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.