I stared listlessly – without even the slightest trace of list – at my screen this afternoon, trying to scratch my brain for a topic. Yes, I had made a habit of allowing Ms. Wiki’s “Random Article” button to guide my journey through topic selection, but toward the end of this project in 2014 I began poking my own ideas into the mix. I mean, once I heard about the mummy of John Wilkes Booth going on tour around the country, I wasn’t about to wait for random chance to dump me onto that particular topic.
So as I scanned an article about 19 ways to jazz up your ramen noodles (which I never make, so my reading that article was more an act of boredom than anything else), I began to wonder… do people ever crack an egg in beer? And just drink it?
I hit up good ol’ Google and punched in ‘Egg In Beer’. I was not disappointed.
First off, it’s a colloquialism I’d never heard before. When someone is asking for something good, perhaps something beyond what they rightly deserve, a response could be, “What do you want – egg in your beer?” I suppose that implies that getting an egg in one’s beer would somehow elevate the beverage to superhuman levels. Or maybe it’s a warning that adding that extra thing they don’t deserve would spoil what they’ve already got – a perfectly fine beer.
Had the definition ended there, I would not be penning a kilograph about the concept. No, consuming a raw egg cracked into a pint of beer is not unheard of – in fact it’s a delicacy to some people. One Seattle court battle from 1915 saw a judge ruling that an egg cracked into a beer does not go against any statutes prohibiting giving away free food at bars. Once it’s in the beer, it’s a beverage ingredient. So I suppose this was… good news? An easy workaround for taverns who aren’t allowed to give away food but don’t want their regulars leaving their stools for a snack elsewhere? Or is it just grotesque?
I’m leaning toward just grotesque, but then I truly have no idea.
We’ve all heard of guzzling raw eggs as a cure for a wicked hangover, and we’ve also heard of downing some hair-of-the-dog – a bit more booze to somehow regulate the mind. I’ve tried the latter, and found varying results, depending on the severity of the hangover. I’ve never tried chugging raw eggs, simply because I can’t see the logic in forcing something slippery and slimy down one’s gullet when one is already feeling one’s belly doing a dance of impeding rejection. Cracking a raw egg into a beer would combine those dubious cures into one though, so maybe that’s the secret. I have no hangover at the moment, nor do I feel like generating one to find this out.
My last genuine hangover was January 1, 2020 – National Hangover Day, which I celebrated fully at the outset of that weird gas-leak project I pulled off last year. I’m extremely happy this alleged cure had not crossed my radar, or I might have been foolish enough to try it.
Now if I was to head down to Hanoi, I might find something that would change my mind on this issue.
Egg Beer, served at the Giang Café in Hanoi, is just like it sounds, except less vulgar. First off, you’ll find no bulbous yolk doggy-paddling through your suds. The chef whips up egg whites with some sugar and butter, then pour that into the beer, giving a robust and sweet treat that actually sounds quite appealing. Sure, it looks a little custard-like, but how bad could it be?
It would have to be better than the Red Eye cocktail, made somewhat famous in the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail. That’s beer, raw egg, tomato juice and aspirin. Again, we’re talking hangover cure here, and not a leisurely beverage. I suppose when the demons of a fractured morning are pounding on the inside of one’s skull, one will do what one has to in order to make it through. Even if that means downing something that by any logical measure sounds vile.
Eggs in beer is known as a ‘miner’s breakfast’, implying that folks who work in a mine are so grisly and macho (or perhaps wholly devoid of taste buds) that they’ll regularly down this concoction, just for fun. Season 2 of The Wire also introduced us to the Irish Breakfast allegedly enjoyed by Baltimore dockworkers, which involves the same basic two-ingredient recipe. Paul Newman, playing an alcoholic lawyer in the 1982 Sidney Lumet film The Verdict, also chugged one of these for breakfast.
I suppose the lesson here is that cracking an egg into a beer is, if not at all palatable, a great way to demonstrate that your character is odd, visceral, and perplexingly male.
Hey! I’m all three of those things, right? I mean – simply writing about “egg in beer” feels a little flat to me, especially after having spent a year in which my daily writing assignments were flecked with weird real-world experience. I’m not desecrating a fine beer with a raw egg though. I will, however, try to recreate the Giang Café’s recipe for Egg Beer. Just for you, the reader. You’re welcome.
In my haste, I forgot to separate the yolk from the white, so in effect my finished recipe landed closer to the Paul Newman recipe than the Vietnamese delicacy. And it tasted like a frothy, somewhat buttery beer. Big thanks to local brewery Alleycat – not for supplying me with any free beer for this (though I will accept free beer and proceed to conduct weird culinary experiments with it if they’re open to it), but for creating a tasty brown ale that made me forget I’d stupidly inserted wrongness into every sip.
I have no regrets.
Not true – I have one regret. I should have simply cracked the egg in. The butter, which I’d had the foresight to melt prior to whipping this all together, began to harden again once I poured the mixture into the drink. Maybe I didn’t whisk it enough. Maybe I should have left out the damn yolk. But once little chunks of butter start creeping into each sip, transforming them into bites… yeah, that’s just a mouthful of regret.
I already had a tasty beverage awaiting me. What did I want – egg in my beer???