Drink Umqombothi Africa’s Indigenous Sorghum (Home) Brews

Not many truly indigenous beers exist now and if you want to find them, then you have to visit places such as Peru, Tibet, and Africa, while remote Scandinavia (see post 156) and Lithuania (see post 165) have their farmhouse beers. Most of these beers are hard to find; they require lots of travel to faraway places that you’d probably not bother going to if it wasn’t for some local home-brew (and even that is only appealing to the slimmest minority of booze boffins). Yet the fact that these brews still exist makes me want to drink them and know more about them.

Drink Umqombothi Africa’s Indigenous Sorghum (Home) Brews Photo Gallery



Africa has a few such brews and they’re based on local grains, such as sorghum, millet, and maize, and root sources of starch like cassava— these have such a presence that large commercial breweries make their own versions for these markets. Chibuku Shake Shake (so named because you have to shake it before drinking) is one of these brands. It is sold in cardboard milk cartons—appropriate for something that looks like milk when it’s poured. This is a commercial version of the home-brew umqombothi. There’s a lot of regional variety around the country, much of it still existing as home-brew.

Little is written about many of these beers. My suspicion is that they have such an ingrained and long-standing tradition that they’re just a fact of life there. Made daily or weekly, and consumed locally, people don’t write about them just as I don’t write about how I make a cup of tea. The fact that these beers are such a part of their lives is what adds interest for me. They are technically “beers,” and they’re beers that have been drunk for centuries or more, but they’re nothing like the beers we know and drink elsewhere in the world. American Pale Ales have only been available since the 1980s, while these ancient homebrews pre-date dates and go back to the origins of civilization.

Women brew Umqombothi in Bloemfontien, South Africa.

A Guinness advert on the wall outside a Lagos bar.

Drink Guinness in Nigeria: It’s Not the Same as in Dublin

Did you know that more Guinness is drunk in Nigeria than in Ireland? Guinness was first exported to Africa in the 1820s and, in 1962, the first non-Irish or British Guinness brewery opened in Nigeria’s capital, Lagos (Guinness also

has breweries in Malaysia, Ghana, and Cameroon). It arrived at the same time as an advertising campaign telling Nigerians that “Guinness gives you Power.” The Lagos Guinness is not the same as that brewed in Dublin. Nigerian Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is made with malted, roasted maize and sorghum, and it’s 7.5% ABV.

It’s dense, black, oily, and bitter, with the roast qualities you expect in Guinness—it’s a really nice beer. And it’s Nigeria’s beer; Nigerians drink a lot of it and they drink the stronger, more poweful stuff, too, not that wimpy Irish brew.

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