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Rare Figs + a Strain of Yeast from 850 B.C. = Ancient Egypt Beer

Photo by Leonardo Ramos / Unsplash

The idea came to Dylan McDonnell early in the pandemic, when a sourdough-baking craze took over a nation under lockdown. Mr. McDonnell, an amateur brewer who lives outside Salt Lake City, saw Seamus Blackley, a video game designer, boasting on social media about baking bread with 4,500-year-old Egyptian yeast.

I wonder if I could do that with beer, Mr. McDonnell recalled thinking.

The answer recently arrived in the form of an amber brew that Mr. McDonnell believes is the closest approximation yet to what Rameses the Great may have been drinking between battles with the Hittites.

Recent years have seen attempts to recreate the beer of the Vikings, the Late Shang and Western Zhou dynasties of China, and the Sumerians, who are believed to have invented beer. “These beers can be all over the map,” said Neil Witte, a beer expert at Craft Quality Solutions in Kansas City, Mo. “What was good 500 or 1,000 years ago is likely nothing like what we consider good today.”

Still, the lure of connecting with bygone civilizations by reviving their potent potables appears to be surging.

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