• Sun. Sep 25th, 2022

Now you can soon drink beers like David and Goliath

Using pottery shards from sacred lands, Israeli researchers have revived tribes of ancient yeast, the Times of Israel reports.

Antique yeast offers new possibilities
Using yeast that has lain dormant for thousands of years, a team of Israeli biologists, archaeologists and beer producers have brewed the beer that Goliath must have been drinking when he met a young shepherd named David. And provided seed funding is secured, biblical beer will soon hit supermarket shelves.

Interdisciplinary collaboration yielded pot
In an interdisciplinary experiment, researchers isolated six yeast strains from potsherds used for beer or wine excavated at ancient holy sites – formerly populated by the Philistines, Canaanites, Egyptians or Jews . These are the biblical Tell es-Safi / Gath (c. 850 BC), the Bronze Age En-Besor in the Negev and an Egyptian brewery found in Tel Aviv’s Ha-Masger Street (both c. 3100 BCE) and Jerusalem’s Ramat Rachel (ca. 8th to 4th century BCE).

Following DNA sequencing and other high-tech medical imaging and identification methods, the six isolated strains of viable yeast were successfully revived and used to brew drinkable “old beers”. Each brew had different aromas depending on the yeast strain, according to the latest peer-reviewed mBio journal paper: “Isolation and characterization of living yeast cells from ancient potsherds as a tool in biarcheology.”

The experiment was initiated by Dr. Ronen Hazan, a microbiologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Dentistry and Dental Education, and his colleague, biologist, Michael Klutstein and beer brewer, Itai Gutman. The project is gradually being carried out with several archaeologists and other scholars from the Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority, Tel Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University.

“We are talking about a real breakthrough here. This is the first time we have managed to produce old alcohol from old yeast. In other words, from the original substances from which alcohol was produced. It has never happened before,” said the archaeologist. Dr. Yitzhak Paz of the Israel Antiquities Authority in a press release.

Paz added: “This is the first time living yeast was actually extracted, identified and recreated from ancient pottery shards used to make alcoholic beverages drunk in ancient times. The groundbreaking research opens up the possibility that other ancient foods in ancient pottery shards can also be restored. . “

The initiator, Hazan, has his core work on Hadassah – a much more sober work than his current experiment suggests, writes Times of Israel: He is a microbiologist who mainly works with bacteriophages (virus of bacteria). Recently, he noted that for the first time in Israel, the bacteriophages were used to cure a patient suffering from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which prevented the patient’s leg amputation.

Hazan told the Times of Israel prior to the publication of the research results that the project is the fulfillment of a long-standing dream of interdisciplinary collaboration with archaeologists. “It was fun for us to work in an interdisciplinary environment with biologists, archaeologists and crazy beer producers – not to mention all the beer and fun we had alongside the research,” he added.

Part of the fun, he said, was the work and brainstorming with his students, including Tzemach Aouizerat, who isolated the old yeast strains from the small nanopores of the potsherds. After the strains were purified and DNA sequenced, Dr. Amir Szitenberg from the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center with his analysis and found that some of the ancient strains resembled the modern yeast or those used today in traditional African beers.

Science and beer brewing went hand in hand
In a combination of science and craft brewing, the isolated yeast was brewed separately with the help of beer expert, Guttman and a modern recipe. The different brews had very different tastes: During fermentation, the different yeasts emit different gases with flavors or aromas based on their genetic characteristics and source.

In the next phase, the researchers isolated the ingredients from the gas that had been produced during the fermentation of the yeast, in order to understand what was in the original brew in which the organisms had been used thousands of years ago.
According to the IAA’s press release, the taste and aroma of the beer was chemically analyzed by Dr. Eliyashiv Drori from Ariel University, and a team of certified tasters on behalf of the International Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) led by Shmuel Nakai.

Old Brew
The two ceramic beer jars excavated at Tell es-Safi / Gath do not look like German beer mugs. They are rounded, look like a vase and have a spout. Behind the spout are holes – just like on a watering can. The majority of the beer produced in the study was made from yeast found in the jars.

Everyone drank beer in the ancient world
Beer was drunk by rich, poor, adults and children, according to Paz, beer was also used in religious rituals. Ancient beer was not a clear liquid like modern beer. Ancient beers have sediment and were made from different kinds of grains: millet, corn and wheat.

Yeast with single-celled organisms is found in more than 1,500 strains and is found naturally in, for example, salt water, in the soil and between our sweaty toes. In many types of wine, the yeast found on the skin of the grape is utilized, while in others different strains are added to produce different flavors.

When mass production of beer began in the 20th century, the tribes were isolated. Yeast strains suitable for brewing and baking bread were protected in a mixture of active yeast. Today, sourdough bread is baked in the same way.

Same beer as Goliath drank?
Does the beer taste like the antique beer?
“It’s very difficult to answer,” Hazan admitted. “Besides using modern ingredients, we must remember that we only managed to isolate a small amount of yeast out of many more different kinds, which were in the original sourdough. Therefore, we do not know what the taste was like then.” >

Archaeologist Paz said all the tribes were “drinkable”. As far as they were close to the authentic ancient brews, he said: “It is meant that the main ingredient there the ancient yeast, and since the product was very close to beer, known today in Ethiopia and elsewhere, we believe , that the taste we obtained is very dense, if not identical with that known in ancient times. “

The published research is only the first phase of a long-term experiment, Hazan said.

“We will continue to work with our insulation method. It will add more knowledge about the yeast that was in the clay. In addition, analyzes and plant seeds also show what ingredients and plants were used for brewing. It will hopefully mean that we will achieve a taste closer to the authentic taste, “Hazan said.

Hazan said the team plans to use an old recipe. Yeast research has opened the door to using more foods from the past, Hazan said.

“The study is important for several reasons. Firstly, it opens up new avenues for experimental archeology, which seeks to reconstruct things from the past. Secondly, it influences the study of human diet and microorganisms. Our methods are not limited to yeast, they can also be used for cheese, wine, pickles and other fermented foods, “he said.

When can we tastee the old brew?
“We are currently working with Yissum, the R D company at the Hebrew University, to find investors who are interested in marketing it,” Hazan said.

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