Great Basin Brewing Company Creates Egyptian Ale

By slagnado

In commemoration and celebration of the Nevada Museum of Art’s new exhibit, To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum (June 11-Sept. 14, 2011), the Great Basin Brewing Company presents the 80th Anniversary Egyptian Ale, a recreation of an ancient Egyptian, New Kingdom-style brew (1550 to 1070 BC).

Fortified by personal correspondence and research papers by Archeological Botanist Delwen Samuel of Kings College in London, Great Basin Brewing Company began developing a brew to mimic an ancient beverage enjoyed by the populous in ancient Egypt over 3,000 years ago.

Ms. Samuel’s research discovered that only two cereal grains were grown in the New Kingdom period, barley and a relative of wheat called emmer, that is now grown only by a few farms that celebrate ancient grains. Great Basin sourced emmer from Bluebird Grain Farms, an organic farm in Washington state.

Evidence of malting (sprouting and then drying grains affords better yields in beer making) has been found in excavations so Great Basin sought help from local maltster Lance Jergensen of Rebel Malting in Reno to convert the emmer. Using a base of emmer malt and barley, Great Basin brewed up “80th Anniversary Egyptian Ale”, an ancient inspired ale to celebrate the exhibit at the Nevada Museum of Art.

“The equipment and ingredients available to ancient Egyptians were quite different than modern offerings, so we had to adapt the technique when brewing this beer. One main difference is, of course, the use of the ancient grain emmer malt and brewing without hops,” explains Jazz Aldrich, Brewery Operations Manager and head researcher of this beer at Great Basin.

The use of Emmer and traditional herbs, well documented for use in other culinary arts in the New Kingdom, according to Ms. Samuel, define the distinct foundation of Great Basin’s recreation brew. The brew is a fresh, straw-colored, hop-free ale (hops came into brewing prominence about 500 years ago, well after the Egyptian dominance had ended) featuring emmer, barley, juniper berries, coriander and a fruity old-style yeast strain.

While it was essential that Great Basin used traditional ingredients and attempt some of the old brewing techniques, it is important to understand that beer was one of the most important ingredients in the ancient Egyptian diet. Although infectious disease theory was not understood in ancient Egypt, the process and bio-chemical reactions in beer making yields a beverage that eliminates pathogens that lurk in water and other food materials that cause illness in humans, especially in populated areas where water pollution is more prevalent. The beverage offered a source of nutrition and a safe way to quench thirsts. Ms. Samuels adds another explanation for the popularity of beer in ancient Egypt; “No doubt, just as in recent times, beer helped to act as a social lubricant.”


The Great Basin Brewing Company is Nevada’s most award-winning and oldest operating brewery-restaurant. Beyond the two locations and numerous national brewing awards, Great Basin is proud of its assistance to enhancing the arts and societal betterment.

Contact Info

Company: Great Basin Brewing Company
Contact: Tom Young
E-mail: tom@greatbasinbrewingco.com