Chicha is a Latin American corn beer and has many methods of preparation. Often fruit or fruit juice is added and sometimes the fermenting brew is left exposed to the air so that it develops a sour flavor. Yeast can’t consume the starch in grains like corn so the starch needs to be broken down into sugars. The traditional way this is done is by chewing the corn until it tastes sweet, the enzymes in the saliva convert the starch to sugar, then taking the masticated glop out of your mouth, forming it into little balls and drying them to be used to brew the beer later. A less spit-intensive method is to sprout (or malt) the grain then cook it (mash) using low heat to convert the sugars. The recipe that follows includes a simple process for this. You can buy the corn in a grocery produce section, particularly in Mexican or Latin American stores.

1 pound dried maize morrado (purple corn)

1 gallon water

1 pound sugar, piloncillo is best if you can find it

1 pound strawberries

1 packet yeast: ale

7 teaspoons corn sugar

    1. Put the corn in a large bowl and cover it with water. Let it soak for two days.

    2. Rinse the corn, then pour the corn out on a clean towel so the kernels are one layer deep. Roll up the towel.

    3. Put the towel in a large pot and add enough water to soak the towel, but not so much that water is standing in the bottom of the pot.

    4. After four days, unroll the towel. Most of the kernels should have sprouted (see bottom photo) which means some of the starch has been converted to sugar. Rinse the kernels, put them in a blender, two cups at a time, and chop them until they are coarsely ground. Add a cup of water if your blender bogs down. You don’t want corn meal mush; as long as most kernels are split into quarters, that’s fine. Keep track of how much water you use in the blender.

    5. Put the corn in a hop bag and put the bag, along with any water you used in the blender to chop the corn, into a pot.

    6. Add enough water to the pot so that the total liquid is a gallon.

    7. Stir in the sugar and pour into a slow-cooker that has a warm setting. Mine keeps food at 150 degrees which is perfect. You can also do this in a cooking pot, but use a thermometer to keep the temp consistently at 150 degrees for an hour.

    8. Put the strawberries in another hop bag and place it in the primary fermenter. Pour the hot corn liquid onto the fruit. Put the bag of cooked corn in the fermenter as well.

    9. When the contents of the primary fermenter have cooled to room temperature, add the yeast, and snap the lid on the fermenter.

    10. After a week, remove the bags of corn and strawberries. Snap the lid back on.

    11. After two more days, the chicha should be finished fermenting and much of the sediment will have settled. Add 7 teaspoons of corn sugar and bottle in Champagne-style bottles, beer bottles, or soda bottles.

    12. Wait at least two weeks before drinking this beer. It will still be cloudy at this point, which is fine.

There's a more traditional Peruvian chicha recipe at the end of this article.