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).