Beer History 101: Beer is old. Seriously old. According to this, the first records of beer are 6000 years old. However, because we know that any cereal grain can undergo spontaneous fermentation due to wild yeast cells in the air, and that humans began to cultivate crops 10 000 years ago, it’s possible it’s even older.
Out of the many ancient civilisations however, it was the Egyptians who really embraced beer. Or at least, a beer-esque product. You see, from all repots back then, beer was more of a food than a beverage. A thick, sweet, meal-in-a-canopic-jar concoction. Case in point: You had to strain it through a wooden syphon in order to drink it. They didn’t exactly have copper mash tuns to brew in however, so you’ll have to cut them some slack.
Most importantly, it was drunk by just about everyone. Men, women, children, rich, poor, and everyone in between. Just like today! (Don’t feed your kids beer OK? It’s bad and kills brain cells and whatnot).
Now, to say this beer is odd is an understatement. For starters, it’s an Imperial Egyptian Bread Beer. Back in the days of pharaoh-worshipping, they made bread dough which was then rehydrated to kick-start fermentation. So far, so straight-forward.
However, it’s a beer brewed without hops. Hops – for the uninitiated – are used to add flavour, aroma and bitterness. They’re a fairly integral part of the brewing process. But since hops weren’t cultivated until around the year 736, all manner of herbs, leaves, fruits and flowers were used in their place.
RA #2 uses (in no particular order): Spelts, oats, wheat, barley, raisins, sultanas, dried orange peel and a sprinkling of spices. Adding to the fun is that the brew is made using Red Duck’s own sourdough yeast.
What’s the end result of this I hear you ask?
Poured, it’s a thick orange beer with next to no head and low carbonation. There’s a fair whack of sediment at the bottom of the stubby, so you have to make sure you swirl the last 100ml before pouring.
On the nose, RA #2 smells like a cinnamon topped hot-cross bun. With a hint of orange and some slight sourness creeping in.
Taste-wise it delivers fully upon its promise to be entirely unique. There’s a fruit punch up front with some sweetness mid-swallow, counteracted by a long sour, hot-cross bun finish. There’s a trace of alcohol in the aftertaste, but it’s not the kick in the guts you’d expect from a brew weighing in at a hefty 11.3%.
Overall impressions? A completely bewildering beer. It took me until half-way through to decided whether or not I enjoyed the beer, but its one that grows on you as it warms and your tastebuds acclimatise.
It is however, not a beer for beginners. I’m loathe to sound too much like a beer-snob, but this isn’t something you approach from a purely lager/draught background. In fact, if you’d handed me this in my early days of drinking, I would’ve spat it out.
For those intrepid brave souls looking to both walk and drink like an Egyptian however, follow in the footsteps of Howard Carter and seek out this oddity.