Yissum - Research Development Company of the Hebrew University

Holy Land Brews: Beer Brewed by Ancient Yeast from Archaeological Sites

Posted by Yissum - Research Development Company of the Hebrew UniversityResponsive · Innovative Products and Technologies · Israel

Summary of the technology

Isolation and Characterization of Live Yeast Cells from Ancient Vessels as a Tool in Bio-Archeology
Key words: ancient fermented food and beverages, ancient pottery vessels, beer,
bio-archeology, experimental archeology, yeasts
Project ID : 18-2019-8739

Yissum - Research Development Company of the Hebrew University

Description of the technology

Category

LifeSciences and BioTechnology

Keywords

ancient fermented food and beverages, ancient pottery vessels, beer,

bio-archeology, experimental archeology, yeasts

Application

Experimental archaeology is a field of research that studies ancient cultures by trying to reconstruct ancient lifestyles. Extensive evidence of wine and beer production in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Near East as early as the mid-4th millennium BCE has been discovered.

There have been several attempts to recreate ancient beer and wine, but those were always brewed using modern ingredients combined with modern domesticated commercial yeast and not with the actual microorganisms that might have been used in the production of these fermented beverages.

Our Innovation

Aromatic and flavorful beer produced from original beverage-producing ancient yeast strains.

  • Ancient yeast was isolated from ancient vessels (dated 3100-500 BCE) excavated at archaeological sites in Israel, the holy land. Vessels belong to vessel types that, based on their shape, or organic residue analysis, were considered to have contained fermented beverages such as beer and mead (honey wine).
  • Drinkable alcoholic beverages (~6% alcohol) using a standard common recipe of beer brewing
  • The flavor and aroma assessments were performed according to the BJCP’s judge procedure manual (https://www.bjcp.org/judgeprocman.php)

Technology

Large amounts of yeast cells that grew during repeated series of fermentations in the vessels, in antiquity, were absorbed into the nanopores of the vessels. These yeast cells altered the composition of the microorganisms’ population and remained as microcolonies, which continued to grow and survive over millennia in the ceramic matrices, based on occasional supply of moisture and nutrients.

Opportunity

Our work allows a more precise recreation of ancient-like beverages than ever before, unlocking enormous potential for the study of a broad range of food-related issues in antiquity, including:

  • Expanding the knowledge about the ancient diet of diverse societies in many periods and locations
  • Understanding links between cultures or identity groups and technological transfer between them, uncovering trade routes and food preparation technologies
  • Obtaining insights into the actual somatic aspects (aroma and flavors) of ancient foods and beverages.

Furthermore, the findings here might open new avenues in archeological research, and can most probably be expanded to other microorganisms and topics, from disease-borne bacteria to food-associated bacteria, such as those used in fermented beverages, cheese, and pickles.

Project manager

Mel Larrosa
VP Business Development Healthcare

Project researchers

Ronen Hazan
HUJI, Faculty of Dental Medicine
Institute of Dental Sciences

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About Yissum - Research Development Company of the Hebrew University

Technology Transfer Office from Israel

Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ltd. Founded in 1964 to protect and commercialize the Hebrew University’s intellectual property. Ranked among the top technology transfer companies, Yissum has registered over 8,900 patents covering 2,500 inventions; has licensed out 800 technologies and has spun-off 90 companies. Products that are based on Hebrew University technologies and were commercialized by Yissum generate today over $2 Billion in annual sales.

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