Spit happens – and when it does, you brew Chicha. An ancient Peruvian beer brewed with corn that’s chewed up and spit out, Chicha is one of our most talked about brewing creations. First brewed in 2009, our latest batch of Chicha was brewed with corn chewing contributions from over 100+ co-workers who banded together to prepare the beer’s main ingredient for brew day … chewed purple maize (corn)!
So what exactly is Chicha? In Peru, small communities produce it from masticated maize, naturally fermented in large clay pots and often flavored with indigenous fruit and spices. Here at Dogfish Head, we reproduced the ancient beer by creating Chicha from co- worker masticated purple Peruvian corn, malted corn and malted barley. The wort is then boiled for full sterilization, chilled and blended with strawberries. Fermented with a unique blend of yeast strains, Chicha clocks in at 3.1% ABV with fruity, spicy aromas and a dry finish.
Like we’ve said, we’ve been brewing this ancient beverage since 2009 – so what has that looked like over the years?
In 2017, we produced a Chicha hybrid from masticated purple Peruvian Corn, Malted Corn and Malted Barley. The wort was BOILED, chilled and flavored with strawberries to offer a sweet and tart drink perfumed with summer. The beer was fermented with a unique blend of yeast strains which yields a dry beer with fruity and spicy aromas. Refreshing and playful, with a bold experience of delicate flavors and sensations.
In 2014, We sourced indigenous ingredients to make the most authentic interpretation possible: organic pink Peruvian pepper corns, yellow maize and organic Peruvian purple maize. We also added Soursop Fruit, a native fruit to Central and South America (in our past batches of Chicha, we brewed with strawberries). Soursop adds a unique Mango-like tropical fruit character to this brew. As per tradition, instead of germinating all of the grain to release the starches, the purple maize was milled, moistened in the chicha-makers mouths (which we did it right in our Rehoboth brewpub). The natural ptyalin enzymes in the saliva act as a catalyst and break the starches into more accessible fermentable sugars. On brewday the broken down (converted) Peruvian Corn was added to the mash tun pre-boil along with the other grains. This method might sound strange but it is still used regularly today throughout villages in South and Central America. It is actually quite effective and totally sanitary. Since the grain-chewing (known as salivation) happens before the beer is boiled the beer is sterile and free of the wild yeast and bacteria you would find in modern Belgian Lambics. This batch of Chicha clocked in at 5.7% ABV, and was both cloudy and unfiltered. It had a beautiful-purple-pink hue from the Peruvian corn, strawberries, and tree seeds – dry, fruity, complex, and refreshing.
The NY Times profiled our 2009 Chicha brew – read all about it.