Mummies and Beer – No, Seriously

Written by on September 1, 2013 in Beer, Events - No comments

mummy beerSpecial release and limited edition beers are so plentiful today that they remind me of alternative music in the ’90s – common enough to render the term meaningless. But a beer brewed to honor a 2800 year old mummy? Now you’ve got my attention.

THE MUMMY

The mummy, named Amunet by Ohio Historical Society (OHS) curators, lived from approximately 830-790 B.C. Not knowing much about ancient Egypt, I assumed that Amunet must have been royal or very wealthy to be mummified. Linda Pansing, Curator of Archaelogy at the OHS, set me straight. She likened mummification to owning a cell phone today: “Earlier it was quite a status symbol, but eventually it became widespread.” However, research indicates that Amunet did have a comfortable life. She had nice teeth, her bones show no evidence of manual labor, and she lived to be about forty – all unusually fortunate for the time period.

The event, “An Evening with Amunet,” will showcase a facial reconstruction of the mummy as well as the process used to create it. First, researchers CT scanned Amunet at The Wexner Medical Center. This scan allowed historians to more accurately determine her age as well as providing a 3D solid model of her skull. This model was rapid prototyped (or “3D printed”) in plastic by The Technology House of Solon, OH. Finally, facial reconstructionist Alexandra Keenan-Krilevich used the plastic recreation to give us a picture of what Amunet looked like.

THE BEER

Since Amunet was not a laborer, Pansing thinks it likely that she brewed beer some time in her life (women were the brewers in those days). She convinced Lenny Kolada of Barley’s Smokehouse to create a beer that would help guests “feel connected” to Amunet. I spoke with Kolada, who was quick to point out that this beer was an homage to Amunet, not a recreation of what she would have brewed. Their beer was quite unlike ours – low gravity, spontaneously fermented, and watery. “I wanted to make something that would not require a spit bucket,” Kolada says. Fair enough.

With help from Actual Brewing and North High Brewing, Kolada made several test batches that ranged from undrinkable to tasty. But with time running out, Kolada repurposed Barley’s Smokehouse anniversary beer into what would later be dubbed KA Amunet (KA, Kolada says, is ancient Egyptian for beer). The original beer, Sexy Sadie Sixty Season Saison, incorporated a number of authentic elements. It was brewed with barley and wheat, and also included a number of spices – ancient Egyptian texts describe the addition of ‘aromatics’ to their brew. The spices used include coriander and lemongrass, both indigenous to ancient Egypt, as well as black pepper, bitter orange peel, and ginger; which were all available via trade routes.

From here the recipe departs a bit from history. Kolada used French saison yeast, which he says is “as good a guess as anyone’s,” given that the Egyptians knew nothing of germ theory and simply let local flora fall into their vats. To give it some wild character, Barley’s Smokehouse aged the beer for a month in a used oak barrel with souring bacteria (for the beer nerds – Wyeast’s Roeselare blend). Hops were used. Lastly, Kolada threw in some black currants, riffing off the B.C. initialism. These were unavailable to Amunet; she would have likely used dates instead.

That’s fine by me. Others such as Dogfish Head and Great Lakes have taken more rigorous stabs at ancient ales, but in the end they are still more art than science. KA Amunet is an homage, a conversation piece. And maybe that’ll disappoint a few. There’s no gas chromatography, no authentic Egyptian yeast. But if you take a sip and you start picturing Amunet stirring a clay pot and plopping in dates, then Lenny Kolada hit his mark.

“An Evening with Amunet” will take place on Saturday, September 7th from 5-9pm at the Ohio Historical Society at 800 E 17th Ave. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. For more information, call 800-686-1541.

About the Author

Sage is an engineering grad student who loves beer, cars, and guns — in that order. At least right now. A homebrewer and gay for anything Belgian.

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