John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The tuber-and-millet brew provides the “earliest direct evidence of in situ beer production in China.”
Pssst. Sam. Hey, Sam Calagione. Here’s something you might want to jump on: a recipe for a 5,000-year-old Chinese beer, made from tubers, millet, barley, and a gluten-free something called Job’s tears.
Jiajing Wang at the Stanford Archaeology Center and others reconstructed this formula after analyzing pottery in ancient pits in Shaanxi, North China. According to a new study in PNAS, the funnels, amphorae, and stoves found on site point toward a sophisticated pursuit of humanity’s favorite vice—getting loaded. “To our knowledge,” the researchers write, “our data provide the earliest direct evidence of in situ beer production in China, showing that an advanced beerbrewing technique was established around 5,000 [years] ago.”
Identifying the components of the musty ol’ brew was a matter of examining old grains and resins lurking in the pottery. Aside from the cereals, there was also evidence of lily bulbs, yams, and a still-popular Asian medical herb used to treat diabetes, coughing, and breast abscesses.
Which is to say: This tipple has also the hallmarks of a fancy-pants, meticulously recreated historical beer, part of Dogfish’s stock and trade. Add a bit of northern Chinese flora like apple or radish, and it’d be ready to go on shelves next to Midas Touch—made with “ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas”—or that bog-berry ale paying tribute to a 3,500-year-dead Danish “dancer or priestess.”