Chemical analyses of ancient organics absorbed, and preserved, in pottery jars from the Neolithic village of Jiahu, in Henan province, Northern China, have revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey, and fruit was being produced as early as 9,000 years ago, approximately the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East.
Early Neolithic people in Jiahu, a village in China’s Henan Province, invented the earliest known alcoholic beverage. As the staff of this magazine and your guides to the world of archaeology, we felt it was our place–nay, our duty–to tell you how the stuff tastes.
Archaeochemist and ancient wine expert Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology analyzed residue in the pores of 9,000-year-old potsherds found in Jiahu. Using high-powered acronyms like GC-MS, HPLC-MS, and FT-IR, he determined the pots once held ancient booze made with rice, honey, and hawthorn fruit. No one has any idea about the process used to make it, but McGovern recruited the crafty brewers at Dogfish Head in Milton, Delaware, to help reconstruct a palatable version.