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Stanford University students recreate 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe

Published 07 February 2017

A team of students at Stanford University in California, US, have recreated 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe.

The research revealed that the ancient Chinese made beer especially with cereal grains, including millet and barley, as well as with Job’s tears, a type of grass in Asia.

At the end of Liu’s class, each student tried to imitate the ancient Chinese beer using either wheat, millet or barley seeds.

Stanford professor and head of the research, Li Liu noted that it was surprising to find barley in China 5000 years ago. Earlier evidence pointed that Barley was introduced in the country some 4000 years ago.

Liu noted that barley could have been first produced in western Asia and then spread to China. She also said that barley was mainly used for beer production, rather as direct consumption.

The beer made from the ancient recipe also appears more like today’s porridge, tasting sweeter and fruitier than the clear and bitter beers. The ingredients used in beer production were not filtered out and straws were used for drinking.

As part of the experiment, the seeds were let to sprout and then they were crushed and boiled in water at 65°C (149°F) for an hour and the containers were sealed with plastic and set to stand at room temperature for about a week to ferment.

The brews made by the students had a fruity smell and citrus taste, similar to cider. According to Liu, the results of the experiments will be used in further research on ancient alcohol-making.

Liu noted that involving students with experiments not only gives them a glimpse about how archaeology works, but it can also add to the ongoing research.