What would you do if corn were the only grain you had available to brew with? You’d make corn beer with it!
That’s exactly what native cultures throughout Latin American have done for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years. Plenty of variations exist, but chicha is a corn-based beer traditionally made by chewing the corn to convert its starches to fermentable sugars, spitting it out, and fermenting the corn in water. Sometimes chica is consumed young, sweet, and low-alcohol, sometimes it is allowed to ferment to a higher alcohol content.
As Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head found out, making chicha this way is not easy. Luckily, modern day homebrewers have access to practically unlimited ingredients for making corn beer at home. Making a corn-based beer is as easy as mixing flaked corn with hot water, adding various flavoring ingredients, and fermenting as you normally would any other batch of homebrew.
The corn beer recipe below is a modern interpretation from one of my favorite homebrewing books, the Homebrewer’s Garden. It’s a one-gallon recipe, so be sure to have a one-gallon glass jug with a 6.5 rubber stopper and an airlock. You can easily scale up the recipe to a five-gallon batch, but you should probably try the one-gallon batch first to make sure you like it.
Chicha (Corn Beer) Recipe
(one-gallon recipe, adapted from the Homebrewer’s Garden)
OG: 1.048 – 1.060
FG: 1.010 – 1.013
ABV: 5 – 6.2%
4 lbs. flaked corn (maize)
1/4 lb. brown sugar
16 oz. homebrewed porter
2 bags Tension Tamer tea (or approx. 4 grams of cinnamon, ginger, and chamomile)
1 packet Munton & Fison ale yeast
1/4 cup corn sugar for priming
Mix the flaked corn with 1 gallon of boiling water. After one hour, strain the wort into a brewpot. Repeat in order to collect 1.5-1.75 gallons of wort. Bring wort to a boil and mix in the brown sugar and the porter. Boil gently for three hours, or until one gallon of wort remains. Add the tea to the wort at the end of the boil, then chill and transfer to a sanitized one-gallon jug. Ferment at 60-70˚F. Chicha is traditionally consumed after only 3-4 days. In this case, you may transfer the beer to a serving vessel (a growler, for example) and store in the fridge. Otherwise, ferment until complete and bottle condition as normal.
This chicha corn beer recipe is easy to make and can be altered with different spices or beer to match your personal tastes.
Interested in other ways to add corn to your homebrewed beer? Read: Brewing with Corn.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.