A Team of Scientists Resurrect Yeast from 5,000-Year-Old Beer Jugs to Recreate Brew

A team of researchers was able to resurrect 5000 years old yeast to create a high-quality beer.

 Microbiologists from the School of Dental Medicine at the Hebrew University, Dr. Ronen Hazan and Dr. Michael Klutstein, examined colonies of yeast that formed and settled in the pottery's nano-pores, once used to produce beer in antiquity.


Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAI), Bar Ilan University and Tel Aviv University gave Dr. Hazan and Dr. Klutstein shards of pottery that had been used as beer and mead (honey wine) jugs back in ancient times—and miraculously, still had yeast specimens stuck inside.   These jars date back to the reign of Egyptian Pharaoh Narmer (roughly 3000 BCE), to Aramean King Hazael (800 BCE) and to Prophet Nehemiah (400 BCE) who, according to the bible, governed Judea under Persian rule.

 Amir Szitenberg at the Dead Sea-Arava Science Center for analysis.  Szitenberg found that these 5,000-year yeast cultures are similar to those used in traditional African brews, such as the Ethiopian honey wine tej, and to modern beer yeast.

 Local Israeli beer expert Itai Gutman then helped the scientists to produce beer.  The brew was sampled by Ariel University’s Dr. Elyashiv Drori, as well as by certified tasters from the International Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), under the direction of brewer and Biratenu owner Shmuel Nakai.  The testers gave the beer a thumbs up, deeming it high-quality and safe for consumption. 

 "The greatest wonder here is that the yeast colonies survived within the vessel for thousands of years—just waiting to be excavated and grown" explained Hazan "this ancient yeast allowed us to create a beer that lets us know what ancient Philistine and Egyptian beer tasted like. By the way, the beer isn’t bad.  Aside from the gimmick of drinking beer from the time of King Pharaoh, this research is extremely important to the field of experimental archaeology—a field that seeks to reconstruct the past.  Our research offers new tools to examine ancient methods, and enables us to taste the flavors of the past."