Why did the Egyptians sip their beer through a straw?

July 5, 2016

The ancient Egyptian beer, known as henket, was the most significant component of the diet of ancient Egyptians. Consumed by both adults and children, more nutritious than intoxicating, henket was rich in vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates. Moreover, because it was boiled, henket was safer to drink than water.

         

But Egyptians weren’t the only ones to drink the beer that according to legend, Osiris taught them to brew. Miriam herself in THE DEADLIEST LIE is jarred by the sour stink of henket steaming from the pores of a crush of scarlet-cloaked Roman soldiers as she makes her way toward the agora. And later, when led into the dark stairwell of a tenement in the Bruchium quarter, she once again smells the beer, mixed with a ripe combination of urine, fried fish, and something else she can’t identify.

         

Apparently, henket was made in one of two ways: either from (a) a mixture of barley and emmer that was heated, mixed with yeast and uncooked malt, and then naturally fermented or (b) a dough with more yeast than usual that was baked into a “beer bread” at a temperature too low to kill the yeast, and then fermented in water. Regardless, the thick cloudy yield had to be sipped through a straw to separate it from the drink’s grainy solids.

 

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