Greece's oldest beer breweries discovered
London: Scientists have discovered the oldest beer-making facilities in Greece dating back to the Bronze Age, dispelling the notion that the ancient Greeks only indulged in wine.
The finding, published in the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, shows that Greeks were "using alcoholic drinks for feasts all year-round, instead of just on a seasonal basis," when grapes were ripe.
"It is an unexpected find for Greece, because until now all evidence pointed to wine," said Tania Valamoti, associate professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.
Archaeologists found remains of several buildings that may have been used for beer making.
The sites, located at Archondiko in northern Greece and another at Agrissa in eastern Greece had been wrecked by fire, which turned them into time capsules of sorts, Valamoti told 'Live Science'.
People moved out after the fire, leaving countless burned artifacts behind, including the remains of sprouted cereal grains.
At Archondiko, archaeologists found about 100 individual sprouted cereal grains dating to the early Bronze Age, from about 2100 to 2000 BC.
At Agrissa, they found about 3,500 sprouted cereal grains dating to the middle Bronze Age, from about 2100 to 1700 BC.
To make beer, a brewer sprouts cereal grains - a process known as malting - which changes the grain's starch into sugars.
This sprouting process is then interrupted by roasting the grain. Next, the grains are coarsely ground and mixed with lukewarm water to make wort, which helps convert the remaining starches into sugars.
Finally, during alcoholic fermentation, "the sugars in the malt are used by yeast, which is present in the air or introduced with grapes or from other sources," Valamoti said.
Researchers also found a two-chambered structure at Archondiko that was carefully constructed to maintain low temperatures in the rear chamber, possibly even below 100 degrees Celsius.
Given that a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius is ideal for preparing the mash and wort, it is possible that ancient people used this structure during the beer-making process, Valamoti said. Although the discovery may be the oldest-known evidence of beer in Greece, it is not the oldest in the world, she said.