Tut's Tipple

Harrods of London is not the sort of place you go to buy a six-pack. Last July, however, the famed department store did offer customers the chance to buy a bottle or two of Tutankhamen Ale, brewed from a 3,250-year-old recipe. Despite a pharaonic price of £50 (about $75) each, every one of the 1,000 available bottles was sold.

Re-creating the king's suds was no easy feat: After excavations in Telel Amarna, Tut's hometown, revealed remnants of a large-scale commercial brewery, a team of Egyptologists and scientists, in collaboration with representatives of Britain's largest brewery, Scottish & Newcastle, started unraveling the formula. The pharaoh's brewers, it was learned, used juniper, coriander, and naback (a local berry) to flavor the beer, and fermented not barley but a type of wheat known as emmer. Scottish & Newcastle found naback, had emmer grown, and used fresh spring water to replicate that found beneath Egyptian sands. The result was a full-bodied, quaffable ale with a pronounced sweetness and a fruity, vanilla nose. The only inauthentic ingredient used was modern yeast. It would have taken four years to reculture the cells found at the dig—though after more than three millennia, that doesn't seem so long.