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Chinese beer and brewing


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#1 Publius

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 04:06 PM

Being a beer lover, I want to learn more about Chinese brewing and beer culture.

How similar was traditional Chinese brewing process to contemporary brewing, e.g. germinating the grain, mashing, lautering, flavoring and sterilizing the wort, adding yeast, and conditioning it to a drinkable level?

Here’s a Tang account of brewing rice ale:

To brew rice ale, the brewer ground the ferment (which was probably germinated beforehand to release its enzymes) into a fine powder, to increase area space, and then seeped it in a vat of water for three days, until bubbles formed on the top. (This mashing breaks down starches into sugars, ultimately producing fermented wort.) Charles Benn describes the rest of the process, “Then the brewer added half-steamed millet, twenty-one parts to one part of ferment, in four stages over four days and covered the pot. When the mixture smelled right and ceased bubbling, it was ready to drink. Some varieties took little time to mature.” (Benn 141).

Xu Gan Rong describes the process to make Chinese wheat Nie (sprouted grains):

“Qi Ming Yao Shuo recorded it in details, ‘The technique of making Nie is to soak the wheat in a basin in the mid-August, pour the water out instantly, spread it under sunshine, soak it and pour the water out instantly once a day, When it grow rooted, spread it out two chun ( a unit of length ) in thickness on the mat, water it once a day until it sprouts, then stop watering, collect and dry it and don't let it amassed. If amassed, it can't be used to brew.’” (1.1.4.3)

Xu also notes that Nie was used to brew Li (beer):

“There were two processes in brewing beer abroad in ancient times: one was to steep wheat (in order to make it sprout); the other was to saccharify the sprouted wheat. During the ancient ages in China , even though Qu was used to brew alcoholic drinks, steeping Qu was of the required process, it was even older than the way of mixing dry Qu into cooked rice after Tang and Song Dynasties. Steeping---Qu Brewing was rather popular during the North Wei Dynasty, that is, first to soak the Qu in water for days, then add it into rice to ferment. There appears a very noticeable problem that brewing probably inherited the traditional technique of steeping beer sprouted wheat, both stemming out of the same source. To use Nie to brew alcoholic Li in China was probably first to soak the Nie so as to let it ferment. Later Jiu Qu was invented, which was soaked in the same way. The original Jiu Qu had a weak saccharification, Jiu Qu itself might be the fermenting raw material; Later, Jiu Qu's saccharifying was improved, more rice could be added and the alcoholic percentage of brewing drinks was increased. So brewing of alcoholic drinks with Qu took the place of brewing of alcoholic Li with Nie. It can be believed that the latter technique used to play an important role in Chinese brewing industry in history and its time--span even surpasses that of the present brewing alcoholic drinks or spirits with Qu.” (1.1.4.3)

The type of water used was a critical factor in brewing ale and river water taken after the first frost in November was considered the best. Water taken during other months was boiled five times before being used. Sometimes, brewers used rainwater, mineral water, and water from limestone caves to decrease acidity. (141)
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#2 Publius

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 04:09 PM

Here’s some extra Tang Dynasty information that I thought was interesting.

Special Brews:

Black Pepper Ale was a New Year’s Day drink and prolonged life. The recipe called for powdering seventy kernels of pepper with dried ginger, mixing it with the juice from five pomegranates, pouring it into fine spring ale, and heating it until warm

Chang’an Ales, included Melody of the Western Market, Courtier’s Clear Ale of Toad Tumulus, and Old Woman’s Clear Ale.

c**k Crow acquired its name because the brewer could mix it in one day, and produce ale by the time the c**k crowed the next morning.

Fish Ale was served at the height of winter and included a whole fish thrown into the brew.

Fu River Ale produced in South Central China and when the Emperor heard of it, he recruited master brewers from Fu River to make ale for feasts.

Thunder Ale relied on water collected during summer thunderstorms.

