How to Make Marula Beer!


Wow! Been some time since our last post! The holiday are fast  approaching, so perhaps this is a good time for a holiday recipe. One that is good at any time!

For centuries back, Africans have been making “beer,” also known as Mukumbi to the Venda, from marula. Festivals in celebration of the marula harvest happen every year when the fruit starts falling from the trees.

The drink can be quite potent. In fact, the “beer” more closely resembles a wine, but what the heck… it is merely semantics. The drink must be enjoyed when it’s available, and that is only a few months of the year.

Now you can appreciate the adventure right at home!

Ok, this is like baking a cake. Well, only in the sense that you to plan first. You need a few things, and you need a recipe.

First things first: Find yourself a marula tree or two. The trees are very prolific in producing fruit, so a single tree should suffice… unless you are a member of a beer club. A large beer club. You can be guzzling the brew within a matter of a few days.

(Ever hear the tale of marula and drunk elephants? They don’t have to make beer… they simply eat the fruit. A lot of fruit. Videos of drunken animals – elephants, baboons, and giraffe – stumbling around after eating fermented marula fruit is a crowd favorite.)

Once you have collected the fruit from the ground under a marula tree or two or three (how big is your beer club?), you need to wash and rinse the fruit. That is just to get the dirt off… and other stuff, if elephants or baboons frequent the area.

• Marulas (lots) Oh, you don’t have a marula tree, and the local grocery doesn’t have any in stock? That can be a problem.** (Plums might work. But, who wants to make plum “beer”?)

• Two or three clean buckets (white is nice, but any color will do. You need one with a lid that seals – more if your beer club has lots of members.

• A knife (sharp preferred)

• Bandaids. (In case of an incident with the sharp knife. If you’ve had enough beer prior to the incident, you may not know you need a bandaid. Hmm… )

• 2 spatulas or 3 or however many you have. Flat things work just fine, including hands, clean if possible.

• 1 cup of sugar (optional) Nah, not optional. This stuff needs sugar.

• potatoshhmasherer (you can also use a plain ol’ potato masher, if you are sober during this procedure)

• A six-pack or two or more (depending on the size of your beer club) of your favorite hand-crafted brews. (If you are making marula beer, you probably are not drinking Bud Lite!)

Note: Malt is not required. Or hops. Definitely, no hops.

Open a beer. Take a swig. This is going to be messy.

With your sharp knife, cut each marula along the equator of the fruit. Remove knife. Twist and squeeze the pip, flesh and juice out of the skin and into a bucket – yikes, that sounds a bit gory! If you aren’t certain where or what the equator is, don’t worry about it. Just get the juice out of the marula.

Continue to do this with all the marula fruit. You can throw out the ones that have already started fermenting (your choice – really! If it’s already fermented, skip the rest of the steps and eat as is. But what fun is that?)

BTW, elephants can smell fermenting marula from a long, long way off. Keep your eyes open for unexpected large guests.

Whew! Hard work. Time for a brewski.

Once you have finished peeling the fruit, add cool water (enough to cover the fruit) and begin mashing the fruit with a potatoshhmasherer. You need to remove some of the flesh and the juice from the stone in the center.

That calls for another beer.

When you are confident you have mashed the fruit enough, squeeze the fruit a few at a time just to collect as much of the liquid as you can. (If you like squeezing, you can carry on with your honey. Or, whomever.)

Have one more brew. You are almost done.

Once all this is finished, the traditional beer-making process is now complete. You can add a cup of sugar to +/- 2 liters of liquid to assist with fermentation. This also sweetens the beer slightly. If not certain, try some without sugar and some with sugar. Use different buckets. This is where colored buckets come in handy.

Now, you have the product of your extensive efforts. Time to seal the beer. Put the lid on the bucket and wait at least 2 days, 4 at most. Open the lid daily to release the pressure and reclose. Alternately, you can leave the lid on. The resulting explosion could result in a 911 call from the neighbors, but hey… what a great story that would make!

After 4 days, there should be a thick head of foam that smells a bit like vinegar. You might notice it crawling around on the floor. That usually indicates you filled the bucket too full.

Oh, boy… vinegar! Who can resist vinegar!

Remove the foam using a spatula, spatulas, sieve, shovel, shop vac, etc. Toss that stuff out – on the garden, the neighbor’s lawn, someplace. The liquid below the foam should not smell vinegary. It should taste fresh, yeasty and bubbly, with an almost pineapple flavor.

Bottle or jar the remaining product. Yep. That’s the “beer.” Store in a cool place for a few days, after which you have a lovely golden elixir that tastes a bit like ginger beer with a pineapple/marula overtone.

This calls for a celebration! While you wait for this gustatory delight, have a beer with friends and enjoy the day.

Ain’t life great?

** Lots of marula trees in Africa. You need to make plans to visit one of Africa’s marula festivals! Here is probably the best one:

Roughly adapted from and apologies to:    These guys went where the marula grows!

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