Sunday, January 30, 2005

Beer, Glorious Beer

Beer and Egyptians go way back. Literally. Beer recipes have been found in ancient texts and modern brewers have tried to replicate the Egyptian beverage. In more recent times, I've been told that the Belgian brewery Stella Artois set up shop in Egypt, hence the primary local beer's name, Stella. I can't seem to verify that information, but I can tell you about beer since 1988. When we moved here there were three beers available in Egypt (and a few others imported, but not too many). Most common was Stella, a light lager in a large green bottle. There was also Stella Premium in a smaller bottle for less money, but as far as I could see it tasted the same. Then, usually in the spring the same company sold a lovely dark beer called Marzen beer in even smaller bottles. Marzen Beer was always my favourite.

In the late 80's and early 90's beer drinking in Egypt was to a certain extent for the strong of heart. Quality control could be a bit shaky, but most of the time you got a beverage that was fondly known as "camel piss". When the drive came to privatise all of the previously nationalised industries, including Al Ahram Beverages, an Egyptian investor bought Al Ahram Beverages and made some changes. One of these was the introduction of Meister, my preference in beer. The Sawares family opened another brewery near Hurghada, Gouna Beverages, which brewed Sakkara beer. After a few years Al Ahram bought out Gouna, so now there is essentially a monopoly on the manufacture of alcohol. Al Ahram sells Meister, Meister Max, Stella, Stella Premium, Sakkara, and Sakkara Gold. Unfortunately, the wonderful Marzen beer is nowhere to be found.

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