The quality of these brewers varied greatly. Some brewers made ale for home consumption, while others sold the ale or make it for government officials. These official ales were used during public rituals and private observances of ancestor veneration. Drinking ale was especially popular during the Emperor’s birthday, festivals, and feast days. An unusual drinking feast day was the village drinking ritual. Each year the governors of prefectures and commandants of countries invited the elders of their districts to a banquet in the winter. The government supplied the food, liquor, and the entertainment. The custom disappeared after the An Lushan rebellion.” (143)

People could drink anywhere, even in temples, and anytime without any negative social consequences. But, if someone was publicly inebriated and made a fool of him/herself, they could lose face. Conversely, being able to drink a lot increased one’s reputation. Some artists believed that alcohol inspired them, including Wu Daoxuan and Li Bai.

The Chinese drank from a variety of vessels: wood, porcelain, lacquer, silver and gold, nautilus shells, hornbill skulls, and even coconut husks. The Chinese also used their engineering prowess to create ale pouring machines, including an ale mountain in the early 8th century and an automated wooden monk that could pour brew.

Any other Chinese brewing/beer related info from any era is appreciated.
___________________________________________________________________________
Sources:
Benn, Charles. “China’s Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty.” Oxford, 2002.

Xu Gan Rong, Bao Tong Fa. “Grandiose Survey of Chinese Alcoholic Drinks and Beverages.”
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#3 Kimchee

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 04:18 PM

So plants like hops weren't used in Chinese beers? I thought that was part of the beer taste... sorry teetotaler here. :P But, just curious.

Kimchee
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#4 Publius

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 11:22 AM

So plants like hops weren't used in Chinese beers? I thought that was part of the beer taste... sorry teetotaler here. :P But, just curious.

Kimchee


Kimchee,

Good question. I haven't ready about any use of hops in Chinese beer. Here's some of the main ingredients used in the Brewing process:

Summary of Modern Ingredients/Traditional Chinese Ingredients
Starch source: Sorghum, wheat, millet, barley, or rice
Water: Water
Hops: Probably none, it’s a relatively recent additive to beer (first documented in 736 and popularly used in the 16th century, from wiki)
Yeast: Natural yeasts, from the mold cake or from chewed rice
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#5 Publius

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 11:30 AM

Also, I think that the above process seems odd to us because we are comparing the ancient brewing techniques and ingredients to contemporary ones. Comparison may be impossible. Ancient, Chinese brewing had a different brewing order: Fermenting, mashing, lautering, boiling (sterilizing the wort) and then conditioning it, instead of: Mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, and conditioning. This order may be different because yeast was not added to Chinese brews, but created.

The “ferment” is pre-fermented starch source (rice), usually by sprouting, that negated the need for adding additional yeast additives. To ferment the rice, brewers would use a mold cake traditionally used in Chinese rice wines, or they could chew and spit the rice into a bowl and let the saliva enzymes go to work. Chewing the cereal (starch source) allows saccharification to occur through the action of salivary amylase, followed by alcoholic fermentation by natural yeasts. As the Cereal Fermentations in Countries of the Asia-Pacific Region article notes, “In Asia the malting process is rarely used in traditional fermentation processes. Instead, fermentation starters prepared from the growth of molds on raw or cooked cereals is more commonly practiced. The use of fermentation starters might very well have its origins in the process of Euchok, the daughter of the legendary king of Woo of B.C. 4,000, known as the Godess of rice-wine in Chinese culture (Lee, 1984). Fermentation starters are referred to as chu in Chinese.” (Dogfish Head http://www.realbeer....news-002633.php brewing company in Deleware reproduced such a beer called Jiahu.)

The Chu mentioned above and could be wheat, barley, millet, or rice, and could be in granular or cake form. The microorganism that ferments the sugars is Rhizopus Amylomyces.

Here’s a classification of fermentation starters described in the Chi-Min-Yao-Shu (Jimin Yaoshu written between 530-550 AD)

Posted Image

According to the Jimin Yaoshu, “Millet appeared to be the main ingredient for alcohol fermentation. Among the 43 product types described, 16 were prepared from millet, 11 from rice and 12 from Indian millet. The dried and powdered starter was mixed with water and steamed grains, and fermented for 2-3 weeks or up to 5-7 months depending on the brewing method. Multiple brews prepared by adding newly cooked grains to the fermenting mash for 2, 3, 4 and up to nine times were described (Yoon, 1993).”

