Chibuku - My African Beer

 
 
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Malawi’s Ngoni tribe may have been unfairly singled out for its beer drinking culture. BMW - Beer, Meat and Women in that order is the mantra, we are told, for the typical Ngoni male. But the love of beer is not confined to only one of Malawi’s tribes. All have their traditional brews and drinking cultures. And those cultures migrated with the people from the villages to the towns and cities.


Visitors and travellers in Malawi cannot escape

the red, white and blue Chibuku stripes of the townships’ traditional brew immortalised by the late George Matewere, chronicler of township life and the creator of Kwinyani pictured opposite by the late Brian Hara.

 

Chibuku was started by Max Heinrich on the Copperbelt in Zambia during the 1950s. He used to record the traditional African brewing processes in a book - the name Chibuku is an adaptation by the people into the local dialect of the word "Book".


It is now popular in other African countries such as Malawi, Zimbabwe and Botswana where the breweriers are part of the giant SAB Miller Brewing group.


Chibuku beer has developed its own highly unique character. The taste varies from sweet to sour depending on age and the conditions it is exposed to. The solids remain in the beer which continues to ferment in the packet achieving an alcoholic content of between 3-5% depending on age.


Not everyone will appreciate its gritty fullness but it has its millions of devotees and spawned a culture of its own. Before drinking, the packet is agitated to evenly mix the solids. This action gave rise to its well-known name - ‘Shake-Shake’


In the Taverns owned by Chibuku the affairs are controlled by the ‘Mai Dulani’s’ (translated as ‘Mrs. Cut’) - women who have their own leased areas in which to sell.

 

 

Clusters of drinkers gather around

masses of brightly coloured cardboard

packets each containing a litre of

what is correctly termed ‘African

Opaque Sorghum/Maize Beer’.

As each drinker enjoys himslef as awaits

for a packet of the treasured liquid

‘Mai Dulani’ cuts the packet, she does

with a practiced dexterity that defeats

the eye. The top is cut off completely if the

drinker indicates that he wishes to pass

around the beer to his companions or only

one corner is cut for the purchaser who

intends to drink alone.


Many of the middle class professionals

consider Chibuku to be drink for those

who cannot afford the clear bottled

beers and lagers. However, it is a different

drink. Increasingly, the middle class is no

longer ashamed to admit to a liking for

the brew which has strong African cultural

roots. One of the benefits of Chibuku is that it refreshes even without refrigeration. Indeed, most drinkers prefer it at ambient temperatures.

 

 

©2014 Travel Malawi. All rights reserved.

 
 
   
 
 
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