Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dogfish Head Brewery Ta Henket

Ancient Egyptian lore speaks of the god Hathor descending to the earth to kill men.  One day, the King of Upper Egypt and the King of Lower Egypt, Re, came to inspect the beer but, as the day dawned, he saw that Hathor had slaughtered the the men.  King Re spoke, "How good that is, I will protect mankind from her."  He then stated, "Bring hither the beer to the place where she is slaying mankind."  When the beer was brought in the twilight, it was poured out so that it overflowed the fields.  When Hathor returned, she saw the inundated fields and her face was beautifully reflected in the beer.  Hathor drank from the beer and was satisfied; and, drunk with beer, she left man alone.  (Adolf Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt at 268-69).  

Beer saved ancient Egyptians not only in lore, but also in life.   It was a fundamental part of the Egyptians' diet and has been described as the "national drink" of the time.  Drawing inspiration from ancient recipes, Dogfish Head has sought to recreate that drink for people today.  The brewers used ingredients from Egyptian hieroglyphics, brewing the beer using an ancient form of wheat (Emmer Farro) and loaves of hearth baked bread.  The brewers also used a Middle Eastern spice mix, Za'atar, along with Doum fruit and Chamomile to flavor this beer.  They then went to Egypt with petri dishes to collect native yeast strains, capturing a native Egyptian saccharomyces strain.  The result is:

Bread Loaf Arm

Twisted Flax Wick Vulture Water Basket Vulture Bread Loaf

Roughly translated: Ta Henket.

The Ta Hanket has a somewhat deep orange color, with a nice level of foam that gives way fairly quickly to the beer itself.  The aromatic elements highlight some interesting bready, malty and yeasty aromas.  There are also hints of the za'atar spice mix, which is usually made with, among other things, thyme, sumac and sesame.  I could definitely catch the sumac and a little of the sesame aroma in the beer. 

The interesting nature of this beer carries over to the flavors.  This beer does not taste like any other beer that I've had, which is a good thing.  The za'atar is clearly present in the taste, both up front and continuing into the finish.  As for the other flavorings, doum fruit and chamomile, they are a little harder to detect.  One reason may be that I've never had doum fruit before, so I am unsure what I am looking for and whether I've found it. 

According to the brewers, the Ta Henket can be paired with a range of foods, including grilled fish, pork chops, feta cheese and roasted vegetables.  This beer inspired me to make my Baharat Turkey, pairing a turkey rubbed with a modern version of the Egyptian spice mix with a beer inspired by an ancient Egyptian recipe.  A connection between today and yesterday, culinarily speaking.

The Ta Henket has an ABV of 4.5% and IBUs of 7, which clearly underscores the fact that this is more driven by malt flavors than hop flavors.  The beer is a limited release that sells for about $12.99 a bottle.  I found this beer at a local Whole Foods Market.

Vulture Water Cobra Quail Chick Double Reed Leaf


(The translation of English to Egyptian hieroglyphics was done using Online Hieroglyphics Translator.)

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