Peruvian-inspired Corn Beer

>> Friday, August 03, 2018

In prior posts, I mentioned I was malting my own corn in order to brew a beer inspired by fermented beverages native to the Americas. I found a few examples of people trying something similar, and the results were mixed at best. A few people said several of their attempts were just plain gross and it took multiple tries to come up with a recipe that was even worth brewing a second time. So it's definitely a little challenging.

I stumbled across an article about Dr. Patrick Ryan Williams' research into the Wari people of Peru and their ancient corn beer. That led me to Off Color Brewing, who brewed a chicha-inspired beer based on Dr. Williams' findings. I reached out to Off Color Brewing for a little help, and the following is the recipe I came up with based on their tips. 

A couple of disclaimers first about some general assumptions that I made. First, I  think it's probably safe to assume these fermented beverages would have been sour or at least slightly tart due to the limited understanding of microbiology and sanitation in ancient times. Second, these beverages were likely fermented without temperature control, so they probably had some fruity esters similar to a Saison and other farmhouse styles. I also want to make it clear, this is a Chicha-inspired beer, and is not intended to be an authentic recreation of the ancient style.

PSA: Pink Peppercorns are in the cashew family, so you may want to steer clear of these if you have any nut allergies. 

Target OG 1.045

5.0# 7oz Castle Chateau Pilsner malt (65%)
2.5# Malted Purple Corn (30%)
7oz Honey Malt (5%)
8g pink peppercorns (5 min)
Kettle sour with GoodBelly SuperShots
Blend of US-05 and Belle Saison

Brew Day 1 - 8/3/2018
  • Mash at 150F, mashout at 168F for 10 minutes. 
  • Collect about 7 gallons and bring to 175F for about 15 minutes.
  • Chill to 100F and acidify to a pH of 4.5 before pitching GoodBelly.
  • Leave it to sour for a few days.

Brew Day 2 - 8/7/2018
  • 90 min boil
  • No hops in this recipe. 
  • Add pink peppercorns at 5 min left in the boil. 
  • Chill to 65F and pitch a combination of US-05 and Belle Saison. Start fermentation at 65F, and allow to rise to 69F over 4 days.
Brewing Notes
No real issues with this brew. Pre-boil pH came in at 3.38, so this will likely have quite a bit of acidity once fermented. The post-boil pH read 3.35. OG is 12.3P (1.048) so just a little higher than planned. I had a pretty vigorous boil going, so the extra gravity points are likely due to extra boil off. I tasted a small sample and it's really nice with tons of berry character. I was a little worried when I first added the pink peppercorns because the aroma was super peppery/spicey. I was afraid that combined with pepper notes from the yeast might throw it out of balance, but I really dig how the sample tasted.

Update 8/9/2018
Fermentation is progressing without any problems. I made some blow-off tubes using 1/2" stainless tubing. This is the first time using one and it's working great, much better than my old plastic/silicone tubing blowoffs. They're easy to clean, they don't flop around, just a nice simple design. I'll post a picture later. Gravity is down to ~1.027 and it's currently chugging along at 65F, ramping up to 66F today.

Update 8/11/2018
Gravity is down to ~ 1.006. No blow-off of yeast/krausen and my stainless blow-off tube has worked great. I'm probably going to make a few more of these and use them from now on.  They're easy to sanitize and they can even be boiled. In the event of a blow-off, they'll help contain the mess (assuming the little container doesn't overflow).


Home Malting Corn

Malting Maiz Morado
I mentioned a while back in my post about my grain tumbler that I was toying with doing some home malting. I've always wanted to try brewing a beer inspired by fermented corn beverages that are native to the Americas, like Chicha and Tiswin. I haven't settled on a final recipe yet, but I'm happy to say I seem to have successfully malted some Peruvian purple corn.

To be honest, I was kind of shocked this worked on the first attempt. I went to a local market after spotting maiz morado on their website ( The corn comes in a gallon-ish-sized bag, dried, and still on the cob. My initial concern was maybe it was somehow treated/kilned so that it was sterile and wouldn't germinate. The second concern is I've never tried malting anything, so I figured there was as good or better of a chance of me ending up with a soggy mess of moldy rotting corn, as there was of being successful at actually germinating the corn.

