It’s always a good time for a beer. Not just now, but thousands of years ago. Records were found that beer was drunk in Europe 3,000 years ago. And it was paired with blue cheese. A luxury dinner in the caves.
The study was published in ‘Current Biology’. The discovery was in the Hallstatt-Dachstein salt mines in Austria. It was present in ancient human feces. There were fungi in the fermentation of these two foods almost 3,000 years ago.
“This is the earliest evidence of blue cheese and beer consumption. It was in the Iron Age in Europe,” says Frank Maixner. He works at the Eurac Research Institute.
Microscopic analyses were done to explore the microbes, DNA and proteins in the samples. They reconstructed the diet of these people. They also detected the ancient microbes that inhabited their guts. The gut microbes are known as the gut microbiome.
They found in the feces bran and glumes (pods) of different cereals. Also, proteins from beans, fruits, nuts or animal products.
The microbial study was extended to include fungi. Therein lay the greatest surprise. There was an abundance of Penicillium roqueforti and the Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
“The Hallstatt miners applied food fermentation technologies. They used microorganisms that are still used in the food industry,” says Maixner.
In other words, blue cheese was already being produced in Iron Age Europe. Almost 2,700 years ago.
“There is new light on the life of the prehistoric salt miners in Hallstatt. These are ancient culinary practices in general on a whole new level.” Says Kerstin Kowarik of the Natural History Museum Vienna. “It is becoming clearer and clearer. The fermentation technique stands out in early food history,” she says.
Apparently beer was drunk in Europe 3,000 years ago. However, there is an older sample. It was found in the valley of Ambrona (Soria) 4,400 years ago. It was a fermented wheat drink. It was in beautiful decorated vessels used in banquets and funeral rites.