When you consider that any liquid beverage made with cereal grains is, by definition, beer, some so-called “beer choices” teeter right on the fringe. You won’t find these in your favorite Beer of the Month Club selections!

Sake, the traditional Japanese beverage made with rice, has forever been called “rice wine.” Sake is actually a type of beer, as rice is a cereal grain. It’s really rice beer!

Indigenous tribes in South America still make a drink they call Chicha. It is enjoyed only by the brave locals, however, as it is a fermented concoction of partially digested corn produced by the local women. It could be called beer. I prefer to call it dreadful.

Sahti dates back to the 9th century, and is an uncarbonated beer produced by the Finns. Mostly made from barley, it’s bolstered by the addition of rye or oats, and flavored with juniper. No thanks.

After a run of more than 5,000 years, Bouza is no longer produced in Egypt, or anywhere else for that matter. This was a brew of partially baked bread, mandrake root, licorice-flavored skirret weed, and a rare Assyrian radish. With the thick mass of solids that floated on the top, this liquid had to be drunk through a straw.

The Russians started brewing the mildly alcoholic Kvass more than 2 centuries ago, and this is a “beer” I would like to try. The rye-based brew is bread crumbs and hot water, bolstered with sugar and yeast. Appealing to me are the added raisins, honey, mint and juniper flavorings.

High in the Himalayas, Tibetan climbers, sherpas and guides carry Chang, partially fermented moist yeast cakes made with rice or barley. To complete fermentation, they add these cakes to rice flour, soft grains and water. It’s quite possible no other beer is enjoyed at such high altitudes!

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Amy Heydt
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