Brewing iBhiya – make it at home

by | 14 Feb 2022

Brewed especially for #SANBeerDay 2022 to create an interest in beer, brewing and tradition it has generated a huge interest and may well become a regular offering if not a core beer certainly regular releases especially for occasions such as this as well as National Arts Festival as well as Heritage Day. It’s totally unique and inspired by tradition that is worthy of sharing so here is a full description of how to homebrew it.

The ingredients for umqombothi are sorghum, flaked malted maize and maize meal. Other than maize meal, these ingredients however are not readily available in supermarkets or homebrew stores so ask around as the where to source them. In Makhanda there is a spaza shop that specialises in these ingredients. The sorghum should be coarsely ground as malt is so if you find whole sorghum grain grind it as you would malted barley or wheat. Use SAB malt to keep it local and pearled wheat for the same reason.

Ingredients for 20L homebrew batch:



0.5kg Sorghum milled
0.5kg Maize Meal
0.5kg Flaked Malted Maize

Mix these in warm water – 40-50deg in just enough water to fully wet the grains with enough water at the top to cover the grain so its not exposed giving some time for absorption of water into the grain. The mixture should be about 35deg once mixed. Cover and leave in a warm spot overnight if the weather is cool then wrap in a blanket. The next morning you will see it bubbling quite well this is normal and should have a slight grainy sour aroma. The bubbling should subside but still be active this means its ready to strain and use in the boil.


Fig  1 umqombothi ingredients


Fig  2 umqombothi sour mash

Beer (not a defined style but could be described as a sorghum pale ale)

2.5kg Pale Malt
0,25kg flaked corn
0,75kg sorghum
0,75kg pearled wheat

The Pale Malt should convert fully the rest of the grains would usually be gelatinised prior to mash for this recipe though we are aiming for flavour rather than efficient conversion of the grain to fermentable sugars. Use 11L of water at 73C to achieve a mash temperature of 67C, rest for an hour keeping the temperature as stable as possible. Drain the wort into your kettle/boil pot and then add the sour mash wort from the umqombothi. Sparge with 75C water to achieve a boil volume of 23L. Bring to a boil slowly whist stirring regularly as some of the maize will settle at the bottom and tends to stick. Boli for 60 minutes with the following addition:

15g SAB XJA at 20min left in the boil

After 60 min stop the boil and add the following:

0.25kg honey
15g African Queen Hops and
15g Southern Passion

Whirlpool for 5 minutes and let it settle. Chill the wort to 20C before transferring to fermenter and pitching your yeast. I use American Ale Yeast – I have tried Farmhouse yeast, saison yeast but find Americal Ale yeast gives the best flavour profile for the umqombothi to stand out. Keep fermentation temperature between 18-21C for 7-10days before bottling and conditioning.

Note on hops – there is no specific hop profile you are after just enough for a slight flavour and balance so using one variety will work if you dont have all 3 hops. I aimed to use a variety of local hops for no particular reason other than keeping it local.

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