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I've done some research on wines and beers of Ancient Egypt and I've decided I want to try and brew a beer based on the ingredients that would have been available at the time. I don't want to make a Midas Touch (even though it's delicious) clone or any of that nonsense, but grapes are not out of the question as an addition.

I've found a few things that I was going to run with in my recipe, but I have a question about bittering and flavoring. It would seem that Ancient Egyptians didn't have access to hops, or didn't use them in their fermented beverages, but they did have things like Sage, Coriander, Rosemary and Juniper.

Have any of you used any of these ingredients (Sage, Coriander, Rosemary, Juniper) specifically for bittering and/or flavoring your beer? Do the quantities translate to the same quantity of hops?

If it helps, I'm planning on doing a small batch to start (probably 1 gallon). I'll continue to adjust and make changes with 1 gallon batches and upscale when I get something I like.

I'd be more than happy to share the recipe when I'm done with it.

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Do you have any evidence that they bittered their fermented beverages at all? When did bittering of these "beers" even start. Wine is an ancient beverage and it isn't bittered. I am not being antagonistic, I am genuinely curious. –  brewchez Dec 13 '12 at 2:15
    
I believe they did. There were a multitude of herbs and spices that were believed to be used in their beer. There's an article on the subject on the Smithsonian website. It's a good read if you're interested in beer history. smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/… –  jsmith Dec 13 '12 at 3:17
    
Don't worry about bittering, hops is overrated in my opinion. –  user2925 Dec 13 '12 at 5:37
    
I'm not going to be using hops. I will be flavoring and bittering the beer with other ingredients, as stated in my question. –  jsmith Dec 13 '12 at 13:12
    
This would make a fine comment on the original question, but it not an answer. –  JoeFish Dec 13 '12 at 14:06

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The ingredients definitely do not translate exactly. Like hops you will also want to add them at different times during your wort boiling or right before you seal for the amount of bitter flavor vs other aspects they can provide (preservative, sweetness, earthiness, etc). I only have a few years experience so I don't want to lead you astray with estimates, but I suggest you look at Belgian style recipes as they incorporate herbs and non-traditional ingredients regularly. For a 1 gallon batch I wouldn't suggest using more than .5 oz combined of all your spices, and that may still be quite strong. One thing to make sure of when you are doing trial and error is keep track of not only the ingredients, but what form they are in. The thing you are often after with herbs is the oil and the potency and taste is highly variant for fresh vs "fresh" from a store vs dried. As fresh as possible is always best in my experience.

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Thanks for that info. I'd love to get my hands on the herbs/spices in raw (undried, whole) form. I understand I may have to compromise a bit here, and that's ok for now. I'll definitely heed your advice and use the ingredients sparingly to start and go from there. –  jsmith Dec 14 '12 at 15:48

Brewmasters had an episode on Ancient Ale, where Sam headed to Egypt to try and create a traditional Egyptian brew with the help of a couple of Egyptologists. They ended up brewing "Ta Henket" (source):

It was brewed to 11.4 Plato with Emmer (an ancient form of wheat) and loaves of hearth baked bread and flavored with dom-palm fruit, chamomile, and zatar. Fermentation was carried out by a native Egyptian saccharomyces yeast strain captured by Sam and Floris during a recent trip to Egypt.

Here's the clip from the show that discusses the specific ingredients: how, why & the historical significance. At about the 9:00 mark they taste different additions and Sam notes that the dom-palm sugar adds both "sweet and bitterness".

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Tej, Ethiopian honey wine, uses gesho (Rhamnus prinioides) a plant in the buckthorn family for bittering. There appears to be online outlets to purchase gesho. I quick search about gesho amounts in tej recipes were equivocal.

Cheers.

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