Archeologists unearth a 5,000 year-old brewery

In 2006 David Cohen opened The Dancing Camel Brewery, which holds the distinction of being Israel’s oldest production microbrewery. However, oldest is a relative term. Workers for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently unearthed remains of an ancient brewery in Tel Aviv that predates Cohen’s brewery by 5,000 years. Archeologists discovered the relics at a dig site just two blocks from The Dancing Camel Brewery.

“Among the hundreds of pottery shards that characterize the local culture, a number of fragments of large ceramic basins were discovered that were made in an Egyptian tradition and were used to prepare beer,” excavation director Diego Barkan said in a statement from the IAA. “Beer was the Egyptian national drink and was a staple along with bread.”

“It was made from a mixture of barley and water that was partially baked and then left to ferment in the sun. Various fruit concentrates were added to this mixture in order to flavor the beer,” added Barkan.

The dig site in Tel Aviv. Photo credits: Israel Antiquities Authority.
The dig site in Tel Aviv. Photo credits: Israel Antiquities Authority.

It’s not news that ancient Egyptians drank beer. Previous excavations in Egypt’s Delta region unearthed breweries proving that beer was already being brewed in the mid-fourth millennium BC. Experts agree that beer was consumed by all people regardless of age, sex, or social standing but debate whether it was consumed as part of a regular diet or only for special occasions.

As far as David Cohen is concerned, he’s thinking of this discovery as an opportunity for The Dancing Camel Brewery. Cohen focuses on producing beers that are distinctly Israeli, brewed in the setting of a typical American microbrewery. The beers vary seasonally, but local ingredients are key.

“We brew beers, for the most part, where we try to use local ingredients as much as possible,” Cohen said. “Any clues that I can possibly get from the archaeologists, I’d be happy to understand what kind of beer they were making here.”

For archeologists, this discovery is only tangentially related to beer. Earlier discoveries found evidence of ancient Egyptian communities to the south, in the Negev and along its Mediterranean coast, but this is the first time discovering such ancient Egyptian relics as far north as Tel Aviv.

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