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Classification: chicha, corn beer, central america, native america

Source: Scott Kaczorowski (kacz@delta1), HBD Issue #2224, 10/10/96

Bill Ridgely posted to the HBD about two years ago (?) regarding another one of his beery adventures: Chicha (corn beer). Chicha is made in South and, to a lesser extent, Central America. Unlike African opaque beer, it is not brewed commercially, but instead is made and served in what sound to me like wee tiny brewpubs. An abbreviated version is also made in people's kitchens. Chicha is consumed whilst still fermenting and so is low in alcohol. It is often spiced and may also be served with fruit.

With Bill's help and a little patience, a friend and I recently completed a batch. This was a very interesting and satisfying endeavour which included growing and malting the corn used. Every step of the process was very simple, and I highly recommend attempting this at home. My second crop of corn is about to come in and the results were good enough that I will be doing this again in the near future.

Ingredients: (for 1-1/2 gallons)


Mash for 90 minutes at 160F.

We did two 1.5 gallon batches, each spiced differently (one with curacao/coriander, the other with allspice/cinammon). We would rather have used a higher proportion of jora, but on brewday we discovered that our ability to determine the weight of things is seriously imparied. Instead of the 4.5lbs we thought we had, we found we had only 3lbs of jora.

Rather than readjust (the OG would have been more appropriate at ~1.045 in any case), we added more sugar, a course of action that was inspired by homebrewed Weizen as much as anything else.

The result is a very tasty beverage, pretty big all the way around on corn, and yet the flavor is quite subtle. Be warned that chicha is at its peak 2 to 4 days after pitching while it still retains some sweetness and body. Once the chicha ferments out, you are left with a fairly bland beverage that reminds me of iced tea more than anything else. If I'd been thinking (chicha lends itself to gulping), I would have kegged the stuff on the third day after pitching and stuck it in the fridge.

While we took the trouble to grow our own (blue) corn, I see no reason why one could not start with good ol' yellow corn from the grocery store (domestic 20-row?) In fact, I plan on doing this if only to see what kind of chicha it makes.

More details are available on the Chicha page.