How would you like to make beer and get college credit for it? Students at Stanford got to do just that. Their final project for Professor Li Liu’s course Archaeology of Food: Production, Consumption and Ritual involved practical experiments with ancient brewing techniques and materials. The oldest “recipe” they tried is 5,000 years old:
“Liu, together with doctoral candidate Jiajing Wang and a group of other experts, discovered the 5,000-year-old beer recipe by studying the residue on the inner walls of pottery vessels found in an excavated site in northeast China. The research, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provided the earliest evidence of beer production in China so far.”
The materials for the ancient Chinese beer contained millet, barley, Job’s tears (Chinese pearl barley), and traces of yam and lily root parts. The students tried other combinations as well. Watch a short video explaining the experiments:
Stanford students recreate 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe by Stanford
Professor Liu’s research also shows it’s possible that barley (a very popular beer grain even today) may have been introduced to China from western Asia hundreds of years before previously thought and specifically for brewing instead of a food crop.
Fascinating! It shows that as long as we have records—or material remnants, not just written word—there have been people interested in the minutiae of food and food production. I for one am grateful to be able to enjoy the fruits of such a long history of delicious experiments.
This post has been edited.
Geeks eat, too! Second Breakfast is an occasional feature in which we talk about food with geeky connections and maybe make some of our own. Yum!