Ancient Beer Production In Armenia?

Beer. One of the most ancient fermented beverages. According to some, it dates back to 7.000 B.C. in pre-historic China. Not too long ago, it was believed that around 3.500 BC, in what is now modern-day Iran one of the first-known biological engineering took place where the biological process of fermentation was used.

World’s Oldest Winery

Armenia, being among one of the earliest civilizations known for the production of fermented beverages was an early beer producing and consuming nation. The oldest known winery in the world was found in a cave in Areni, Armenia which is 5.500 years old.

An apparent wine press (in front of sign) and fermentation vat (right) emerge during a dig in Armenia. 5.500 years old.
Xenophon’s Account

On the account of classical writers, such as Xenophon (Anabasis, IV, 26-27) in the early 4th century BC, the Athenian commentator and soldier talks about a very potent, yet tasty drink which he refers to as “barley wine”.

This ‘wine’ was served in a large bowl and was drunk communally from straws, which, he notes were of differing lengths. He notes that the straws were necessary so that the floating material in the beer could be avoided during the consumption.

Ancient Egyptian drinking beer using a straw.

Xenophon came across these Armenians in a subterranean village (possibly in Artsakh), where their homes were dug out of the earth. Straws which were either natural (e.a. reeds) or manufactured, were the simplest device known for drinking unrefined beer:

There were stores within of wheat and barley and vegetables, and wine made from barley in great big bowls; the grains of barley malt lay floating in the beverage up to the lip of the vessel, and reeds lay in them, some longer, some shorter, without joints; when you were thirsty you must take one of these into your mouth, and suck. The beverage without admixture of water was very strong, and of a delicious flavor to certain palates, but the taste must be acquired.


  • McGovern PE, Zhang JZ, Tang JG et al. C (2004) Fermented beverages of pre- and proto-historic China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 101, 17593–17598.
  • Xenophon, Anabasis, 4.5.26, on Perseus
  • A History of Beer and Brewing, Ian S. Hornsey. 2003, Royal Society Of Chemistry.
  • National Geographic, Earliest Known Winery Found in Armenian Cave, January 12, 2011.

Leave a Reply