Egyptian Bouza


Bouza is the beer of the Pharoahs. As I see it, this was a rough beer, naturally fermented in vessels that “remembered” how to make it. I found a source for a sourdough yeast strain from a bakery in Cairo that has been in continuous operation for three thousand years. This was bouza in the making.

Bouza was made in a way that is unique in comparison to today’s methods. The key ingredient was bread–partially baked grains that would saccarify during the slow, prolonged baking process. Bouza bread is made from pale barley malt, crystal malt and barley flour that is mixed with gesho tea to make a stiff dough. A pint of Red Sea Starter is added to the dough, along with macerated medjool dates, honey, salt and netch azmud seeds.
Bouza Bread

The dough is shaped into round loaves, and left to proof for 12 hours. The loaves are baked at low temperature until the interior is hot and gooey. Cooled, they can be stored for some time before brew day.

Because much of the saccarification of bouza bread’s starches has been completed by the baking process, to brew, the loaves are crumbled into mash-temperature water and soaked for an hour. The liquid is drained off and the grains are rinsed with hot water. The wort is infused with blue lotus flowers, boiled and cooled. Sourdough culture is added, and the mixture fermented for three days at a temperature between 70F and 80F to taste (the higher temperature range favors the lactobacillus in the sourdough culture, making the bouza more tart.)

When the bouza has finished fermenting, it can be bottled with a small amount of honey in each bottle. This batch is very dark amber, with a sourdough bread aroma. The flavor is tangy, with hints of malt, pepper, corriander and nutmeg.

As it tends to ferment out very dry, and consequently sour, the bouza can be mixed to taste with date sugar for sweetening before serving it. Show up at the Pharoah’s pad with a jug of this, and you’re sure to receive a warm welcome.

14 comments on “Egyptian Bouza

  1. alison says:

    Have you tried to recreate this? I’ve been making Bouza from another set of instructions for a couple of months now. What is Red Sea Starter? I googled it but no joy.

    • I made it only the one time. More recently I made Sumerian sikaru though. Both use sourdough starters from here:

      Red Sea starter is from a bakery in Cairo that’s been in business for 3000 years, the Bahrain starter is the oldest in the collection though

      • Alison Kay says:

        I’ve been making Bouza quite regularly with different starters. What’s the difference between the Bouza and the Sumerian Sikaru? I looked to see if you wrote up the process, but can’t see a post!

  2. I made the bouza with partially baked barley malt bread, cooked until it was hot and gooey inside. This was in lieu of the conventional mashing process now used. For the sikaru, I used in addition to a malt mash, a type of bread called bappir, made of barley malt and dates, and baked until it was dry and hard. It’s said that in this state bappir will last centuries if kept dry and cool! I made mine about 10 years ago and had stored it in my basement. I’ll age the sikaru in a carboy for a year, similar to gueuze, and then back-sweeten it with date syrup from Trader Joe’s.

    • Alison Kay says:

      Thanks. I can see your bouza process was slightly different to the one I do (mine is 50% malt bread baked till gooey, 50% green malt, both put and left in the active ferment vessel). And I now see the clear difference between that and the sikaru process. I would love to know how the sikaru tastes after a year in the carboy!

  3. I’ll def do a post on the sikaru. Yesterday I started a millet boza with the Bahrain sourdough starter and turbinado sugar. Very curious to taste!

    • Alison says:

      I’ll look forward to reading it :-> I’ve been making boza for a long time. I love the taste! I make my own starter using just millet and sugar.

      • I’ve seen recipes that use bread yeast and yogurt to make a starter.

      • Alison Kay says:

        I like going wild with fermentations, and having done a fair few sugared ferments before, I grew my starter with just cooked millet and sugar. It’s lasted 2+ years now and just gets stronger and stronger. I have often used it to start ancient beer. People were asking me for my process, so I made a Boza video course which includes how to make the starter and the drink. I don’t think my drink is as sweet as the beverage served in Turkey, but I love it. I would love to see how yours comes out – I’m imagining it’ll be more sour due to the lactic acid it the sourdough.

  4. I’m market testing boza here in my hippie-infested town to see if there’s any commercial potential within the kombucha crowd

    • Alison Kay says:

      I love that. I’ve fed my boza to people other than my husband and son (who are both used to ‘strange’ foods!) and everyone who’s tried it likes it πŸ™‚ It’d be great to hear what results you get!

  5. I’m working on a post about it today

  6. Alison Kay says:

    I’m looking forward to reading it when it’s up πŸ™‚

  7. New post on boza is up πŸ™‚

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