Zulu beer

Zulu Beer – Utshwala besiZulu

Zulu beer is an alcoholic beverage which is brewed mostly by women, over a three-day period. The brew is made by some Coloured families in Mariannridge who still practice their Zulu customs and traditions. Zulu beer is made for funerals, weddings, feasts and other traditional occasions. Zulu beer is a refreshing, nutritious drink. Brewing is usually made in  drums so it also serves many, it also differs according to the ceremony. The Coloured people who make the brew have learned the recipe from their elders who grew up practising Zulu culture.

Ingredients – small serving

1 kg malt (umthombo wombila)
4 pkts of 1kg malt (umthombo wamabele)
1 kg mielie meal
Boiling water


Day 1 Combine the mielie meal and umthombo wombila into a clean 5lt bucket. Add boiling water and mix with a wooden spoon to form a loose paste and leave to cool. Add 1 kg umthombo wamabele and mix using clean hands. Cover and leave overnight.

Day 2 Make a fire. Half fill a large pot with water and bring to the boil. Gradually add the mixture and cook to a porridge consistency and leave to cool. Add 3 kg of malt umthombo wamabele and leave overnight. For extra fermentation add 1 Ijuba (readymade sorghum beer) and do not mix. Leave overnight.

Day 3 Using a beer strainer (ivovo) strain the beer into a clean bucket. Serve the beverage from earthenware pot (ukhamba)

By: Beverley Webster

Beer is central to the social culture of the Zulus. Traditional beer is made from sorghum and is brewed by women. It is brewed in a special hut that is not completely thatched so smoke can escape and the beer gets enough oxygen to ferment. It is very popular and enjoyed equally by young and old. It is an excellent thirst quencher particularly in the hot Zululand sun, it is also nutritious and is known to soothe stomach ulcers.

Maize and sorghum are cooked to form a thick porridge, then left to stand for one day to steep. On the second day the softened grains are boiled with water to form a milky soup and dried sorghum is sprinkled on top. The large pot is covered to keep it warm and aid the fermentation process (also to keep out flies and dust) for the day. Thereafter the brew is filtered through a grass sieve.

There is a specific way that Zulu beer is served traditionally, the procedure is started by the woman who brewed the beer, she skims the froth off and pours it on the ground next to ukhamba (clay pot) as an offering to the ancestors who always drink first. It is then stirred and then a hollowed out gourd is filled and the hostess drinks first in front of all the guests to prove that the beer is safe to drink. This is all done while the hostess is kneeling. The host then drinks to check the quality and if he is satisfied, then his guests are served, in order of status. All present drink directly from the clay pot or use the communal gourd. One must always drink sitting or squatting and men take off their hats. As the clay pot has to circulate and it can be lengthy to wait, everyone takes a long drink. The clay pot circulates until it is empty. In the case of the use of a gourd, if it is placed mouth up, it indicates that you want a refill, if it is placed mouth down on the saucer, it means you have had enough. If a clay pot is used, it is covered with a grass cap to keep out dust, if guests want a refill they place the cap facing upwards, it indicates that the it should be refilled.

IsiZulu Summary

Indlela yokuphuza utshwala wesintu (Umqombothi)
Umqombothi utshwala besintu obudume kakhulu kule likaMthaniya. Utshwala besintu buvutshelwa ngemithombo yamabele neyombila kanye nempuphu. Uthi ungaphekwa bese uhlaliswa izinsuku ezintathu kuya kwezine ukuze buvubeleke kahle, bumbozwa ngendwangu ukuze kuvimbeleke izinambuzane. Lapho sekudlule izinsuku ezintathu buyavutshelwa ngevovo ukuze kusale wona umqombothi ngobunjalo bawo. Umqombothi uyingxenye enkulu lapho kwenziwa khona amasiko ahlukene akwantu. Kunendlela obuphuzwa ngayo utshwala besintu. Akuvelwe nje buphuzwe inoma ngubani kodwa abomndeni kuba yibo abaqala kuqala ukubuphuza ikakhulukazi umama lo obekade ebuvubela. Kuthi lapho abomndeni bangaphuza wonke umuntu usengaqala aphuze. Utshwala besintu noma umqombothi ludlala indima enkulu emasikweni akwaZulu, lubuye lusize ezifweni ezifana nezisu kanye nokugula kwabantwana. Lolutshalwa lwenziwa ngabantu besifazane kuphela.

Written By: Sbo Dladla

9 thoughts on “Zulu beer”

  1. Love this. Kuyasisiza kakhulu. Bede ngikulibele okunye ngoba ngagcina ukubenza ngo 2010!!! 8 yes after Mama passed away ngithe ake ngibenze futhi sort of iskhumbuzo sakhe


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