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Stanford Students Recreate Ancient Chinese Beer Recipe

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Students from Stanford University have recreated ancient Chinese beer, giving new insights into the history and culture of the country. According to their results, it tasted fruity and cider-like.

In May 2016, Li Liu, an archeology professor, and her team discovered ancient pottery pieces that gave clues to how beer was brewed 5,000 years ago. Specifically, there was mention of what ingredients were used, Tech Times reports. This find is now considered one of the world’s oldest known alcoholic beverages.

Nine months later, the same team asked Stanford students to recreate the beer by brewing their own versions as part of a final project for Liu’s class. She said,

Archaeology is not just about reading books and analyzing artifacts.

She added that recreating past customs lets researchers further understand ancient behaviors and customs.

Liu and Jiajing Wang, a doctoral candidate at Stanford, led an excavation in northeast China and found residue on pottery vessels. Upon analysis, the researchers detected barley and millet, along with a type of grass called Job’s tears. There were also traces of lily root and yam.

The students used different grains to make the beer: barley, wheat or millet seeds. They covered the grain with water and allowed it to sprout. Then the seeds were crushed and mixed with water, placed in an oven for an hour then enclosed in plastic at room temperature for fermentation.

Madeleine Ota, one of the undergraduate students, used red wheat. She said that a white mold floated on top of the beer she was able to concoct, but it did have a pleasant, fruity smell and tasted somewhat citrusy.

In addition to the Chinese recipe, the students likewise used other old beer-making methods and ingredients to imitate recipes like the South American “chicha.” This involves chewing and spitting manioc, boiling it and allowing it to ferment.

The beers created will be added to the research findings of Liu and the team.

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