5,000-Year-Old Beer-Brewing Operation Uncovered in China

After archaeological excavations in the central plains of China, scientists have now identified 5,000-year-old brewing equipment and beer residue that shows the earliest evidence of Chinese brewing.

The scientists uncovered pottery fragments from several different vessels, which they believe was part of an early “beer-making toolkit”, according to Science. The unique shape of each vessel they discovered corresponds to different stages of the beer-making process: brewing, filtration, and storage. Chemical analysis of the ancient yellowish residues on the vessel fragments confirmed the equipment was used for brewing; starch grains were mangled and swollen, a result of malting and mashing steps early in the brewing process. With their results, the scientists pieced together a historic beer recipe. They found a brew made of millet and barley grain and for sweetening, yam and lily (but no hops).


Since barley didn’t achieve staple food status in central China until 2,000 years ago, archaeologists and scientists were surprised to find the barley-based Chinese beer during the digging. And this discovery suggests that it was actually the beer-making that brought barley to China and not subsistence farming, which was the belief all along.