Workers at Lucky Envelope. Courtesy of Lucky Envelope Brewing

An Ancient Chinese Beer on Tap in Seattle

Lucky Envelope Brewing celebrates the new year with a really old beer.

Conventional wisdom says beer originated some 5,000 years ago in Samaria (modern-day Iran). A recent discovery of a 5,000-year-old beer recipe in China, though, has introduced a bit of mystery to the origin story, and Seattle’s Barry Chan is eager to get to the bottom of it. That is why the co-founder of Ballard’s Lucky Envelope Brewing will be selling a version of the recipe to celebrate Chinese New Year on Saturday, Jan. 28.

“This discovery shows that there has been a pretty big proliferation of barley-based beverages around the world, supporting the idea that beer has been everywhere and does not necessarily have a single origin point,” says Chan, who, like his co-founder Raymond Kwan, is of Chinese descent. “And so we took the information from that paper and we did a recreation with a couple tweaks for the modern palate. Because a 5,000-year-old beer recipe will be, well, somewhat sour.”

This historic recipe—which uses rare Chinese grains as well as the buds from lily flowers, Chinese squash, and yams, and tastes, Chan says, like a “floral cream ale”—will not be the only brew Lucky Envelope will make for Chinese New Year: A new (and limited) Buddha’s Hand IPA will be made with citron, a fruit often used in Chinese cooking, which gives the beer a “unique citrus flavor.”

“There’s some very intense lemon,” Chan notes. “It’s pretty unique as far as IPA’s go.”

To mark the holiday, both brews will be served on Saturday at the Lucky Envelope tap room, which will be festively decorated with traditional red lanterns. To sweeten the pot, the brewery, opened in 2015, will hand out a limited amount of red envelopes filled with coupons and swag.

“First come, first serve,” Chan says.

But Lucky Envelope isn’t the only brewery getting into the swing of Chinese New Year. Georgetown Brewing, co-founded by Chinese-American Manny Chao, brewed a New Year’s Lager with a partner in the Bay Area. “The lager is all about pleasant subtleties, balance, and easy drinking,” says Georgetown’s brewer Matt Edwards. “It presents itself with a golden straw hue and a white fluffy head capping it off,” and, like many good brews, it has a mild citrus quality from “the sweet orange peel.” Georgetown brewed the beer for San Francisco’s The Beer Hall, a craft beer and wine bar, which will begin selling the concoction today (Wednesday), with Chao in tow to meet and greet happy, celebratory quaffers of maybe humanity’s greatest invention.

beerhunting@seattleweekly.com

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