King Tut's Brew – The Most Expensive Beer?

Tutankhamen BrewSome people will do anything for a bottle of beer. At the Indianapolis Museum of Art, some were willing to pay more than $500. The museum auctioned off two bottles of Tutankhamen Ale, a British-made beer purportedly made from a 3,250-year-old recipe of Egyptian beer makers.

A third bottle will be auctioned off tonight. Christopher Stack and Lori Efroymson, both of Indianapolis, each paid $525 for the bottles. Only 1,000 bottles were brewed, and three were donated to the museum. “We didn’t know what to anticipate because we’re not commonly in the business of doing this,” said Anne Robinson, a museum official. “But we’re very happy it worked out so well.”

The beer’s story reads like an Indiana Jones movie. Archaeologists from Cambridge University’s Egypt Exploration Society joined with Scottish and Newcastle Breweries six years ago, when the team uncovered a massive kitchen complex in the Sun Temple of Queen Nefertiti, a relation by marriage of King Tut.

Archaeologists’ key role The archaeologists examined grains and seeds left behind by ancient brewers, and the dregs of beer from excavated jars were analyzed to determine how the beer was made. “Even the pure water of the desert wells was analyzed,” said Jim Merrington, Scottish and Newcastle’s project director. “We studied tomb paintings, deciphered (hieroglyphics) and excavated 10 or more brewing rooms in the quest for the liquid gold of Tutankhamen.”

In reconstructing the recipe, Scottish and Newcastle brew masters used emmer, an ancient wheat grown by the Egyptians, and coriander, an herb found in the Nile region. 1,000 bottles of beer The brewery said enough seeds were grown to create raw materials for only 1,000 bottles of the beer. The first bottle sold in England for about $7,200, and the rest sells for about $75 per bottle, Scottish and Newcastle officials said.

All are being sold at Harrods department store in London, except for the three being auctioned in Indianapolis. That’s a lot of work (and money) for a bottle of beer, which raises the question: Is this the “Beer of Pharaohs” or a mere marketing ploy? Michael Lewis, a retired brewing-science professor from the University of California, Davis, answered diplomatically: perhaps a little bit of both. The auction is being held in conjunction with the opening of an exhibit called “The American Discovery of Ancient Egypt,” on the last stop of its national tour. Proceeds from the auction will be split between the museum and the Egypt Exploration Society.

Saturday, July 13, 1996
Section: Front
Page: 15A


By: Associated Press

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