How to Make 3,000-Year-Old Beer

How to Make 3,000-Year-Old Beer

Imagine savoring a brew that takes you back thousands of years to the ancient courts of Egypt. In “How to Make 3,000-Year-Old Beer,” you'll dive into the fascinating journey of Dylan McDonnell, an amateur brewer from Utah, who meticulously combined rare figs and an ancient yeast strain from 850 B.C. Unearthed in the throes of a pandemic-inspired curiosity, McDonnell's endeavor led to an amber elixir he believes mirrors what Rameses the Great might have sipped. This captivating tale showcases how age-old recipes can bridge the millennia, connecting us to our ancient ancestors one sip at a time. Have you ever wondered what it might be like to take a sip from a glass of beer that was enjoyed 3,000 years ago? Imagine it's a warm, sunny day and you're in ancient Egypt, savoring the same flavors that Rameses the Great might have enjoyed between his battles with the Hittites. While time travel isn't possible (yet), you can actually recreate this historical brew right in your own home.

How To Make 3,000-Year-Old Beer

Introduction: The Fascination with Ancient Beers

Beer, while often seen as a modern beverage enjoyed at social gatherings, has a rich history that spans thousands of years. The process of fermenting grains to create potent drinks has been a part of human civilization for millennia. From the Vikings to the ancient Sumerians, different cultures have had their own versions of this beloved drink.

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in recreating these age-old brews. One such enthusiast is Dylan McDonnell, an amateur brewer from Utah, who has made it his mission to brew as closely as possible to the beer ancient Egyptians would have drunk.

Rediscovering Ancient Techniques

The Inspiration: Sourdough and Ancient Yeasts

The idea for brewing ancient beer struck Dylan early in the pandemic when sourdough was all the rage. He came across Seamus Blackley, a video game designer, who managed to bake bread using 4,500-year-old Egyptian yeast. If it was possible to make bread, why not ferment beer?

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The Quest for Authenticity

Dylan's journey led him to gather rare figs and a strain of yeast dating back to 850 B.C. These ingredients were crucial for emulating the taste and texture of the beers enjoyed by ancient civilizations. Unlike modern brews, which are crafted with a wide variety of hops and malts, ancient beers relied heavily on local ingredients and traditional methods.

Steps to Crafting Ancient Beer

In making a 3,000-year-old beer, you need to commit to understanding the basics of ancient brewing. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you on this fascinating journey.

Ingredients Needed

To get started, gather the following essential ingredients. Many of these can be found in specialty stores or online, but you might have to search for the more ancient-specific items.

Ingredients Notes
Grains (Barley, Emmer Wheat) Emmer wheat can be found in some specialty stores. Barley is more readily available.
Yeast (Ancient Strain) Look for ancient yeast strains through specialized suppliers.
Water Make sure it's as pure as possible; ancient water was often contaminated, hence the brewing!
Figs Fresh or dried, to add to the fermentation process.
Honey Optional, but adds a historical touch known to be used by Egyptians.
Herbs and Spices Optional, for flavoring; suggests coriander, juniper, and others were used.

Tools of the Trade

To brew your ancient beer, you'll need a few basic brewing tools, along with some that might be considered a bit old-fashioned.

Tools Purpose
Mash Tun For steeping grains in hot water.
Fermentation Vessel A good-quality glass or ceramic jar.
Wooden Spoon For stirring the mash.
Thermometer To monitor the temperature of the brew.
Strainer or Cheesecloth To separate the liquids from solids.
Clay Pots Optional, for an authentic feel.

How To Make 3,000-Year-Old Beer

Brewing Process: Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Malting

Malting is the process of turning raw grains into fermentable sugars. This is crucial because yeast feeds on these sugars to produce alcohol.

  1. Soak the Grains: Start by soaking your barley and emmer wheat in water for about 48 hours. The grains should begin to sprout.
  2. Drying: Spread the sprouted grains out on a flat surface and let them dry naturally. Ancient brewers didn't have ovens, so air-drying is most authentic.
  3. Crushing: Once the grains are dry, crush them using a stone grinder or mortar and pestle. They don't need to be powdered – a coarse crush is fine.
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Step 2: Mashing

The mashing process converts the starches from the grains into fermentable sugars.