I started out by removing the kernels from the cobs. I then sifted the corn over a desk fan in a stainless colander. The purpose here was to remove as much debris as possible, hopefully reducing chances of mold. Next, I transferred it to my stainless bucket and filled it with tap water until it was about an inch above the kernels. I let this sit for about 5 hours, then transferred them to a colander for a couple hours. Then they went back in the bucket with fresh water for an overnight soak.  The next morning I changed the water again and left it to soak for a grand total of about 24-28 hours. Then I drained them in a colander and transferred them to a large stainless chafing pan. I placed moist paper towels in the bottom of the pan before adding the corn and covered them with most paper towels as well. Then I stuck it in my warm garage (just in case it started smelling like hot garbage) and headed off to work. I checked it when I got home from filling Chardonnay barrels with sour beer at SaltFire Brewing (shameless plug, I'm running the sour beer program) and was super happy to see that the corn was germinating. Most resources indicate it can take up to 5 days to germinate, but in my case, it was closer to 16 hours.

Once the shoots were about 2x the length of the kernel, I transferred the corn malt to my food dehydrator to halt the germination process. Spreading the grain out on a towel, or in the sun to dry should work too, but I have access to a good dehydrator so that's what I used.

Next, I lightly kilned the corn malt in our oven at 176F for about four hours. The last step was to transfer the corn malt to a pillow case and put it in the clothes dryer (no heat) for about 10 minutes. This knocks off the shoots; they're bitter, and you don't want them in your beer.

That's about it as far as the process goes. You'll notice i didn't use my malt tumbler this time. The main reason was I wasn't sure this was even going to work, and I didn't have time to pick up a bucket to be dedicated for malting. I'll probably give it a try on the next batch now uhh far I have a little more confidence that the process works. Stay tuned for an experimental beer.


Czech Premium Pale Lager 2018

>> Sunday, June 10, 2018

Today I'm brewing my third Czech Premium Pale Lager. The first attempt at this style won a gold medal while the second didn't fare as well.  Comments on the second version indicated the judges thought it had a brett infection. Given how many sour/wild beers I brew, this is entirely possible and I thought I was also able to taste a little funk, especially after a few months in the bottle. I don't believe that brett and bugs are the bogeyman that a lot of people make them out to be, but it goes to show that you need to be careful. In my case, I believe it was picked up in my counter-pressure filler, so I've changed my sanitation procedure by incorporating a pasteurization step every time I use it (140F recirculation while submerged in the same 140F water for about 20 min; heated by my sous vide cooker).

So back to the Czech Pils/Bohemian Pils/Czech Premium Pale Lager. I'm gaining an appreciation for lighter, more delicately flavored beers. I tend to gravitate towards big bold flavors in beer (and food) but there's definitely a time and place for easy drinking beers. The key to brewing this style is very soft water, so I start with distilled water and use minimal salt additions.. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

8.0# 11 oz Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner
9 oz Briess Carapils
34g Czech Saaz 4% AA (60 min)
41g Czech Saaz 4% AA (30 min)
20.5g Czech Saaz 4% AA (10 min)
20.5g Czech Saaz 4% AA (0 min)
Imperial Yeast L28 Urkel
0.5 Whirlfloc
0.5t Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 154F for 90 mins, 90 minute boil, chill to 44F, aerate well and pitch yeast. Raise temp to 50F over 48 hours. Raise temps to 64F for the diacetyl rest. Cold crash after a couple days.

Water Recipe
10 gallons distilled water
0.55g Epsom Salt
0.33g Calcium Chloride
0.44g Baking Soda
0.44g Chalk

Brewing Notes
No issues in this brew session. I was working on some other projects at the same time, including putting up a trellis and getting started on my first attempt at homemade pastrami. I had to run to the store at one point and had to enlist my son to do the 30 minute addition. OG came in at 13.9P (1.055).

Update 8/5/2018
This beer went in the keg today along with some gelatine for fining.