Ever had an Egyptian beer? No? Neither had I until I discovered that they had been revealed at Bekya Middle Eastern Kitchen in Harold Park. In amongst the maze of restaurants at the Tramsheds, Bekya is a traditional Middle Eastern kitchen serving out some authentic Egyptian dishes like koshari and falafel based off family recipes. Now they’ve added authentic Egyptian brewed beers to their delicious repertoire.
I sat down with business owner Sheren Mostafa to see how these beers came to be here. It turns out that importing them was no easy feat. In fact, it was a four year marathon by her brother and business partner Wally who tried to organise with Heineken owned Al Ahram brewery in Cairo for their exportation. This continued until 2016 when “Wally decided to fly over to Cairo and knock on [Al Ahram’s] door” and struck up a business deal with the beverage group. In a show of fantastic dedication to providing a holistic Middle Eastern experience from their authenticity in the kitchen to the beverages you drink with your meals, Sheren and Wally finally had their first shipment arrive in April this year.
Beer has a deeply rooted story in the history of Egypt. It was brewed for the working class some 5000 years ago, and was safer to drink than water. It was also used in religious ceremonies and can be found amongst hieroglyphic depictions. The modern day favourite Stella has been in production since 1897, making it the oldest beer still produced and well known all through Egypt. However the recipe and brewing process have changed over time, as has the drinking culture in Egypt. Now a more conservative society the beers are not as widely advertised in Egypt, but Sheren has found that they are popular here among Egyptians and Egyptian-Australian’s alike for the nostalgia as well as the taste.
Being the oldest and most popular beer in Egypt, the Stella lager ($8.50/330ml or $14/500ml) was an obvious choice to include in their vision. Notably it also was chosen by Monde Selection for the gold medal for quality in 2011. It’s an average strength beer, 4.5%, that has quite a light body with hoppy notes at the end. I can see this pairing well with many dishes, but in this instance I had it possibly the most famous Egyptian dish – koshari.
Koshari ($15) is like the Egyptian equivalent of ratatouille. Bekya’s is made from rice, lentils, macaroni, chickpeas, fried onions covered in a spiced tomato salsa. Its origins are contested due to the multicultural hub Egypt has been over the years, but koshari has been claimed by the Egyptian as their own and stalls all through the country have their own take on it. It’s a beautifully simple dish but with such a great range of textures and flavours which make every bite interesting. What makes it even more lovely is that Sheren and Wally used their mothers recipe as the basis for their koshari.
Proving the most popular with Australian diners, the Meister Max ($10/330ml) is the strongest brew of the three. At 8% alcohol, it’s a stronger European style malted lager with citric acidity which tantalises the taste buds. Due to the stronger flavour profile of this beer, it pairs well with the heavier dishes on the menu like the lamb.
The slow cooked lamb shoulder ($30) would have to have been my favourite dish of the day. Cooked to perfection, it was so tender and moist. It just fell away from itself. The tomato sauce covering it was so flavoursome and with the texture from the beans this dish was so moreish from start to finish. I found that the tartness from the tomatoes really worked well with the citrus flavours of the Meister Max.
Finally, the Sakara Gold ($14/500ml) is the newest of the beers to hit the Egyptian market. On the lighter side of things, with 4% alcohol, it is quite refreshing to drink with a slight spicy twist on the end notes. An easy to drink pale lager, it has the capabilities to pair well with many dishes. With this beer I had the Kataifi prawns ($22). Wrapped in crunchy kataifi filo pastry the prawns were well cooked, but it was the muhammara dip they were on which was the best bit. A blend of capsicum, walnuts and spices the dip was creamy and spicy with a rich flavour profile. The spicy twist in the beer really suits the spices in the muhammara dip, as well as the lighter flavours in the beer suiting the seafood.
If you’re sick of the standard beers going around town, then why not drink like a Pharaoh and give Bekya’s new range of beers (and their delectable Middle Eastern menu) a try? I loved it and I hope you will too!
Bekya Middle Eastern Kitchen
Address: Tramsheds, 1 Dalgal Way, Forest Lodge, Sydney, Glebe, Sydney, NSW
Phone: (02) 9080 8888