Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

99 Bottles of Beer at the Museum

By Jay Brooks
Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 at 11:06 am in On Beer.

If you read my column in today’s newspapers, you already know that the Hearst Museum at UC Berkeley will be launching an exhibition of artifacts of beer-making from 2500 B.C. through the present.


The Museum will unveil their latest show this Saturday, October 10 from 12-6 p.m.: “99 Bottles of Beer: Global Brewing Traditions 2500 B.C. — Present.” The event will include a Beer Fair and Symposium with such speakers as Fritz Maytag, from San Francisco’s Anchor Brewery, Charles Bamforth, the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at UC Davis, and the Beer Chef, Bruce Paton.

The exhibit itself includes some 130 beer-related items, most from the museum’s collections and many on display for the first time. The goal, says Jacknis, is to reveal “the striking unities and diversities of human cultures as they come together to celebrate the fruit of the grain.”

Among the treasures: a limestone statue of a servant woman, straining mash for beer, that dates back to the Old Kingdom, Egypt, circa 2500 B.C. It’s the oldest item in the Heart Museum collection. Other items came from local excavation sites and other sources. Possibly the quirkiest display is a full beer bottle, believed to be between 100 and 150 years old, stored in the museum’s refrigerator.

The yearlong exhibit kicks off with the Symposium, Beer Fair and Workshop on Oct. 10 from noon-6 p.m. at the museum, which is located on the UC Berkeley campus on the corner of College and Bancroft. Tickets are $20 for either the Symposium or the Beer Fair and Workshop, or $30 for both, and may be purchased online at

To whet your appetite, here are a few more pieces that will be in the exhibit.


Museum curator Ira Jacknis, down in the bowels of the museum, giving me a preview peek at the collection early last week.

Cat. No. 6-19811

The oldest piece in the exhibit is this figurine of a servant woman “straining mash for beer.” It’s painted limestone and dates from the Old Kingdom in Egypt’s 5-6 Dynasty (2465-2150 BCE)


Egyptian tumblers, with pointed bottoms, and their frame holders. They’re pointed, too, so they can be stuck in the ground to keep the beer from spilling. I imagine cocktail parties with everyone’s glasses stuck in the ground as people talk and enjoy the party.

Cat. No. 16-14917

A corn beer tumbler in gold from the Ica Valley in Peru. It dates from around 1000-1476 CE.


The corn beer tumbler with other items being prepared for the exhibition.


Beer steins.

Cat. No. 7-6408

A South American stein.


The tallest item from the collection, from Peru.

Cat. No. 7-6338

A German mug made of salt-glazed stoneware ad pewter, created some time between 1880 and 1940.


A pair of gold drinking vessels made for South American royalty.

I hope to see you at the show. If you can’t make it on Saturday, the exhibition will be open for at least a year, so stop by when you get a chance to get a glimpse of beer’s long history.

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