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Students brew beer using 5,000-year-old recipe from China
by Brooks Hays
Palo Alto, Calif. (UPI) Feb 8, 2017

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Many college students -- if desperate enough, or late enough -- aren't above settling for skunked beer, a can that sat out in the sun for too long, for example. But few have tasted the funky notes of a home-brewed jar of suds inspired by ancient Chinese beer-making techniques.

Recently, Stanford students tasted the results of their brewing experiments inspired by ancient recipes. One of recipes was the 5,000-year-old Chinese formula discovered last year by a team of researchers led by Li Liu, a professor in Chinese archaeology at Stanford.

Liu and her colleagues gleaned the ingredient list from residue left behind on the insides of ancient ceramic vessels discovered at an excavation site in northeast China. Their analysis suggested ancient Chinese beer-makers relied on cereal grains, including millet, barley and Job's tears, a type of Asian grass. They also detected small amounts of yam and lily root.

Students recreated the beer by sprouting red wheat seeds in water, the malting process. The sprouted seeds were crushed, put again in water and placed in a oven set to 149 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour -- the mashing process. Finally, the mash was allowed sit at room temperature to ferment for a week.

Students claimed the end result recalled cider and was surprisingly palatable, with a fruity aroma and a citrusy flavor.

"The beer that students made and analyzed will be incorporated into our final research findings," doctoral candidate Jiajing Wang, who assisted Liu in the original research, said in a news release. "In that way, the class gives students an opportunity to not only experience what the daily work of some archaeologists looks like but also contribute to our ongoing research."

Liu's class is called "Archaeology of Food" and her research focuses on understanding ancient cultures through food and drink. The study of eating behaviors can illuminate and explain the patterns of ancient history. Her analysis of ancient Chinese beer jugs revealed the presence of barley 1,000 years before the crop was known to have been cultivated in East Asia.

"Our results suggest the purpose of barley's introduction in China could have been related to making alcohol rather than as a staple food," Liu said.

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