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To make chicha beer, you start by chewing up corn and spitting it out. There was a skeptical article this week in the New York Times about Dogfish Head brewery’s attempt to make a chicha-inspired beer. It sounds like a lot of work, and it looks like it, too, from this video:

If you want to try it on a smaller scale, there’s a recipe in Katz’s Wild Fermentation. And if the idea of chewing up all that corn sounds like no fun (or just gross), there is a very comprehensive non-chew recipe at LocalHarvest which includes a 1947 Harvard Botanical Museum leaflet on the topic! Foodies will be happy to learn that you can even make wheat-free chicha homebrew out of quinoa.

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Sencha Ginger Blonde Homebrew Ale

When I write, I like to drink beer to lubricate the mind and I like to drink caffeinated tea to stay focused. Sometimes I drink them at the same time. So after reading about brews made with things like safron and oysters in Burkhard Bilger’s article about extreme beer and Dogfish Head Brewery, I was inspired to combine my vices in a single beverage.

I also added ginger, because I like it. I started with the makings for a blonde ale from my local homebrewing store, Oak Barrel Winecraft. I chose that beer because I was afraid the bitterness of something with more hops would drown out my extra flavors. About 40 minutes into boiling the wort, which is closer to the end than the beginning, I added a sliced, hand-sized hunk of fresh ginger. As soon as I turned off the heat at the end of the boil, I dipped a bag holding one cup of sencha green tea into the wort and let it soak for five minutes. Then I strained and fermented the beer as usual.

I like the grassy flavor of sencha, and i was hoping it would come through in the beer. It didn’t. But the ginger did come, with a nice kick at the end of every sip. And it settles the stomach, too. As for the caffeine, the tea gives the brew a bit of a zing, but to get a strong effect I think I’ll have to use a black tea in a heavier beer. Maybe with some cardamom and other masala chai spices? I’d also like to add even more green tea to an even lighter beer.

While asking Uncle Internet if he had any beer recipes involving tea, I came across this excerpt of a text from 1822 bashing tea as a drink far inferior to beer:

I view the tea drinking as a destroyer of health, an enfeebler of the frame, an engenderer of effeminacy and laziness, a debaucher of youth, and a maker of misery for old age.”

The writer also says of tea that it, “besides being good for nothing, has badness in it.” Happily, there’s no badness in my tea beer.

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Homebrew is cheap


I stopped by the corner store on the way home to get a sixpack and it cost me $10.50! Ok, I know beer comes in at more than $10 in some places, but I live in Oakland, and not the fancy part of the city either. And true, I like my microbrew over my PBR—today I got Sierra Nevada’s new Torpedo Extra IPA and I have to say it’s good. Even though it’s up at 70 international bitterness units (or IBUs), which is above and beyond your average IPA’s 40, it has great flavor instead of tasting gratingly bitter. The brewery chalks this up to their use of whole-cone hops over processed pellets or extracts and something called a “hot torpedo,” whatever that is. Look for info on hops here.

But back to the point! Ten dollars is expensive, especially compared to the $30 I spent on ingredients for the 50 bottles of blonde ale now waiting out their final stage of fermentation in my basement. Let me break it down for you: The beer I bought tonight = $1.75 a bottle. My beer = $0.60 a bottle. I can’t wait till it’s ready.

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