Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Oldest Beer Brewery and Beer Recipe Unearthed in Central China

Really old beer

(Photo : Jiajing Wang/PNAS) Beer making tools unearthed in China

Archaeologists digging in China have discovered an underground brewery and beer making tools dating back 5,000 years plus the beer making recipe of the people (probably the Huaxia) that made this early form of beer.

The brewery was built before the founding of the first Chinese empire, the Xia Dynasty, in 2070 BC. The brewery unearthed in China's Central Plain is the oldest ever discovered in China, said a study just published in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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The study suggests Chinese beer is older than previously thought and also infers that the barley used to make beer in this brewery confirms barley trading between peoples of Western Eurasia and the ancient Chinese. It also indicates ancient peoples such as the Huaxia used the same principles and techniques used by brewers today.

Uncovered at the dig site in the Central Plain were what archaeologists described as "beer-making tool kits" that included pots, a pottery stove, funnels, specialized jugs plus ancient grains. The shapes of the objects infer they could be used for the brewing, filtration and storage of beer.

The study said the unearthed tools indicate these early brewers were using specialized tools and advanced beer-making techniques. The tools were discovered in underground rooms built between 3400 and 2900 B.C. The underground location was vital for storing beer and controlling temperature.

The 5,000-year-old beer recipe showed broomcorn millet, barley, Job's tears and an Asian grain also known as Chinese pearl barley were fermented together. Tubers were added to sweeten and flavor the beer.

The resulting beer would have tasted "a bit sour and a bit sweet," said Jiajing Wang, an archaeologist from Stanford University.

For the first time, archaeologists were able to identify the presence of barley in archaeological materials from China. Finding evidence of barley was a surprise since barley had never been seen in China this early before.

The Central Plain is the area on the lower reaches of the Yellow River that formed the cradle of Chinese civilization.  Today, it covers Henan, the southern part of Hebei, the southern part of Shanxi and the western part of Shandong province.

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