Czech scientists brew beer according to 3,000-year old recipe

Czech scientists have made a unique discovery suggesting that the oldest herbal millet beer could have been brewed in Bohemia. They came across the evidence while studying a 3000-year-old bronze vessel, unearthed in the village of Kladina in 2017.

The bronze vessel was discovered four years ago in a forest near the East Bohemian town of Pardubice. It was decorated with motifs of sun discs and swans, and is believed to have been hidden underground as an offering to the deities.

Archaeologist Martin Golec says similar bronze vessels have been found in Europe before. However, Czech archaeologists were the first ones to explore the content, storing the inner layers of the vessel for further research:

“The archaeologists saw remnants of sediment at the bottom when they pulled out the vessel from the ground. There was dirt residue both on the inside and outside. The chemist, who took the samples, thought it could be cereal grains, and indeed he was able to find a chemical fingerprint of millet.”

Photo: East Bohemian Museum in Pardubice

What the experts discovered was a substance called miliacin, considered to be an indicator of millet. They also detected traces of different herbs and cooked potato starch. This led them to believe that our ancestors used the vessel to make bitter herbal beer.

Following the discovery, chemist Lukáš Kučera from the University of Olomouc decided to brew the beer based on the old recipe. The beer is based on millet, wormwood and wild yeast.

He was inspired by Belgian lambic beers, which are left in open vats, where wild yeast and bacteria are allowed to take up residence and then stored in barrels to age. He also said he brewed the beer lighter, to make it slightly less bitter:

“What makes this beer specific is that it needs to be fermented with wild yeast. You cannot buy this type of yeast in a shop. That's why I purposely fermented the beer in the vicinity of apples.

“The beer has a characteristic acidic flavour that will remind you of cider or wine, rather than beer. It has the colour of beer, it smells like cider and tastes a bit like lemon.”

Photo: East Bohemian Museum in Pardubice

Zuzana Golec Mírová from the Faculty of Arts at Charles University says that the large volume of the vessel suggests that its content was consumed by large groups of people:

“It was some kind of a social event where these people came together and consumed the possibly hallucinogenic content in order to communicate with gods, because alcohol itself works as a kind of mediator between humans and deities.”

The rare Bronze Age vessel has already been restored and will become part of a permanent exhibition at the East Bohemian Museum in Pardubice. Its director, Tomáš Libánek, hopes that in the future, millet beer made according to the 3000-year-old recipe could be served in the museum’s café.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Naďa Kubínková
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