Umqombothi: Zulu beer with a kick. Image: Adobe.

Brew your own Umqombothi – Zulu beer with a kick

Want to try your hand at traditional Zulu beer? You may be pleasantly surprised.


Umqombothi: Zulu beer with a kick. Image: Adobe.

With lockdown rising to level 4 and the sale of alcohol prohibited, umqombothi, a homemade beer is gaining popularity. Also known as sorghum beer or Zulu beer, this African beer is known all over the continent and known by different names. But in South Africa, it is fondly referred to as umqombothi.

It basically consists of sorghum and maize fermented in a couple of liters of water. The result is a traditional beer with a heady kick.

Whether lockdown or not, umqombothi is traditionally served at any large celebration in African cultures.

Making your own beer at home is not prohibited but selling any alcoholic beverages is forbidden since the start of lockdown level 4. If you feel like trying your hand at umqombothi for personal use, moderation, like always is key.

Umqombothi Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Laura Swanepoel Course: DrinksCuisine: South AfricaDifficulty: Medium
Prep time


Cooking time


Resting Time

2 days

Total time






  • 2 kg 2 maize meal

  • 2 kg 2 sorghum

  • 6 litres 6 water


  • Combine the maize meal and sorghum with six litres of boiling water and mix until it is a smooth paste.
  • Allow to stand in a warm, dark place to ferment for two days.
  • After the fermenting process has completed, take two cups of the mixture and keep aside.
  • Mix the remaining paste with two litres of boiling water in a pot and place on the stove. Simmer, stirring often, for about an hour. Then, allow to cool.
  • Place the mix back in the bucket, and add the two cups of fermented paste that you kept aside. Stir and then add another 1 kg of sorghum.
  • The next day, the umqombothi will be bubbling and ready. Strain through a sieve, chill and enjoy.

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