Today we’re thrilled to release Mijiaya, a neolithic sour ale based on a 5,000 year old recipe discovered by Stanford archaeologists. Using chemical analysis on the residue inside clay vessels found at the Mijiaya dig site in Xi’an, the researchers uncovered that they were looking at a stone-age microbrewery that made beer from starches like Mountain Yam, Broomcorn Millet, and Job’s Tears, and surprisingly… Barley! This makes the Mijiaya site the earliest evidence of a barley-based “beer” in China, brewed thousands of years before the crop became a staple in the region.

Joined by our friends Laszlo and Michele from Moonzen Brewery, Alex and Kris traveled to Xi’an to visit the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology and see the tools used by brewers in the late Yangshao period (3400 to 2900 B.C.), including pots and a stove used to provide heat during mashing, funnels, and fermentation vessels.

Having planned out the list of grains and tubers to use in our recipe, along with other ingredients that would have been added for flavor, like hawthorn fruit and lily bulb, we still had one crucial element still missing: the yeast!

On Dr. Li Liu’s recommendation we traveled up to the Yulin in northern Shaanxi Province, still a major millet-growing area, to meet with a local farmer (Mr Huang Maohuang) who still practices the tradition of brewing Hunjiu, a spontaneously fermented drink made with a mix of local millet and other cereals. Armed with a sample of the wild yeast that gives hunjiu its tart and fruity flavor, we returned to Beijing to get brewing…

Today, 京A and Moonzen are both unveiling our takes on this ancient recipe…

Mijiaya Neolithic Ale
3.7%  | 0 IBU
A 5000 year-old recipe for sour ale recreated with the help of Archaeologists at Stanford and the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology. Based on their findings at the Mijiaya dig site in Shaanxi province – the earliest evidence of barley-based brewing in China – this beer was made with broomcorn millet, barley, mountain yam, and Job’s tears, plus hawthorn fruit, lily bulb, honey, and snake gourd root… all ingredients available to the ancient brewers of the late Yangshao period (3400 to 2900 B.C.). It was then soured with wild yeast collected on a farm in northern Shaanxi. Brewed without hops, this beer has an effervescent lemon tartness that cuts through the sweet and earthy flavors of its ancient fermentables.

Proceeds from the sale of this beer will help fund ongoing research into ancient Chinese fermentation techniques. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Prof. Li Liu at Stanford, Dr. Sun Zhouyong and Xing Fulai at the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology, and to Mr. Huang Maohua in Yulin!