Millet beer, also known as Bantu beer, malwa, kaffir beer, pombe or opaque beer, is an alcoholic beverage made from malted millet that is common throughout West and Central Africa. Millet Beer varies in taste and alcoholic content between ethnic groups. It is served in calabashes.
This type of beer is common throughout Africa. Related African drinks include maize beer and sorghum beer. In the Balkans and Turkey a form of millet beer named boza is produced. In the U.S., Sprecher Brewery produces a type of beer that contains a mix of millet and sorghum known as Shakparo. A form of millet beer is also produced by the Ainu.
Millet kernels are soaked in warm water until they sprout, with the goal to increase the content of maltose in the grain. The millet is then dried out to arrest the germination process. The malted grain is then pulverized and mixed with water. This mixture is commonly known as wort. The wort is later boiled in order to remove any potential bacterial threat. Once the boiling process is complete and the wort cools down yeast is added. The mixture is then allowed to ferment. The entire process takes five days.
In many cultures of West Africa, millet beer plays an central role in every aspect of daily life, such as:
- - Sacrifices;
- - Rites of passage;
- - Dances;
- - Births, marriages, burials, and funeral celebrations;
- - Welcoming a guest;
- - Sealing a contract;
- - Agricultural cooperatives;
- - Thatching a roof;
- - Pounding a courtyard;
- - Discussions between village elders;
- - Social gatherings at home and the market.
In some West African cultures, village women open their homes as 'pubs' one day a week, to sell millet beer. This gathering point provides social cohesion in the village.
Millet beer is served in a calabasch. You hold the calabash with the right hand. Before drinking you pour a few drops on the ground in honor of your ancestors. After drinking, you pour the dregs ground in a straight line.
Words for "millet beer" in African languages
Malwa - Ateso (Uganda). Chibuku - Southern and Central Africa.
Millet beer is directly referred to in Nadine Gordimer's short story "Happy Event". The servant Thomasi complains to his missus (Ella) of another servant's poor behaviour, one of the accusations being: "'I think she makes the kaffir beer,' said Thomasi." the passage ends with Ella dismissing this accusation, "if the girl brewed kaffir beer in her room, Thomasi would be her first customer, not the informant seeking to get her into trouble."
- Roberts, David (2013). Parlons kabiyè. Paris: Harmattan. pp 249-252
- Haggblade, Steven, and Wilhelm H. Holzapfel. (2004). "Industrialization of Africa's Indigenous Beer Brewing", Industrialization of Indigenous Fermented Foods, 2nd ed. New York City: CRC Press.