Rice beer is an alcoholic beverage found throughout Asia, and there is a rich history behind it. It is highly appreciated in the Asian culture because everyone can afford to make it at home and it also has a good taste. As you will see in this article, rice beer is a beverage that can be easily made from resources you store in your pantry.
The production of alcoholic beverage from cooked rice converted by microbes continues to this day in Asia. Although most people know rice beer as Japanese Sake or Chinese Mijiu, there are different varieties found throughout Asia. In Tibet, rice beer is known as Chang, and it is made of barley, rice or millet.
Rice beer is made from converted starch rather than fruit sugars, and the name is still confusing for some people. It’s still a debatable point, and these beverages are generally referred to as “rice wine” or “sake” which is really the generic Chinese and Japanese word for all alcoholic beverages.
Regardless of its generic name, rice beer is part of daily life in many Asian countries. They drink it at funerals and celebrations, while working and playing, and at all ages. Even the kids get a little taste, and pretty much everyone loves it.
It is a beverage that can be made from few resources and it can be a comfort or barter item during harsh times. There will always be people craving for barter items such as alcohol. Some of them are willing to trade food for alcohol. This is an addiction that many have without even realizing it. Like it or not, alcohol is a desired item, and many people are turning to it when they require a moment of comfort.
Making rice beer is rather easy, and you are only conditioned by one item, yeast. To make rice beer, many people use Chinese yeast balls, known as chu. These can be bought from local Asian markets, or you can order them online. Alternatively, you can make your dry yeast at home as you will see in the last part of the article.
How to make Rice Beer
This recipe will help you make 1 quart of rice beer, and it takes just 15 minutes to prepare it. For the fermentation phase, you will need to wait for up to 3 weeks.
- 420 grams (2 cups) rice. I’m using brown rice, but every white rice can work, except basmati.
- 1200 grams (around 5 cups) of water. Or any amount of water you would use to cook your rice.
- 1 Chinese yeast ball (or 1 tablespoon of homemade dry yeast). You can use 2 balls or tablespoons if you want to speed up the process.
Before you start, make sure you keep your work surfaces and your hands very clean. If you contaminate your rice beer with oil or salt residue, for example, your beverage will be ruined.
1. Place the rice and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and cook on low for 60 minutes.
2. Once the rice is cooked, you need to cool it at 100°F or roughly body temperature. Stir the cooked rice as you want to loosen and fluff the rice up.
3. Spread the rice onto your working surface to cool it. It will help with the cooling process, and you can also work through it to loosen up any lumpy bits.
4. Now crush the Chinese yeast balls to a fine powder. You can use a pestle and mortar for this job, or you can place it in a plastic bag and use a blunt object.
5. Sprinkle the dry yeast powder over the rice and mix by hand. Mix it well to ensure that the yeast powder has been thoroughly mixed.
6. Place the rice mixture in a glass or plastic container and cover it with a lid.
7. Leave to sit in a warm location for two days. Additionally, you can wrap the container in a blanket.
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8. After 2-3 days, you should notice some liquid in the jar. There should be some condensation on the sides of the container and a few inches of liquid at the bottom of the container. This is the beginning of the rice beer. It should also smell sweet, a bit alcoholic. Cover with cloth or paper towel and leave to sit in a warm place for 1–2 weeks.
9. If no liquid has formed, leave it to ferment with the lid on for 7 days. Check it daily for liquid. If after a week liquid has not formed you should discard and try again.
10. After 2 weeks, your rice beer should smell alcoholic and mildly sweet. Now you can strain your rice beer using a fine-mesh cheesecloth and discard the rice solids.
11. Seal the rice beer in a bottle or jar and leave at room temperature for a few days to build carbonation. You can refrigerate it before serving your rice beer.
Some additional tips for your rice beer:
Once your rice beer is done, you can add water to it before putting it in the refrigerator. Many people do this in order to make their rice beer weaker. If you want stronger beer,you should avoid adding water to your rice beer.
Rice beer residue (the rice) can be reused. In some Asian countries, the rice is mixed with dried cheese, sugar and butter and heated up. It is consumed as a separate dish to avoid any waste.
Rice beer can last for up to a year if properly bottled and refrigerated. Make sure you taste a tiny bit each time to be sure it has not gone bad.
Dry yeast balls can be safely stored at room temperature for two years. While homemade dry yeast can be kept in the fridge for up to a year. You can keep a good supply of dry yeast for your rice beer, without worrying about its shelf life.
If you think the process described in this article is too complicated you can buy a sake brewing kit. It makes things much easier and will be able to enjoy a rice beer witouth doing all the work.
How to make dry yeast at home
Some of our readers will want to make their homemade dry yeast instead of buying it. Here is a good recipe, to help them make dry yeast.
- 2 cups cornmeal
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup flour
- 3 packets regular active yeast
- 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
- 2-3 potatoes (enough to make 1 cup of mashed potatoes)
Start by peeling and cooking the potatoes until they get soft. Drain and mash them, but make sure to reserve ½ cup of the cooking water.
Use a bowl and add the potato cooking water and three packets of active dry yeast. The potato liquid should be cooled at 100-105F. Mix well and let it sit for 15 minutes until the mixture gets foamy.
Now get a large bowl and mix the sugar, flour, ginger, mashed potatoes and the yeast mixture. Set the bowl aside and cover it with a kitchen towel. Wait until the mixture has risen and it’s bubbly.
The next step is to let the mixture work in warm water for a few hours until it’s foamy.
Add the cornmeal a little at a time and stir until you have a thick paste that can be rolled out.
Use a baking pan and lined it with waxed paper on which you will sprinkle some cornmeal. Now place the thick paste in the baking pan and spread it evenly (1/8 inch thick). Dust cornmeal lightly on the surface and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Cut the “dough” into small pieces and remove them from the baking pan. These pieces can be air dried or placed in a food dehydrator. Use the low setting to avoid cooking your “dough.”
When the “dough” pieces are completely dry, use a food processor to grind your yeast mixture to a fine powder. You can store it in an airtight container for up to a year in your freezer.
I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of rice beer until I made my own. You will discover, just like me, that making rice beer at home is rather easy considering that you probably already store rice and the other needed ingredients in your pantry. You can also make your homemade yeast if you don’t want to buy it from the store. There are lots of homebrewers who are enjoying this beverage, and you can try it too.