What people are saying about my chicha:
"That stuff was really sour!" --Biggus Dirkus
"We're saving the second bottle." --Julie of Stein Fillers
"I liked it better than pLambic." --John Palmer
"The pleasure is all yours!!" --Dion "El Presidente" Hollenbeck
"Chicha kinda reminds me of a complex white wine. Almost watered-down white wine in the fore-taste. Stays on the lips like clean water. Neat, almost candy-like subtle, sweet-and-fruity aftertaste. ... Odor is reminiscent of a white wine, too. Looks like a pink grapefruit drink with the starch haze - nay - cloud! - that pours from the bottle ... Dry. Really very interesting! I didn't think I'd actually like it from your descriptions, but this is truly an enjoyable drink! Carbonation is there, but not "fizzy" - just prickly on the tongue and palate. That fruitiness is really evasive. Just kind of dances around the edges of the palate, never really letting you "put a finger on it". The aroma belies the same candy-like sweetness." --Pat Babcock
Types of Chicha
Those who may be unfamiliar with the terminology and equipment I use in this document might want to take a look at my brewing equipment. Be warned that this page contains some graphics and is quite large. Perhaps more importantly, there is also a glossary of terms.
Chicha is a beer made from corn that is widely enjoyed in Central and South America. It is a beverage that is often consumed while still fermenting and low in alcohol. It may be left to ferment out, thereby yielding a strong, dry, chicha, but this is not chicha's traditional form. It is generally slightly sour from lactobacillus bacteria introduced during a spontaneous ferment. Chicha may also be spiced with almost anything, or fruit may be added to the ferment or at the time of serving. Traditionally, the fruit used is strawberry and this is called frutillada. Traditionally, all phases of the production of chicha were performed by women, and this is largely true today.
Chicha has been made for thousands of years, most notably by the Incas who brewed it on a commercial scale. During my "research", it quickly became evident that today chichamaking is strictly a cottage industry, however widespread it may be, and therefore practices vary widely.
I will not try to give any more historical or background information regarding chicha. This was done better than I could hope to by Wendy Aaronson and Bill Ridgely in an article titled "Adventures in Chicha and Chang: Indigenous Beers of the East and West", zymurgy magazine, Spring 1994. Also, in the May 1994 issue of BarleyCorn, there appeared two articles by Bill Ridgely: "Gold of the Aqllakuna, The Story of Chicha", and "Adventures in Chichamaking - The Great Brew-In by the Bay".
I got on to the idea of making chicha several years ago when Bill Ridgely posted on the subject to the Homebrew Digest. Wendy and Bill travel the world in search of indigenous beers. Quite a hobby! Needless to say, my foray into chichamaking would not have occured without their groundwork. Many thanks to them both. Thanks also go to Steve Alexander. Some of Steve's contributions reside herein, but many wait for me to sort out.
From the lack of chicha encountered in my annual travels in southern Mexico, I had assumed that chicha was more common in South America rather than Central America. However, it so happens that I work with a fellow named Felipe Torres who is from Nicaragua, and Felipe is very familar with chicha. In fact, his mother-in-law makes it on occasion. It appears to be quite common in Central America outside of Mexico.
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