A beer older than the bible

This might be the closest thing to the very first man-made ale, using a genetically modified strain of wheat that dates back to the beginning of human agricultural cultivation.

It was just past lunchtime in Jerusalem's industrial Talpiot neighbourhood. Traffic sat at an uncomfortable standstill, and the thick smog of diesel truck fuel fogged the landscape.

In a warehouse across the roundabout of snaked traffic, Itai Gutman's overnight shift had spilled into afternoon at Herzl Brewery, a local ale distillery that was, until recently, relatively unknown, except by microbrew aficionados.

The young Jerusalemite started creating his own unique beers in small batches some 10 years ago, a process he said grew from "necessity" during his mandatory military service when funds were low and beer was a luxury.

"Brewing was a simple choice to get access to the product," he explained.

Today, beer is not just a profession for Gutman - it's a labour of love. Tall and softly spoken, deep under-eye shadows hint of his tireless dedication.

On his right forearm is a large tattoo of what may be the oldest known recipe for creating fermented ale.

The original cuneiform - a system of writing developed by the ancient Sumerians around 3500-3000 BC - is believed to describe the protocol for turning grain into ale.

The inked symbols and markings on Gutman's forearm were found near the Euphrates River in ancient Mesopotamia - where modern-day Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Iran and Turkey share borders - an area that is widely known as the cradle of civilisation.

Just last year, fragments of ancient pottery from this period were discovered during a construction project in Tel Aviv.

According to archaeologist Diego Barkan, who directed the excavation, the large ceramic basins were used to make ale.

Early inhabitants made their beer from a mixture of grains and water that was baked and left to ferment in the sun.

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