It’s probably no coincidence that archaeological evidence for beer-making dates to around the same time that people began to settle down to plant crops. Some historians and archaeologists have suggested the possibility that humans settled down and formed civilizations because of wine or beer—the need to grow grain or grapes in a controlled environment.
At a 9,000-year-old burial site in China called Qiaotou, archaeologists recently unearthed a number of ceramic vessels. Some of the vessels were shaped like the long-necked, round-bellied bronze pots that people used for alcoholic drinks millennia later. And that made Dartmouth College anthropologist Jiajing Wang and his colleagues wonder whether these earlier clay versions might have once held beer, too.
I like to tease my archaeologist friends that whenever they find something they can’t easily explain, they say “religious artifact!” But that’s probably a good guess here, given the complexity of the brewing process at this point in history, and the nature of the pottery. Funerary rites are probably the earliest kinds of celebrations performed by people, and this mysterious liquid, which allowed people to commune with spirits, would have had a central role.
Around 9,000 years ago, people in southern China were just starting to farm rice. […] Rice appears to have been a luxury crop at the time, and rice beer—considering the extra effort and time required to make it—would have been reserved for very special occasions.
“This ancient beer, though, would not have been like the IPA that we have today. Instead, it was likely a slightly fermented and sweet beverage, which was probably cloudy in color.”
This is similar to how ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, and Georgian beer seems to have been served. Though the Egyptians and Sumerians drank their beer through straws that could filter the liquid: