Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Great Grain Hunt

Finding the grains has turned out to be one of the biggest challenges in making the traditional African ale. It turns out that Sorghum is pretty hard to come by in the Western world. I've been home in Markham, Ontario for the past few days, and I have been trying to take advantage of the multicultural tapestry that is Toronto to find the necessary African grains. I tried Indian Grocers, African Grocers, Bulk Food stores, even animal fodder suppliers, but none of them had any.

I was about to give up today when, in desparation, I did a google search for "mail order sorghum grain" or something like that. You can imagine my glee when this lead me to, an organic food supplier that sells bulk Sorghum! I stomached the shipping costs (they are based in Nebraska), and bought 10 pounds of Sorghum, which should arrive in Halifax shortly.

While checking a bulk barn, I was fortunate enough to find a nice big bin of bulk, hulled millet, which was nice. My one concern was that, since it was hulled, it might not malt properly. So I did an experiment. I bought 10 cents worth of the stuff, and soaked it with water in a few different ways, to see if I got any germination. It turns out that leaving it on a water soaked paper towel was the best strategy:
This picture is too small to see it, but the millet grains have begun to germinate, so they will malt without hulls. It makes sense, really, the hull is more a protection from the elements than anything else, and the elements on my kitchen counter aren't very harsh.

So as soon as the friendly hippies at manna harvest pull through, I'm set for grains. Excellent. Time for the lighter side of this project.

While doing my shopping, I wound up at the LCBO, as a beer nut such as myself frequently does. While there, I picked up a little treat:

That's a glass of Tusker Finest Qulity Lager, from Kenya Breweries Ltd. In one of the most difficult, painstaking and unwelcome bits of homework I have ever had to do, it was my arduous duty to sample some of this beer.
All sarcasm aside, the beer is...not terribly remarkable. It's incredibly clear in colour-it almost looked like water as I poured it. It is quite fizzy, with mild, American Lager flavours, and a metallic aftertaste. Really not as exotic as I expected, but if nothing else, it certainly was refreshing. I'd probably appreciate it a lot more if I were drinking it in the Kenyan sun, rather than Toronto in February.
It seems like almost all mainstream African beers are, in fact, lagers. This does make sense, due to the refreshment factor, but it makes my life more difficult. Anybody have a mini fridge I can borrow? With some luck, maybe I can clone something a bit like Tusker to contrast with whatever is produced by my painstakingly sought Sorghum and Millet.

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