Stanford students, together with their professors, have successfully recreated an ancient Chinese beer recipe and found it quite enjoyable. The 5,000-thousand-year old recipe was picked up from remnants of ceramic vessels.
Last year, Li Liu, Stanford Sir Robert Ho Tung Professor in Chinese Archaeology, and her team performed a dig in northeast China. There, they found pieces of ceramic vessels that contained the ancient beer recipe.
After proper analysis, they discovered that the recipe contained barley or millet, small amounts of lily root and yam, and a species of grass from the area, called Job’s tears. Afterwards, the scientists had their students brew the magical beverage and successfully added it to their list of ancient beers.
Thus, the students brewed the beer, tasted it, and then detailed the whole process in a paper. Jiajing Wang, one of the co-authors of the study and post-doctoral candidate at Stanford, said that this endeavor is not only useful for students, but also for professors. Students may get prepared for a future career in archaeology and also experience what such a work implies. At the same time, they can help their professors with the research.
Archaeology is not just about analyzing artifacts and reading books. This research helps students understand what else is important in the work of an archaeologist, namely using the ancient methods to do things and thus understanding the ways and motivation of our predecessors.
The first step the students had to do in the brewing process was malting. They sprouted red wheat seeds in water, then they crushed them, put them back in water, and then let them mash. Lastly, they let it ferment for a week.
When it comes to the taste of the beer, the students found it more fruity and tasting rather like cider than beer. However, it was still incredibly tasty and full of flavor.
The class that Liu teaches at Stanford is called “Archaeology of Food”. The purpose of the class is to make students understand ancient cultures through their eating and drinking habits. What this brewing research did, apart from teaching students archaeological methods, was to discover that barley was introduced in East Asia 1,000 years earlier than it was documented.
The research suspect that barley was introduced rather for the making of alcohol and not as a source of food.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons