 5,000-year-old beer remnants suggests it was actually beer-making that brought barley to China, not subsistence farming.

What will our beer legacy be, thousands of years from now? "America" beer, allegedly inspired by Trump? Beer made from only the highest quality grain? Only time will tell.