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Bil Bil Beer

Hey, I just came back from a trip to Cameroon where I learned a bit about their local beer and want to try to make it. It tastes a LOT like apple cider (though when not fresh or when it gets contaminated it acquires the taste of pork or garbage) and after the malting process, takes only a day to make. Here is the basic rundown from what I can remember, as well as a suggestion about yeast:

  1. Malt red/white/yellow millet, then dry. Takes a few days.
  2. Soak un-milled grain in water for 2 hours
  3. Remove grain from water (keep water around) and cook grain until it becomes red, about 1 - 2 hours.
  4. Return grain to water and let sit for another 1.5-2 hours until the mixture become acidic tasting, should be tart.
  5. Sparge. They do this by placing the grain in a bag and squeezing.
  6. Boil 2 hours.
  7. Cool to room temp. I think this temp is actually pretty high, since the ambient temps in the hot season are regularly above 110, and in the ‘cold’ season when I was there they had a fire next to the fermentation vessel.
  8. Ferment. The strain of yeast they are using must be pretty resistant to heat, since the vessel was steaming. The brewer claimed it was some kind of wine yeast, but who knows. It was a pot buried in the sand with a cover. Ferments for 4-ish hours.
  9. Serve.

All told, the actual brewing process was started in the morning and they serve at about 6pm.

So the questions remaining:

  1. What temps for fermentation/mash etc. They didn’t have any thermometers so this may take some guessing.
  2. What yeast to use?
  3. Where to get millet?

Wow, only a 4-hour ferment? There must be a TON of starches available in that millet (or they must have used a TON of grain)… and there must be a ton of unconverted sugars left over.

There are lots of wine yeasts available. To choose a yeast, I’m curious how much residual sweetness you tasted? How alchoholic was it? If it wasn’t that alchoholic, I would stay away from more agressive wine yeasts, such as champagne yeasts. I know Hefe yeast is extremely active- but usually it still takes at least several days.

There must be a ton of fusel alchohol (a “hot” taste) fermenting at such a high temp!

About the grain: I’ve heard that it is hard to germinate a lot of the barley or grains we get in the store because they already toast them before they get to us. Perhaps in Cameroon they were able to get the grain before it was toasted?

To get millet, I would look for “natural” stores online, or perhaps emergency preparedness companies to buy them in buckets. I want to try using feed corn, but it usually is treated with chemicals like lime or lye to stop rot. You might check with Feed Stores for cattle or horses and see what they have in their catalogs.

Report back!

It’s Sorghum Beer
and it’s one of the alternatives to barley-based beer for people who can’t process gluten.

Sprecher Brewery makes a couple of African style beers.

Yeah, only 4 hour ferment, or at least not more than say 6.

It also didn’t look like they were milling the grain, so maybe the extended grain soak + cook grain + mash somehow extracts a lot of sugars. It looked like a lot of grain, but was hard to tell because the mash pot was buried in the ground. Nothing was really measured, so who knows.

It was pretty close to apple cider, with actually a hint of a pork taste (though surprisingly it suited it). I 've heard that sometimes it tastes entirely like pork, or like garbage, so I think I got lucky. Definately some residual sweetness. It was hard to tell how alcoholic it was, especially since i didn’t drink all that much of it, but when she showed me the fermentation pots the yeast was going all out (looked like it was boiling).

Their millet comes basically straight from the fields, since that’s what’s grown around there, and then they were malting it themselves.

So the 100+ degree temps that they were fermenting at won’t kill a wine yeast?

I found millet as bird food at one place. I’ll ask whether it’s toasted.

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