Millet beer

30/06/2014 13:43

Written by Katrina Manson and James Knight

Millet pounding Burkina Faso Africa by Katrina Manson and James KnightBrewing millet is one of the few money-making schemes available to women © Katrina Manson and James Knight

Dolo or chapalo is the alcoholic beverage of choice in villages. A potent homegrown beer, it is brewed from fermented red millet. It’s drunk mostly by men, but made by women on a three-day rotation and then taken to the nearest market for sale. It’s one of the few money-making schemes available to women and therefore of great economic importance to family life. In many societies, such as the Winye, women give their husbands a first taste for free, but after that even they have to pay.

Preparation

In enormous earthenware pots, ground millet mixed with water is boiled over hot coals. The resulting paste is mixed with yeast at the end of the second day and left to ferment overnight. From the following morning the dolo is ready to drink, but in the heat of the day the fermentation process continues, making the brew stronger and less sweet as the day goes on.

Protocol

In enormous earthenware pots, ground millet mixed with water is boiled over hot coals. The resulting paste is mixed with yeast at the end of the second day and left to ferment overnight. From the following morning the dolo is ready to drink, but in the heat of the day the fermentation process continues, making the brew stronger and less sweet as the day goes on.

When offered a bowl, form dictates that you off er it back so that the brewer can have the honour of the first sip. If in Mossi country, say you, which means ‘drink’, as you give it back. When it’s your turn, hold the calabash in your right hand only, and never smell it before tasting. Unlike Western traditions, where inhaling deeply and making nice noises about your food in advance is a compliment to the chef, sniffi ng perishables in Burkina implies you don’t trust the maker enough to go right ahead and eat or drink.

You may be off ered a goût de voir first – an entire calabash filled to the brim, for free. This is in theory to decide whether the batch is sufficiently to your liking, but nobody ever drains the goût de voir and says it’s not. It does mean that you should drink at least one more calabash-worth (or offer it around), usually costing 50–100f.

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