hist-brewing: bronze age beer

Arriano at aol.com Arriano at aol.com
Sun Nov 29 11:40:24 PST 1998

Came across this AP story of 11/27/98. Does anyone have any idea what the
preservative herbs would have been?

Spanish Recreate a Bronze Age Beer

.c The Associated Press


MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Archeologists who scraped residue from the bottom of a
broken clay jar have cooked up Bronze Age beer.

In a feat reminiscent of Jurassic Park dinosaur-breeding, University of
Barcelona researchers say they have recreated a batch of Europe's oldest beer.

The result may not be for everyone -- thickish, on the dark side and a bit
flat. Plus it has particles floating in it, and packs a 16-proof punch.

The 3,100-year-old recipe was pieced together through microscopic examination
of scrapings from the bottom of a red clay jar found at an archeological dig
known as Geno, in Spain's northeast Catalonia region.

Jose Luis Maya, a history professor, said Friday that he and other researchers
turned to brewers at a nearby San Miguel beer plant for help in cooking up a
fresh batch of old beer.

And they insisted on brewing it by hand, like in the Bronze Age. ``We did not
use any of the technology at the factory,'' he said in an interview from

Maya said tests done on the Geno residue showed the brewers used barley and a
kind of wheat called emmer. ``They also added herbs as preservatives,'' Maya
said. ``That's the problem with beer. If you don't add preservatives, it goes
bad quickly.''

In its day, the Geno site was a settlement of about 100 people who abandoned
it after a fire. For centuries it lay undiscovered, until soldiers digging a
machine-gun nest in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 stumbled across it.

The site has been under continuous study since 1976.

Maya said the Geno beer residue is the oldest ever discovered in Europe. But
he noted that remains of sorghum beer made 9,000 years ago have been found in
Sudan and that beer was widely popular among the ancient Egyptians.

Maya said his team's beer filled 400 bottles, which were unveiled Thursday at
a tasting for university officials and the media.

The reviews were generally positive. Some of the tasters even said the beer
should be produced commercially, but Maya ruled this out. ``We just made it
for fun,'' he said.

AP-NY-11-27-98 1909EST

 Copyright 1998 The Associated Press. 

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