  1. Heat the Water: Heat your water to around 150°F (65°C).
  2. Add Grains: Pour the hot water over the crushed grains in your mash tun. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture – this helps the grains break down further.
  3. Maintain Temperature: Keep the mixture at a consistent temperature for about an hour. This allows the enzymes to break down the starches.

Step 3: Lautering

Lautering separates the liquid wort from the solid grain husks.

  1. Strain the Mash: Pour the mixture through your strainer or cheesecloth into another container. The liquid you collect is called wort.
  2. Sparge: To get as much sugar out of the grains as possible, pour a bit more hot water over the grains and let it filter through.

Step 4: Boiling

Boiling the wort sterilizes it, ensuring no unwanted bacteria spoil the fermentation process.

  1. Boil the Wort: Bring the wort to a rolling boil for about an hour.
  2. Add Figs and Optional Ingredients: Halfway through, add the figs and any other herbs or spices you want to use. Ancient brewers often added these to improve flavor and longevity.

Step 5: Fermentation

Fermentation is where the magic happens – the yeast converts the sugars in the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

  1. Cool the Wort: Let the wort cool to room temperature.
  2. Transfer to Fermentation Vessel: Pour the cooled wort into your fermentation vessel.
  3. Pitch the Yeast: Add your ancient yeast strain. Seal the vessel with a breathable fabric – something that will allow carbon dioxide to escape but prevent contaminants from entering.
  4. Wait: Let your brew ferment for about two weeks. Keep it in a cool, dark place. Check occasionally to ensure everything is progressing smoothly.

Step 6: Bottling and Enjoying

  1. Strain the Beer: After fermentation, strain the beer through cheesecloth again to remove any leftover solids.
  2. Bottle: Pour the beer into clean, sterilized bottles. Seal them and let them sit for a couple of days to carbonate naturally.
  3. Taste Test: Finally, refrigerate a bottle and then enjoy your homemade ancient beer! Take a moment to relish the fact that you're tasting something remarkably similar to what our ancestors might have enjoyed thousands of years ago.
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Why Brew Ancient Beer?

A Connection to History

Brewing ancient beer offers a unique connection to our past. It allows you to experience a part of history in a tangible way. When you sip that beer, you're not just tasting a drink; you're tasting a way of life.

Educational and Fun

This brewing project is also a fantastic learning experience. Understanding the and methods of ancient brewers gives you a deeper appreciation for modern brewing. Plus, it's a fun activity that can be shared with friends curious about history and beer.

How To Make 3,000-Year-Old Beer

Expert Insights

The Historical Importance of Beer

Marie Hopwood, a scholar of ancient beer, notes that beer was integral in the ancient Near East and Levant. It wasn't just a leisure drink but a staple, often consumed by everyone as water was too often contaminated.

The Brewing Renaissance

Recent years have seen an effort to revive traditional brewing methods. Craft breweries and home brewers are diving deep into historical recipes, and it's not just about the final product. It's about the journey of discovering and recreating long-lost brewing techniques.

in Brewing Ancient Beer

Ingredient Sourcing

Finding ancient strains of yeast or specific grains like emmer wheat can be quite challenging. This might require contacting specialized suppliers or even collaborating with archaeologists.

Authenticity vs. Modern Palate

There is a significant difference between ancient and modern tastes. What was considered delightful thousands of years ago might be quite different to our taste buds today. Embracing that difference is part of the fun, but it may require a little adjusting on your part.

Technical Difficulties

Ancient brewing methods can be construed as rudimentary compared to today's advanced techniques. Balancing authenticity with modern brewing conveniences can be tricky, yet rewarding.

Tips for a Successful Brew

Start by diving into as much research as you can on ancient brewing techniques. Historical texts, scholarly articles, and even historical fiction can offer valuable insights.


Don't be afraid to experiment. Ancient brewers didn't have precise measurements and often worked through trial and error. Use this as an opportunity to explore different flavors.

Enjoy the Process

Remember, the process is as important as the product. Enjoy every step of recreating history in your kitchen or home brewery. Share the journey with friends and family to make it even more memorable.

Conclusion: Sip the Essence of History

Brewing 3,000-year-old beer is more than just a brewing project; it's a voyage through time. By undertaking this adventure, you're not only creating a unique beverage but also paying homage to an ancient culture that valued the same joy of fermentation that we do today.

So, gather your ingredients, channel your inner ancient brewer, and get started on this historical journey. Here's to sipping a glass of history – Cheers!

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