Here’s a flow chart of that process:
Posted Image
____________________________________________________

Source:
CEREAL FERMENTATIONS IN COUNTRIES OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION
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#6 Kimchee

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 11:44 AM

You answered my next question:

To ferment the rice, brewers would use a mold cake traditionally used in Chinese rice wines, or they could chew and spit the rice into a bowl and let the saliva enzymes go to work. Chewing the cereal (starch source) allows saccharification to occur through the action of salivary amylase, followed by alcoholic fermentation by natural yeasts.

I was going to mention that I had learned that the Japanese used this process in making their Sake... only, as ceremonial as the Japanese can be... they used the saliva of virgins. I was going to ask if this fermentation process could have been used. But, you answered me already! They did!

Thanks! Very interesting topic.

Kim
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#7 kaiselin

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 01:50 AM

Here’s some extra Tang Dynasty information that I thought was interesting.

Special Brews:

Black Pepper Ale was a New Year’s Day drink and prolonged life. The recipe called for powdering seventy kernels of pepper with dried ginger, mixing it with the juice from five pomegranates, pouring it into fine spring ale, and heating it until warm


A friend of mine made Belgium black pepper ale/wine. It was really different, very hearty, quite enjoyable.
Using pomegranates and ginger instead of grapes would be fantastic.
I had been thinking about doing a pomegranate wine, this might be just the extra ingredients to make it a great winter drink.

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#8 kaiselin

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 01:18 PM

Kimchee,

Good question. I haven't ready about any use of hops in Chinese beer. Here's some of the main ingredients used in the Brewing process:

Summary of Modern Ingredients/Traditional Chinese Ingredients
Starch source: Sorghum, wheat, millet, barley, or rice
Water: Water
Hops: Probably none, it’s a relatively recent additive to beer (first documented in 736 and popularly used in the 16th century, from wiki)
Yeast: Natural yeasts, from the mold cake or from chewed rice

In the Chinese movie "Red Sorghum" there was an accidental ingredient added to the brew. In an argument the husband urinated into the vat.
When the brew was ready to drink , it was the best ever made.
This is not a practice that I would want to partake of, but is a legitimate way to activate the proper enzymes. I know that this was done in early brewing in Europe.
This is still used in a Mead (honey wine) that is made in Africa. I don't know the name of it though. If you are interested in trying a good mead, I would hesitate from buying any mead form Africa.

Natural yeast in in the air and under the correct conditions any vat of fruit and water left sitting out can become fermented.

Edited by kaiselin, 30 January 2007 - 12:11 AM.

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#9 tung2sai

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 11:37 PM

Well, since this is beer related, and from what I'm reading, maybe someone might want to edit or add something to the wikipedia article.

http://en.wikipedia....ki/Chinese_beer

"The history of Chinese beer is around nine thousand years, with recent archaeological findings showing that Chinese villagers were brewing beer type alcoholic drinks as far back as 7000 BC on small and individual scale, with the production process / methods similar to that of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The ancient Chinese beer was important in ancestral worship, funeral and other rituals of Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties, and the beer was called as Lao Li (醪醴 in oracle bone script). However, after Han Dynasty, Chinese beer lost its prominence to huangjiu, which was the case for the next two millenniums. Modern beer brewery was not introduced into China until the end of 19th century when Russia first set up a brewery in Harbin, with another three followed (also in Harbin), set up by Germany, Cezch and Russia respectively."


In a way, I guess it did not have the prominence of huanhjiu, but I did not know that beer was that important during the early dynasties.
It seem pretty popular during the Tang era.

#10 Chen06

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 12:42 AM

an article about Chinese wine during ancient times. its pretty good

http://www.eykhoff.n...ne in China.pdf
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