Jennifer Ezeokoli
Jennifer Ezeokoli
Jennifer is a food enthusiast, Writer/Content Creator. Driven by passion, as the Head of content for African Food Network, she strives to curate exciting, fun, informative and functional content.

The traditional Xhosa beer Umqombothi is brewed from maize, maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast, and water. It contains a lot of vitamin B. The beer has a low alcohol concentration, typically less than 3%, and is recognized for its thick, unmistakably sour aroma.

Sorghum beer, or umqombothi, is as old as the African highlands and as popular as ubuntu. It’s been brewed in various forms and given various names across the continent; dolo in Burkina Faso, pito in Nigeria, and ingwebu, the Ndebele word for ‘froth’ in Zimbabwe.

Origin of Umqombothi

Traditional beers, such as palm wine, kombucha, and others, are widely consumed beverages in Africa and around the world. Historically, such beverages have helped to ensure global food security.

Umqombothi is a traditional South African beer that is nutritionally dense in minerals, amino acids, B-group vitamins, and calories. As a result, the manufacture and consumption of this traditional beverage has played an important role in the social, economic, and cultural development of South Africa.

The Xhosa people had been brewing their own home-brewed beer for hundreds of years before handcrafted artisan beers became fashionable, using materials and tools produced in the region where they lived.

In Xhosa culture, umqombothi is used to commemorate the return of young males known as abakwetha following ulwaluko, an initiation and religious male circumcision.

This beer is particularly significant when people contact their ancestors, the amadlozi, and it is also very important in the social context, therefore it is frequently consumed during traditional weddings, funerals, and imbizos (traditional meetings).

How to Brew Umqombothi

Traditional methods of brewing Umqombothi differ slightly based on the region. The recipe is frequently handed down from generation to generation. Outside the house, the beer is usually brewed over an open fire. It then cools to outside-of-the-house ambient temperatures.

Equal parts maize meal, crushed mealie malt (corn malt), and crushed sorghum malt are used in this recipe. The maize malt gives the beer a brighter color and mellower flavor. The sorghum malt gives the beer a deeper color.

In a cast-iron pot, known as a potjie in South Africa, the ingredients are combined. Add four measures of warm water to the mix. The mixture is placed in the refrigerator overnight. Bubbles develop when the mixture begins to ferment. It is possible to notice a sour odor.

Umqombothi is less expensive than commercial lager beers made with barley and hop blossoms.

Other Tips For Preparing Umqombothi

  • More maize malt results in a lighter-colored beer with a mellow flavor, whereas more sorghum results in a stronger-tasting, darker beer.
  • To boost fermentation, add a cup of sugar to the final mixture.
  • To avoid ruining your brew, make sure all of your equipment and utensils are spotless.
  • The higher the alcohol concentration, the longer you ferment it, but don’t anticipate it to grow much higher than 5%, and if you store it too long, it will go off. The maximum time is usually five days.
  • Supplies can be found at your local grocery store or health food store. Alternatively, follow the procedure below and use equal parts maize meal and coarse sorghum.


The art of brewing beer has been a crucial part of cultures in African societies despite the influence from colonial masters. The Umqombothi is the traditional beer of the South Africans. As one of the most popular drinks in South Africa,This beer is made from maize meal, corn malt,crushed sorghum, yeast and water. Although the Umqombothi has a relatively low alcohol content, it appears to be very rich in vitamin B.
Prep Time 3 days 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 3 days 1 hour 50 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine South African


  • 1 kg extra King Korn (umthombo)
  • 11 ltr 11 litres water
  • 2 kg sorghum
  • 2 kg maize meal
  • 1 kg brown sugar


  • Make a paste with the maize meal, 1 kg sorghum and six litres boiling water in a large bucket.
  • Cover tightly and leave to ferment over two to three days in a dark, warm place .
  • After this period, bubbles should appear on the surface to show that it has started fermenting.
  • Take out 2 cups and set aside.
  • Put 2 litres of water in a pot, bring to a boil and stir in the remaining paste.
  • Turn down the heat and simmer for an hour.
  • Turn off the heat, allow to cool, then transfer back to the bucket with the 2 cups set aside earlier.
  • Stir well using a ladle. Pour in the remaining dry sorghum, add 3 litres of cold water, stir well.
  • Seal and cover with a blanket or thick cloth to help insulate and leave to ferment for 24 hours.
  • Strain and serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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Jennifer Ezeokoli
Jennifer Ezeokoli
Jennifer is a food enthusiast, Writer/Content Creator. Driven by passion, as the Head of content for African Food Network, she strives to curate exciting, fun, informative and functional content.

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