The origins of beer in Ancient Egypt and China

While reading up on Ancient Egyptian Goddess Ma’at, I came across reference to her as being the beer and bread to the Gods, where in Ancient Egypt beer is the de-facto drink of adults and children alike.

Turns out that modern beer and ancient Egyptian beer may share a name, but were made quite differently containing a medley of ingredients. In Egypt beer was a primary source of nutrition, and consumed daily. Beer was such an important part of the Egyptian diet that it was even used as currency. Like most modern African beers, but unlike European beer, it was very cloudy with plenty of solids and highly nutritious, quite reminiscent of gruel. It was an important source of protein, minerals and vitamins and was so valuable that beer jars were often used as a measurement of value and was used in medicine. Little is known about specific types of beer, but there is mention of, for example, sweet beer but without any specific details mentioned.

Beer archaeologist Patrick McGovern and brewer, Sam Calagione decided to use the herb mix za’atar which frequently includes the herbs found in ancient egyptian beer, which included a combination of savory, thyme and coriander. Other key ingredients might be the doum-palm fruit and chamomile. (source)

The most popular beer in Egypt was Heqet (or Hecht) which was a honey-flavored brew and their word for beer in general was zytum. The workers at the Giza plateau received beer rations three times a day and beer was often used throughout Egypt as compensation for labor. As in Mesopotamia, women were the chief brewers at first and brewed in their homes, the beer initially had the same thick, porridge-like consistency, and was brewed in much the same way. (source)

Even earlier evidence of the oldest known alcohol was discovered in China by Patrick McGovern an archaeologist from Pennsylvania. He travelled to a Neolithic burial site in China and discovered the oldest known beer—a heady blend of wild grapes, hawthorn, rice and honey that is now the basis for Dogfish Head’s Chateau Jiahu. (source)

Other sources

  • https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/zymurgy/pharaoh-ale-brewing-a-replica-of-an-ancient-egyptian-beer/
  • http://www.thekeep.org/~kunoichi/kunoichi/themestream/egypt_beer.txt
  • http://byo.com/hops/item/2155-wynkoop-brewing-co-tut%E2%80%99s-royal-gold-clone
  • http://byo.com/hops/item/2150-tutankhamun-ale-story
  • http://homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/8107/looking-to-make-an-ancient-egyptian-brew-but-what-about-bittering-and-flavoring
  • http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/beer.html
  • https://www.oregonculinaryinstitute.com/2010/10/21/the-importance-of-beer-and-the-benefits-it-provides/
  • http://www.inquisitr.com/2112282/110-year-old-man-beers-health-benefits-the-secret-to-long-life-but-is-mark-behrends-right/
  • http://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/beer-trivia-how-much-do-you-know-about-beer/
  • https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/oct/27/old-ale-beer-history
  • http://fathom.lib.uchicago.edu/2/21701778/
  • http://www.crystalinks.com/egyptmedicine.html
  • http://io9.gizmodo.com/could-you-drink-beer-instead-of-water-and-still-survive-457081579
  • http://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/link-suggestion/wpcd_2008-09_augmented/wp/b/Beer.htm
  • https://books.google.ca/books?id=iPveCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA8&lpg=PA8&dq=health+benefit+of+ancient+egyptian+beer&source=bl&ots=znKpMB9uHt&sig=T9D-zXs4U3cYxvvMUCiqReSfclY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjet8nB8dLOAhXFpR4KHbXDCkg4ChDoAQgrMAM#v=onepage&q=health%20benefit%20of%20ancient%20egyptian%20beer&f=false

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