‘Sun Barque’ – Europe’s most ancient beer gets a tasting

Photo gallery: Martin Mičánek
Saturday 17 June 2023, 8:00 – Text: Šárka Chovancová

The most ancient beer in Europe is called ‘Sun Barque’ (‘Sluneční bárka’), brewed according to a 3,000-year-old recipe by the Bohdaneč Brewery in the Kutná Hora region in cooperation with the Experimental Brewery of Palacký University, and got its first tasting this month at the Pardubice Beer Festival. The beer, brewed from millet, combines the flavours of eyebright, silver cinquefoil, mead wort, buckthorn, and mugwort, and resembles today’s Gruit-type beer.

“When a large bronze bucket was discovered in 2017 and subsequently shown to contain organic residues that indicated the oldest beer in Central Europe, it was amazing news. I am therefore very happy that I was able to participate in the creation of the recipe and in the actual brewing on behalf of the UP Experimental Brewery. In total, we managed to brew 700 litres of this beer: ‘first time lucky’, as they say,” described Lukáš Kučera, from the UP Department of Analytical Chemistry.

The remains of Europe’s oldest millet and herbal beer were hidden away in a bronze bucket dating back to the 9th century BCE. The vessel was excavated in 2017 near the village of Kladina by Pardubice by archaeologists after it was accidentally discovered. They took the bucket to the East Bohemia Museum in Pardubice and asked scientists to help them determine its contents. The remains of the ancient contents were examined by scientists from Palacký University, Masaryk University in Brno, and the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice. After a thorough analysis of the samples, they concluded that the bucket was used to brew millet beer with bitter herbs three thousand years ago.

The name ‘Sun Barque’ is based on the decoration of the bronze vessel. “The meticulous embossing was associated with the Sun cult. Birds of passage pull a barque with a solar circle. The motif refers to the religious practices of Bronze Age people and their ideas about the workings of the world and the universe. The drink was supposed to bring its users closer to the Gods,” explained Tomáš Libánek, Director of the East Bohemia Museum in Pardubice.

The first 700 visitors of the Pardubice Beer Festival got a chance taste the first batch of ‘Sun Barque’, as the tasting was included in the ticket price.


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