A Jerusalem brewery has produced a craft beer with a taste it says dates back to the time of Jesus. A sip of the concoction, made by Herzl Brewery from a wheat that Tel Aviv University geneticists identified as the strain used for beer in the Holy Land two millennia ago, may help explain why wine was the preferred sacred beverage of the Bible.
"I found this article about these guys at the Tel Aviv University that made the genome of the model of wheat, the same grain I used and [it] just made a light bulb light up and I just contacted them and within a few days I had several kilograms of this material, we just started to process and eventually is this beer that we're drinking," said owner of Herzl Brewery, Itai Gutman.
One bottle is left − and there are no plans to make more. After all, wine is Judaism's sacred beverage, and featured in both one of the New Testament miracles and the Last Supper.
"The historians they say that beer is coming from around this area of the world, from the Middle East area, Mesopotamia and what was there back then. The rumour mentions that it moved back to Europe when the Romans came with the wine that also brews here and somehow only the wine stayed here and the beer kind of made into a folk's drink in Europe," said Gutman.
There's a hint of honey and berries in the cloudy – and flat – suds, which have a 3% alcohol content. The brewery produced a 20-litre batch, drunk among owner Itai Gutman's friends.
"The flavour was surprising, this is something that we, that we never expected. We got kind of this red fruit kind of a raspberry flavour and there is no fruit additions into it and it's only because of the grains we used," said Gutman.
But beer likely would have been familiar to Jesus and his disciples. It was brought over from Egypt by the ancient Israelites, according to the Jewish Museum in Munich, which is taking part in 500th anniversary celebrations of the Bavarian Beer Purity Law that regulated Germany's brewing industry.