In South Africa, as well as China, sorghum is used in the production of beverages and is considered a very important ingredient. In South Africa, it is used to make beer, whereas in China, it is used in the making of distilled beverages like kaoliang and maotai. It is used instead of barley grain in many places, to make a malt which is used in gluten-free beer. Also, a large-scale production of sorghum is not as expensive as that of barley.
Popularly known as bil-bil in Cameroon, burukutu in Nigeria, pombe in East Africa, and bjala bja setso in Northern Sotho, sorghum beer is a very popular beverage among health-conscious drinkers. The early brands of this beer which were produced and marketed throughout the United States were: Redbridge, launched by Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Missouri; and New Grist, launched by Lakefront Breweries in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
This beer normally has a cloudy, pinkish-brown appearance, and a sour, fruity taste. It is low in carbohydrates and rich in protein. Its alcohol content generally varies between 1% and 8%. It can also be consumed at room temperature, and need not necessarily be chilled.
Recipe for Making this Beer
Malting, mashing, boiling, souring, and fermenting, are the general steps of the beer brewing process. The process of brewing sorghum beer is identical to that of traditional beer, with souring being the only additional step.
This beer can be prepared at home quite easily. The process takes a few days. It involves filling big cast-iron pots with water and boiling it, adding the sorghum grains to them, and allowing the mixtures to ferment for a few days prior to being served.
- Sorghum ale (sorghum malt)
- Sorghum grain
- Unmalted sorghum
- Baking yeast
Take the unmalted millet and sorghum ale in equal proportions (1:1). Boil the millet in water till it condenses into starch. Drain this mixture and add the crushed ale to it. Pour 4 times as much water as the mixture, into a shallow pan (water:mixture = 4:1). Pour the mixture into the water and let it boil for an hour or two. After this, transfer the entire liquid to the fermentation pot, and add the yeast or sorghum grains to it when it cools down to room temperature. Stir it vigorously. Let it sit for a few days, and then filter it into a storage pot. Refrigerate it before serving.
In Africa, this beer is brewed using sorghum grains. During this process, it undergoes both alcoholic and lactic acid fermentation. Souring can also be done using yogurt or cultures used as sourdough starters. Letting the mixture ferment naturally is another way to sour it. Lactic acid fermentation can be initiated by adding some malted or raw sorghum grains to the mixture.
Commercially, this beer is packed in a microbiologically active state to keep the process of alcoholic fermentation active. Generally, containers with small vents are used as packaging. The commercial version normally contains a small amount of sorghum blended well with a large amount of unmalted corn.
Easy to make and healthy to drink, this beer is a good alternative for those who are on a gluten-free diet.