So, what on earth is Chicha? Well, the name is likely a loanword from the Taino and was used by Spanish colonizers to refer to any fermented beverages made by the Indigenous peoples of South America, primarily corn-based beers. 🌽 🍺
Chicha beer in Peru
In Peru, the Quechua name for Chicha is ajha. It was long believed that fermentation was aided by chewing the corn first to impart enzymes in the saliva to help break down the corn starches into fermentable sugars. Recent archaeological research, however, has challenged this theory and suggested that Quechua women instead malted their corn before grinding it into a flour-like substance that was mixed with water and boiled. This mixture was then left to spontaneously ferment with yeasts found in the surrounding environment. 🤤
It is this later process that Trevor Livingstone of Livingstone Brewery has followed in his latest pursuit of brewing all the world’s historical beers. It is brewed entirely with corn, which, in the interest of avoiding a visit from the MAPAQ, wasn’t chewed but rather fermented with yeast brought back from Peru by Les Coureurs des Boires and refined by Le Labo Solutions Brassicoles As is traditional, it also forgoes hops for all the natural corn flavor! 🌽
The result is once again absolutely unlike any beer or even beverage I’ve had before. It pours like natural lemonade with a cream color and no head. Aromatics are scarce with a bit of corn and some citrus coming through faintly. At only 3%, it’s very light on the palate, yet it also has a surprisingly creamy or even milky mouthfeel. In the background, there’s a refreshing lemon/lime acidity, which marries well with the creamy sweetness of corn. Indeed, it’s super weird at first but quickly grows on you as it’s very easy to drink. My only issue was a bit of chalkiness in the finish, which wasn’t my favorite thing, but it didn’t spoil my overall discovery of this fascinating “beer”! 🍋 😋
Originally from England, Mike Davis came to Quebec ten years ago to study history. During this time he fell in love with the microbreweries of Quebec, which reminded him of English pubs. Now, he holds a Ph.D in History from McGill University, but works in the beer world as the Brand Ambassador for Microbrasserie 4 Origines.