Cleaning up Egypt's national suds
Stella beer looking for a turnaround
August 12, 1997
Web posted at: 4:29 p.m. EDT (2029 GMT)
CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- Egyptians have been drinking beer for
thousands of years. In fact, some say the pyramids were
built on beer. But years of experience didn't improve the
quality of Stella, Egypt's national brand. Although it's
become known for its poor quality, the domestic brand's new
owners hope to turn its reputation around.
According to archaeologists, hieroglyphics at Giza Plateaux
show that stonecutters were given beer three times a day, and
the workmen who built the tomb at Giza were paid in the form
of bread and beer.
"The ancient Egyptians loved beer a lot," said Dr. Zahi
Hawas, the head of antiquities at Giza Plateaux. "We found
many important evidence proving that the workmen drink beer
in the morning and in the evening, and this is to show that
drinking beer helped a lot in building the pyramids."
With thousands of years of brewing experience behind them,
you might expect Egyptians to have perfected the art of
making beer. But rather than being a source of pride, the
national brand is the butt of countless jokes and better
known for what's not meant to be in the bottle -- dirt, bugs,
and bottle caps, for example.
"We had a lot of incidents with the Stella beer, we used to
call it the surprise bottle because sometimes we found
matches, sometimes nails, sometimes cockroaches, also flies,
lots of flies. And sometimes just slimy stuff," said pub
owner Nihah Sursock.
But at last things are changing. The newly privatized Pyramid
Company, which brews Stella, wants to improve its image. In
the few months it has taken control of Stella, the company
has turned the management upside down. And most importantly,
it has pledged to make sure consumers aren't playing Russian
roulette when they drink a bottle of Stella.
"I was very disappointed in how Stella as a brand have
deteriorated under the government management, frankly," said
Ahmed Zayat, the Pyramid Company's new executive chairman and
main shareholder. "The product was flat, never tasted good,
gave you indigestion, inconsistent. There was no longer the
soundness of Stella as a brand."
Zayat says the company's main challenge will be t