Beer was of significant importance to ancient Egyptian society and was enjoyed by people of all ages as a staple drink of both the poor and the wealthy. Wages for Egyptian workers were often paid in beer and the Egyptian gods were made offerings of beer. It is known that the workmen living in the workers village at the great pyramid of Giza received beer three times a day as part of their payment. Archaeological evidence has revealed that as a staple foodstuff, ancient Egyptian beer was not particularly intoxicating but was actually nutritious, thick and sweet.
Beer also figures prominently in Egyptian literature and sayings. For example, an inscription from around 2200 BC says “The mouth of a perfectly contented man is filled with beer.” Another, from the Instructions of Ani, says “When she sent you to school, And you were taught to write, She kept watching over you daily, With bread and beer from her house.”
The Egyptian cat goddess Bastet represented both the gentle domestic cat and the war-like lioness. Egyptian gods and goddesses closely resembled the appearance of humans, but many of their gods, such as Bastet, were also perceived as human hybrids depicted with human bodies bearing the heads of animals. These symbols were used as a recognition aid and a device to visually convey the powers, identity and attributes of the deity. Bastet’s name literally means, “She of the perfume jar” and in hieroglyphics appears as symbols for oil jar, feminine and a seated goddess.
According to one myth, Ra, who was the actual Pharaoh of Egypt at the time, was becoming old and weak and the people no longer respected him or his rule. He did not react well when people began to break laws and make jokes at his expense and he decided to send an aspect of his daughter Bastet, also referred to as the “Eye of Ra,” to punish mankind. He plucked her from the Ureas (royal serpent) on his brow and sent her to earth in the form of a lion. She waged war on humanity slaughtering thousands until the fields were awash with human blood. When Ra saw the extent of the devastation he feared she would kill everyone so he summoned his daughter back to his side. However, in her blood lust, she ignored his pleas. So Ra arranged for 7,000 jugs of beer and pomegranate juice (which stained the beer blood red) to be poured all over the fields around her. She gorged herself on the “blood” and became so drunk that she slept for three days and awoke with a terrible hangover. Thus mankind was saved from her wrath.
In short, the story of Bastet is a story of how beer saved the world. History has again and again shown that beer has changed the world in significant ways. The name Bastet is a celebration of this fact and is an homage to one of the world’s greatest beer making cultures, ancient Egypt.
In the past few months we’ve served our beers at many Bay Area craft beer festivals that were tremendous successes for us and made us a lot of new friends. Thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement!
As a side distraction, when we’re not making beer, we make spent grain cookies, spent grain brownies and blondies, BeerNana bread, spent grain scones and several other baked spent grain treats that we sell at some of the local open air markets.
What exactly is “spent grain,” you may ask? Depending on the type of beer we’re making, we brew with grains like barley, oats, wheat or rye. Some of these grains are malted, roasted and toasted to create different flavors in a beer. After the brewing process is complete, we take these “spent grains” and dry them out and make a flour with them, which we use in our baking recipes. The flavors these spent grains bring to baked goods is similar to the flavors they bring to a beer. A brewing grain like chocolate malt, which will impart chocolately flavors in a beer, will also deliver chocolately flavors in a baked good. We think this is a great re-use of a byproduct of the beer brewing process that brewers typically either sell or give away to farmers as cattle feed or compost. We like the synergy that comes from the collaboration between the brewer and the baker!