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Craft brewer from Biratenu, the Jerusalem Beer Center, Shmuel Naky, right, pours beer during a press conference in Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Israeli researchers raised a glass Wednesday to celebrate a long-brewing project from the make of beer, and also with the help of yeast harvested from ancient clay vessels, some more than 5000 years old. Archaeologists and microbiologists to study together yeast colonies found in microscopic pores in the ancient pottery fragments. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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Old jars are on display during a press conference in Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Israeli researchers celebrated Wednesday a long-brewing project of making beer, and also with the help of yeast harvested from ancient clay vessels, some more than 5000 years old. Archaeologists and microbiologists to study together yeast colonies found in microscopic pores in pottery fragments. The shards were found on Egyptian, Philistine, and of Judea, archaeological sites in Israel, ranging from 3000 BC to the 4th century BC. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
JERUSALEM – Israeli researchers raised a glass Wednesday to celebrate a long-brewing project from the make of beer, and also with the help of yeast harvested from ancient clay vessels —some more than 5000 years old.
Archaeologists and microbiologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority and four Israeli universities teamed up to study yeast colonies found in microscopic pores in pottery fragments. The shards were found on Egyptian, Philistine, and of Judea, archaeological sites in Israel, ranging from 3000 BC to the 4th century BC.
The scientists are touting the brews made of the “resurrected” yeasts as a major step in the experimental archaeology, a field that wants to reconstruct the past in order to better understand the taste of the old world.
“What we discovered was that the yeast can actually survive for a very, very long time without food,” said the Hebrew University microbiologist Michael Klutstein. “Today, we are able to rescue all these living organisms that live in the nanopores and to revive them and study their properties.”
Beer was a staple of the daily diet for the people of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Early Egyptian texts refer to a variety of different beers, including the “iron beer,” “friend’s beer” and “beer of the protector.”
The yeast samples were returned to the nearly two dozen ceramic vessels found at the excavations around the country, including a salvage dig in the centre of Tel Aviv, a Persian-era palace in the south of Jerusalem, and the ‘en Besor, a 5000 year old Egyptian brewery near Israel’s border with the Gaza strip.
Other researchers of the ancient beers, such as the University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Patrick McGovern, have invented drinks based on ancient recipes, and residue analysis of ceramics. But the Israeli scientists say this is the first time fermented beverages are made from revived old yeast.
His Maeir, a Bar Ilan University archaeologist, digs at Tel es-Safi, the biblical city of Gath, where the ancient Philistine pots of beer produced yeasts used for brewing of a beer offered to the journalists. He compared the revival of the long-dormant yeast to the resurrection of the old beasts romanticized in “Jurassic Park”, but only to a point.
“In Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs eat the scientists,” he said. “Here, the scientists drink of the dinosaurs.”
“It opens up a whole new field of possibility that there may be other micro-organisms survived, and you can identify food, such as cheese, wine, pickles,” the opening of a portal in the taste of cultures from the past, ” he said.
For this first experiment, the team associated with Jerusalem craft brewer to create a simple, modern style ale using yeast extracted from the pots. The beer had a thick white head, with a caramel color and a distinctly funky nose. The beer is made using yeast extract of a vessel found in the ruins of a palace in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, which is honey wine, about 2400 years ago, was the champagne bubbles and dry, with a hint of green apple.
The beer incorporates modern ingredients such as the hops, which were not available in the ancient Middle East, but it is the revived yeast that provides much of the flavor.
“We have tried to recreate some of the old flavours that the people in this area were the consumption of hundreds and thousands of years ago,” said Shmuel Naky, a craft brewer from the Jerusalem Beer Center, which helped produce the beer, and co. Yeasts, he said, “have a very large influence on the taste.”
Naky described the beer as “spicy and a little fruity, and it is very complex in the taste,” all the characteristics produced by the old yeast.
Genome sequencing of yeast colonies extracted from the pots turned out that the old strain of yeast was different from the yeast used in making beer today, but similar to that still used to make traditional Zimbabwean beer and Ethiopian tej, a kind of honey wine.
The researchers said that their next goal is the linking of the risen yeast with old beer recipes to better reproduce drinks from the ancient times.