Over the past three years living in Taiwan, one week we’ve had to look forward to every year is the vacation week surrounding Chinese New Year. In Taiwan, we don’t get public holiday for Christmas, but we get it a few weeks later for the Lunar New Year. Most of the country shuts down for a few days, even the MRT system and many bars and restaurants, as every is back in their hometowns visiting their families. As such, we’ve made it a tradition to use this week to go on our annual holiday, which has happened to coincide with a work meeting in a cold climate the following week all three years, making packing very interesting.
In 2010 we took our honeymoon cruise to French Polynesia (followed by a work trip in the Netherlands), and in 2011 we continued the tradition with a cruise in the Southern Caribbean (followed by a week in Connecticut and then a week in Tucson for work). For 2012, we were considering another cruise, and since the two weeks after Chinese New Year, I have to be in the Netherlands again, we were looking for options in the Mediterranean this year. Our original choice would have been on the Costa Concordia…glad we didn’t wind up choosing that option, as the sailing just before ours would have been is the one that recently ran aground and sank off the coast of Italy! Instead, we ignored all advise from friends and family and decided to visit Egypt instead, hoping to see the Pyramids, ride a camel, and do a little scuba diving in the Red Sea.
So Egypt, being a Muslim nation, you wouldn’t expect to find much in the way of beer, but so far, I’ve managed to find a small selection of beers brewed here. Here is an overview of the Egyptian beer I have found on our trip to Cairo and Sharm el Sheikh:
Stella Lager – Perhaps the most commonly found beer in Egypt, Stella is the beer most associated with Egyptian Beers. A traditional Lager, part of the Heineken family (Al Ahram, along with most of the others listed below), and over 100 years old, Stella usually winds up being “just a lager”.
Sakara Gold – Similar to Stella Lager, and in fact, during our journey, a little more accessible than Stella Lager even, Sakara also found it’s place in my heart, due to it’s war weather, poolside availability at the local hotel pool bar. Nothing makes a “normal” beer taste better than the proper, tropical setting.
Sakara King – I had tried Stella Lager and Sakara Gold, and was still waiting to try Meister Max…when we made a stop in a little convenience store in Sharm and found not only cans of said Meister Max, but also another offering of Sakara, the Sakara King. While the Sakara Gold was a typical 4% lager, the King clocks in at 10%, and tastes it! While not a BAD beer, the 10% was very noticeable, not as subdued as some of the higher alcohol content Belgian offerings I’m used to. Coming in a 500 ml can, I didn’t finish this one…
Meister Max – Meister Max, the very name reeks of Egypt. Ok, maybe not. In my little bit of research on Egyptian Beer, this one came up fairly often. Turns out, this is the strong, Germany style offering from Al Ahram. Germany in style and name, this was admittedly quite a bit smoother than the Sakara King, while still packing 8% abv.
Luxor Classic – I have to admit, this one hit me by surprise. On our day in the tourist area of Sharm, we wanted to have a good, local meal somewhere in town. We did indeed find some good Egyptian food in town, and to along with our Kushari and Kofta was a new beer to try, Luxor Classic Lager from Egyptian International Beverages co., the first non-Heineken beer we found on this trip. Like the others, nothing spectacular, but given the location, the timing, and the cats who kept trying to steal our food, this enjoyable meal made this an enjoyable beer.
Overall, if I had to pick one in a pinch, I would go with the Sakara Gold as the everyday drinking beer I think. Perhaps the Luxor Classic, but it’s much less available, at least in Cairo and Sharm al Sheikh.
So in the end, I wouldn’t put Egypt at the top of the list as a beer destination. I’d be hesitant to put it on the list at all if beer is your sole purpose. But for passable beers that help enhance the enjoyment of your seaside vacation, you really can’t go wrong with any of the local offerings. And that, in itself, is a plus.