Two ideas for “Bolivian” beer

One of the topics I’ve enjoyed exploring on this blog is the notion of what it would mean to develop a fundamentally “Bolivian” beer, such that I wrote a 12-part series on it last year. I have a few more ideas to add to that list. It’s difficult to come up with ideas that represent much more than a novelty, and really only the first one represents a strong idea. Anyway:

  1. Brew a tart wheat beer using a kind of sour mash. The key here is start by brewing a traditional, wild fermented chicha. Chew up the corn (or just mash previously malted corn), leave it out to ferment 3-7 days, then strain off the partially-fermented chicha, which is then used to mash a wheat beer base. Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, just blend the chicha with the wheat beer after boiling.
  2. This is another idea for souring the mash or wort. “Cheese” by default in Bolivia usually is a kind of a salty farmer cheese that is best consumed within a week of production. The queserias here use a metal tub that looks a lot like a coolship. You could easily mash in one of these tubs and take advantage of the lacto bugs that are going to be all over it, and leave it for 10 hours-3 days to sour before boiling or pasteurizing or wherever you’d like to take the process. Personally, I think this cheese is wretched after three days and one of my Berliner Weisses smelled a lot like it before carbonation, which was a huge turn-off. But, if you just used it to sour the mash or wort and killed off the residual lacto before it got out of control, it could be great.
  3. Brew a potato broyhan using a historical recipe, but use native Bolivian potatos like oca. I actually intend to do this once they’re back in season, which should be around June.
  4. Brew a gose, and salt it with salt from the Salar de Uyuni. This is pure novelty in the tradition of brewing a coca beer and calling it Bolivian because it has coca leaves in it. But, you could always combine it with one of the first two methods above and it would certainly some improved legitimacy to the argument.

For that matter, now that I think of it, you could brew a beer utilizing all four of those at once. It wouldn’t be called a gose, but it might be something in the vein of it.

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2 comments
  1. Martin said:

    My project: coca IPA, still not sure if I’m going to add it to boil, or to secondary, or of it will be any good, but IMO you can’t get closer into doing a unique Bolivian beer….or maybe qinua enforced double coca IPA? 😉

    • Sounds interesting! Boiling coca doesn’t really extract anything very interesting, it mostly just leaves a bland vegetal taste, kind of like if you boil kale. Your best bet would probably be to dry hop or add it at around 70°F during the cooling process, but the challenge with an IPA will be ensuring that the hops don’t completely overpower the coca leaves. Cerveceria Vicos up in Sucre has a blonde ale with coca, but I haven’t had a chance to try it, and I suspect that hops will win out over coca most often.

      If want to get really fancy, you could have a go at trying to replicate the process that takes place in the mouth when you chew coca with lye. You’d need to figure out what the necessary pH is, but in the process you could perhaps extract a bit of the alkaloids that have the hunger-staving effect. That could be your double coca.

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