The historical link between animal and God's...

Being either the hunter or the hunted is a familiar role played out daily in the battle of natural selection, but harnessing the benefits in the name of brewing, may, at first glance, appear an oblique connection!

But the hero (or heroine) of the piece in fact goes back many centuries playing a vital role in the earliest of brewing civilisations - the Ancient Egyptians.

So appreciated was the creature within Egyptian culture that it was elevated to the level of deity, with the Goddess Bastet bearing its name.

The creature in question was the humble cat - but for the Ancient Egyptians it was anything but ordinary!

Understanding the very workings of Egyptian society is to see just what an important role the animal had to play, and why it was held in such high esteem.

Being an Agrarian culture grain fulfilled a much greater role than just feeding the populace. It was, to all intents and purposes, the very backbone of Egyptian commerce.

Grain was the 'currency' of the day, from being used in payment to the thousands of pyramid builders, used daily in bartering for other important commodities, and being the essential ingredient in keeping the population alive.

The grain stores were the equivalent of the banks of today, and needed to be protected every bit as much.

The basic daily allowance of 10 loaves and 2 jugs of beer showed not just the heavy dependency on grain ( mainly emmet wheat and barley) but its importance in beer production.

The Egyptians produced beers of varying strengths, just as today, with a strong brew named Heget containing juniper, ginger, saffron and herbs dating back to 3000 BC.

Various words that have crept into the English language surrounding beer culture have their origins here also, such as Dizythum, a beer of particularly high strength, and Busa at the lower end of the scale which acted as a 'Table Beer' to be consumed by all members of the family. 

Such was the importance of beer within Egyptian culture that it was made in offerings to the god's and would accompany the Pharaohs to the afterlife. 

The god Osiris was said to have provided the Egyptians with the knowledge of how to brew beer, as well as acting as their protector.

The cat imbued traits provided by nature that made it the perfect creature in carrying out the protective role the Egyptians so badly needed. Noted for despatching snakes and scorpions in the deserts cats were put to work in protecting the granaries where the most common vermin,  mice and rats, preyed on the valuable food supply.  

Able to work unsupervised (unlike dog's) and to come and go at will, it was its nocturnal abilities (when vermin activity was at its highest) that made it the predator of choice.  



                                                                 The Goddess Bastet 


By the 19th Century the importance cat's played in the everyday running of a major brewery did not go unnoticed, and was recorded for posterity by Alfred Barnard with his usual fastidious eye for detail.  

On a visit to Barclay Perkins Brewery in Southwark, London, in the late 1890's Barnard noted that over 50 cats were in the 'employ' of the brewery on its books tasked with keeping the grain stores free of vermin.

The cats predatory power and connection to brewing has been linked down the ages through such machismo aimed brands as Lion, Tiger, and Leopard - although they hunted bigger prey!

No less servile, brands today such as Robinson's Old Tom echo more closely the role played by its Egyptian descendants - where the value of grain meant more to the Egyptians than gold, and was, literately  -  priceless! 



                                                           AN  EGYPTIAN LEGACY...

The Head Brewer of Robinson's Brewery Alfred Multon sketched a drawing of Old Tom, the breweries cat, as he basked in the sunshine into his brewers journal on the 11th November 1899. The brand is still alive and kicking today!



              The reverence afforded to cat's can be seen by their mummified remains.                                                                        Robinson's Old Tom Strong Ale


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