Beer & Hieroglyphics

Perhaps it’s why I became a writer, but I’ve always been fascinated by languages, and especially different alphabets. They always seemed like secret codes, and few more so than Egyptian hieroglyphics. Hieroglyphics are, of course, one of the earliest forms of written communication. They were once thought to be the oldest form, but more recent evidence seems to suggest that Sumerian writing most likely predates the Egyptian writing, and that they probably developed independently.

Not surprisingly, since beer was so important at the dawn of civilization, even though the number of individual hieroglyphics was limited (compared to modern vocabularies) there were several beer-specific hieroglyphics. How many there are is uncertain. E.A. Wallis Budge compiled a list of over 1,000 that was published in various forms between the late 1890s and 1920. But the standard reference is generally thought to be Gardiner’s Sign List, created by British Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner in the 1950s, containing around 750 common form hieroglyphics from the Middle Egyptian language.

Gardiner’s Sign List is organized into 26 categories that are assigned a letter and then a number to keep them straight. For example, “E” is for “mammals” and E6 is a “horse.”

So here are the Egyptian hieroglyphics that have to do with beer and brewing, at least from the Gardiner’s Sign List. I’ve also included different views of the same hieroglyphic, that is different ways that it was written or expressed. The Letter and Number is, of course, how each is classified in the Gardiner’s Sign List.

A36: Brewer


Alternative Images:
A36-brewer-1 A36-brewer-2 A36-brewer-3 A36-brewer-clay A36-brewer-color

A37: Brewer (Variant)


Alternative Images:
A37-brewer-1 A37-brewer-2 A37-brewer-3

M39: Basket of Grain


Alternative Images:
M39-basket-of-grain-1 M39-basket-of-grain-2 M39-basket-of-grain-3 M39-basket-of-grain-4 M39-color

O50: Circular Threshing Floor Covered with Grain


Alternative Images:
O50-grain-floor-1 O50-grain-floor-2 O50-grain-floor-3 O50-grain-floor-4 O50-grain-floor-color

O51: Heap of Grain on a Raised Mud Floor


Alternative Images:
O51-heap-of-grain-1 O51-heap-of-grain-2 O51-heap-of-grain-3 O51-heap-of-grain-color

W22: Beer Jug


Alternative Images:
W22-beer-jug-1 W22-beer-jug-2 W22-beer-jug-3 W22-beer-jug-4 W22-beer-jug-color

W23: Beer Jug (Variant)


Alternative Images:
W23-beer-jug-1 W23-beer-jug-2 W23-beer-jug-3 W23-beer-jug-4 W23-beer-jug-5 W23-beer-jug-6 W23-beer-jug-7 W23-beer-jug-color

Archeologists Discover Ancient Brewer’s Tomb In Egypt

This is pretty cool news. Egypt’s minister of antiquities, Mohammed Ibrahim, is reporting today that a group of archeologists from Japan “have unearthed the tomb of an ancient beer brewer in the city of Luxor that is more than 3,000 years old.” According to Ibrahim, “the tomb dates back to the Ramesside period and belongs to the chief ‘maker of beer for gods of the dead’ who was also the head of a warehouse,” adding “that the walls of the tomb’s chambers contain ‘fabulous designs and colors, reflecting details of daily life … along with their religious rituals.'”

Inside the brewer’s tomb. [Photo: Supreme Council of Antiquities]

The Luxor tomb “is home to a large and famous temple complex built by Amenhotep III and later by Rameses II. The “Japanese team found the tomb during work on another tomb belonging to a top official under Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who died around 1354 BC.” See the BBC for the full story, though there’s not too much about it yet. Apparently, after it’s fully excavated they plan on opening it to visitors. Now that’s a vacation I’d sign up for.

A wall inside the brewer’s tomb. [Photo: Supreme Council of Antiquities]

Beer In Ads #746: Stand Alone On The Pyramid Of Perfection

Tuesday’s ad is for William Younger & Co. from — based on the bottle — the late 1800s or early pre-WWI 1900s. Climbing a pyramid would certainly give one a powerful thirst, so a worthy goal would be a bottle of beer waiting for you at the top. Of course, sitting in the Egyptian sun can’t necessary be a good thing.


Egypt Beer

Today in 1953, Egypt declared their Independence and on the same day three years later, in 1956, all foreign troops finally left. Egypt celebrates today as Eid el-Galaa, meaning the “evacuation of foreign troops”


Egypt Breweries

Egypt Brewery Guides

Other Guides

Guild: None Known

National Regulatory Agency: None

Beverage Alcohol Labeling Requirements: Not Known

Drunk Driving Laws: BAC 0.05%


  • Full Name: Arab Republic of Egypt
  • Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and the Gaza Strip, and the Red Sea north of Sudan, and includes the Asian Sinai Peninsula
  • Government Type: Republic
  • Language: Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated classes
  • Religion(s): Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic 9%, other Christian 1%
  • Capital: Cairo (Al Qahirah)
  • Population: 83,688,164; 15th
  • Area: 1,001,450 sq km, 30th
  • Comparative Area: Slightly more than three times the size of New Mexico
  • National Food: Ful medames, kushari, molokhia, Falafel
  • National Symbols: Saladin’s Eagle; Lotus; Pyramids of Giza; Nile River
  • Nickname: The Gift of the Nile; “Om El Donya” (Mother of the World)
  • Affiliations: UN, African Union, Arab League
  • Independence: From UK protectorate status, February 28, 1922 / Revolution began July 23, 1952, Republic declared June 18, 1953 and all troops finally left June 18, 1956 / Earlier c. 3200 B.C.E. the Two Lands of Upper (southern) and Lower (northern) Egypt were first united politically


  • Alcohol Legal: Yes
  • Minimum Drinking Age: 18 (beer), 21 (wine/spirits)
  • BAC: 0.05%
  • Label Requirements: N/A
  • Number of Breweries: 3


  • How to Say “Beer”: beereh (biræ)
    جعة / شراب من الشعير / جعة / المزر شراب نوع من الجعة / بيرة
  • How to Order a Beer: Waheed beera, meen fadleek / In Ancient Egyptian: Wekha henqet
  • How to Say “Cheers”: Bisochtak / Fee sihetak
  • Toasting Etiquette: Toasts are not common


Alcohol Consumption By Type:

  • Beer: 56%
  • Wine: 11%
  • Spirits: 33%

Alcohol Consumption Per Capita (in litres):

  • Recorded: 0.27
  • Unrecorded: 0.10
  • Total: 0.37
  • Beer: 0.10

WHO Alcohol Data:

  • Per Capita Consumption: .27 litres
  • Alcohol Consumption Trend: Stable
  • Excise Taxes: Yes
  • Minimum Age: 18
  • Sales Restrictions: Location
  • Advertising Restrictions: No
  • Sponsorship/Promotional Restrictions: No

Patterns of Drinking Score: 2

Prohibition: None