Using new technology and ancient grains, an Israeli brewer has managed to recreate the beer that Jesus and his contemporaries may have enjoyed 2,000 years ago.
The project began when Itai Gutman, the owner of Herzl Brewery, read an article about geneticists in Tel Aviv who had discovered the genome of an ancient strain of wheat grown and consumed in Israel during the era of Jesus. A “light bulb” lit up, said Gutman in a video posted by ILTV Israel Daily, and he contacted the researchers right away.
“Within a few days I had several kilograms of this material, we just started to process and eventually is this beer that we’re drinking,” he said.
He brewed a five-gallon batch of the beer, and was very surprised by the results, which included notes of honey and berries.
“The flavor was surprising. This is something that we never expected. We got kind of this red fruit, kind of a raspberry flavor, and there is no fruit additions into it and it’s only because of the grains we used,” Gutman explained.
The beer also has an unusually low alcohol content of only three percent (the average brew contains between four and six percent), which may explain why wine, and not beer, was the drink of the Bible. (Wine is about four times as potent, with an alcohol content between 12 and 14 percent).
However, while beer is not mentioned in the Bible, it was certainly present in ancient Israel. Beer was very popular in neighboring Egypt, and archeological finds prove that it made its way into northwards into Canaan. In 2015, an excavation in Tel Aviv turned up Egyptian beer-making vessels over 5,000 years old.
Interestingly, the fermenting process of the ancient Egyptian beer included fruit concentrates, indicating that the fruity flavor was popular across the region in ancient times.
“The historians, they say that beer is coming from around this area of the world, from the Middle East area, Mesopotamia and what was there back then,” related Gutman. According to the theory, he continued, Romans brought the beer to Europe, leaving wine as the main alcoholic beverage of choice in Israel.
Gutman and his friends have consumed most of the batch made from the 2,000-year-old-recipe. He has no plans to bottle or sell the beer, likely because of its strange taste, though there is little doubt that many would be interested in experiencing the unique flavor of Jesus-era beer.