From “The Beer Tombs of Egypt” by Chris O’Brien over at Fermenting Revolution: The Beer Activist Guide to Saving the World:
The Cairo Museum features a display case filled with ancient statues of brewers like this one, titled “Woman brewing and straining beer.”
Beer was the every day food-beverage of royalty and common folk alike. To go without was considered a terrible impoverishment. According to J.H. Breasted, in Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Four, a Pharaoh named Tefnakhte was once forced to evade attackers for a prolonged period of time. Upon his eventual surrender, he described the hardships of his refuge: I have not sat in the beer-hall, nor has the harp been played for me; but I have eaten bread in hunger, and I have drunk water in thirst. The horror of it all.
The term ‘beer-hall’ was used interchangeably with the notion of a convivial get-together, a place, or an occasion for beer drinking.
Though it was drunk routinely for nourishment, beer was also a catalyst for exceptional banquets and good times. Entertainment during a beer-hall consisted of storytelling, music of flutes, oboes and harps, singing and recitation. Dancing and acrobatics were performed by scantily dressed young women. And according to an account in Ancient Wine, a book by Patrick McGovern, ‘Dwarves were always popular,’ as were wrestlers.
Herodotus, considered the world’s first historian, described such a scene in his Histories II:
When they have finished eating, a man bears round a wooden figure of a dead body in a coffin, made as like the reality as may be both by painting and carving, and measuring about a cubit or two cubits each way; and this he shows to each of those who are drinking together, saying: “When thou lookest upon this, drink and be merry, for thou shalt be such as this when thou art dead.” Thus they do at their carousals.