Rice in Beer Brewing in India

History of Rice beer

As per history Channel: Rice beer dates back to 9000 years while barley beer is only 5000 year old.

परिपक्वान्नसन्धानसमुत्पन्नां सुरां जगुः । सुरामण्डः प्रसन्ना स्यात ततः कादम्बरी घना ॥

तदधो जगलो ज्ञेयो मेदको जगलाद घनः । पक्वोऽसौ हृतसारः स्यात सुराबीजं च किण्वकम् ॥

Sa Ma Kha 10/5-6

Sura is what we call Rice Beer in Sanskrit. Above is the description of various types of rice beer in ancient Indian culture. Even today, some parts of tribal culture serve undistilled rice beer as Handia

Why Rice in Beer is a Good Idea

Rice is a wonderful ingredient for beer brewing in India. Here is why:

  1. Gluten-Free beers are on the rise. Food allergies have forced restaurants and breweries to search for alternative tasty foods. Since even the glutinous rice is free from gluten, it a wonderful ingredient to use for health-conscious patrons.
  2. European Beer relies heavily on barley. Switching to rice allows the brewer to infuse some Asian traditions, flavors, and food pairing.
  3. Unlike Barley malt, corn and rice produce very crisp ales. Rice beer is a wonderful way to save the long time it takes to ferment a lager completely. Rice Ale can mimic the same flavors of a lager and can be produced really fast.
  4. Barley used in a microbrewery is imported. By switching to indigenous rice, the restaurant can save costs, have a leaner supply chain, and better margins.
  5. India is traditionally a rice-eating nation. Your patrons will be more familiar with the subtle aromas and flavors in rice than of a imported barley.
  6. Save on Hops. Hop pellets are one of the most expensive ingredients in India. Rice Beer, unlike barley malt, has neutral flavors and aromas. This means that it is free from the malty flavors and residue. This property allows rice beer to have an overwhelming hop aroma and flavors. Hence you make better IPA without using too many hops. eg. Budweiser Magnum
farmer sowing rice for brewing beer

Vedic Rice Beer

इदानीं सुराविशेषलक्षणमाह-परिपक्वान्नेति। यत् शाल्यादिकंसम्पाच्य पुनः सन्धितं भवति तेन यत् समुत्पन्नं तां सुरां जगुः। एषां पेष्टी सुरा लोके वगनी शब्दवाच्या विख्याता।अथान्ये बहवो भेदास्तानाह-सुरामण्डैत्यादि। यः सुरामण्डः उपर्यच्छो भागः। घनस्तु सुराभाग एव, यः सुरायाअधस्थितो भवति स जगलो ज्ञेयः। यो जगलात् किञ्चिद्धनः स मेदकसुरासंज्ञः कादम्बा भिन्नःकिञ्चिद्धनत्वात्। यो हृतसारः स वक्कससंज्ञः। सुराबीजं तु किण्वकमिति। शालिपिष्टप्रभवं किण्वकमितिकथितम्। येते सुराभेद सर्शिताः।।

Dipika Tika

The rice beer is called Sura in Sanskrit. As per our Vedic text, there are 5 major types of rice beer or rice wine

  1. Pasanna: Clear sypernatant liquid
  2. Kadamari: Slightly thicker liquid which is in the second layer
  3. Jagala: Which is more thicker and has some suspended rice particles. This gives it a milky white color
  4. Medaka which is a semi-solid layer very similar to pakhala
  5. Surabija is the solid portion at the bottom. It has the highest amount of yeast in it and is often used as a starter culture for the next batch. It is also referred to in some text as bakkasa, sura kalka, and kinva. Essentially it is similar to Chinese yeast balls.

How can you use rice in Beer

Rice malt is not available. Also rice malting has a slight rancidity because of the presence of fatty acids below the hulls. For rice beer we need the polished rice starchy endosperm and not the outer bran, aleurone layers and germ around it. To achieve this, there are certain techniques:

As an Adjunct: Rice Malt is not readily available. So commercial beer breweries have large rice adjunct cookers. Essentially they steam the rice at 65–68°C for many hours. This causes the gelatinization of rice. This is the irreversible breakdown of long-chain starch into medium-chain polysaccharides that are easier for the enzymes to digest in the wort mashing. The natural enzymes from the 6 row barley is now used to digest these gelatinized starch and make the wort out of it.

As a Sake: Using Koji instead of yeast. China, Japan, and Korean rice wine/beer uses unmalted rice. They use the koji mold to produce the enzymes needed for the breakdown of starch.

chak-hao- Forbidden Black Rice Manipur
chak-hao- Forbidden Black Rice Manipur

Typical rice beers in America are straw-colored. However, you can use Black Rice from Manipur for your exciting beer experiments. It is called chak-hao in Manipur and Forbidden Rice in China. It is called Nua kalajeera in Orissa and kalo dhaner chaal in West Bengal. This black colored rice gives a deep red color to your beer.

Other Ways:

Enzyme mashing: Since rice is devoid of natural enzymes, brewers use additional enzymes to mash the rice beer. This is prevalent in gluten-free beer where rice and sorghum are the only two permissible ingredients.

Rice Flakes Beer: Breakfast cereal mashing is gaining popularity these days. Oatmeal full-bodied stout is one of the most talked-about beer. You can similarly use torrified wheat, cracked corn, poha (rice flakes or wheat flakes). Avoid using Bengal gram flakes (chana jor garam, Spices are great but the resulting beer is very cloudy). The large surface area and even rolling make it ideal for enzymes from your barley malt to breakdown he starch from your rice flakes. However, don’t allow rice flakes to exceed 10-15% of your mash. if they become too wet or clump together it will lead to stuck mashing. Also remember to clean the pump after using rice, wheat, and unmalted cereals for your beer wort.

Adjunct grain beer brewing
Rice adjunct beer grain mashing

Rice hulls for your lautering and improving mash efficiency. A discussion about rice cannot be complete without due credit being given to its husk. In India, Craft beer is synonymous with wheat beer. Unfortunately wheat does not have a husk layer around it. To compensate for that brewers use rice hulls to aid in the lautering process. So next time you drink a wheat beer, remember that there is rice in it too.

Which Rice to use for Beer

Sticky rice a.k.a. glutenous rice is the best. If that is not available use short-grain rice. Basmati rice is an long grain rice that is rich in aromatic oils. This aromatic rice tends to interfere with the overall brewing process. Hence short-grained rice is preferred. Also starch content in highly polished short-grain rice is higher than the long-grain rice. This is why short-grain sticky rice in soft water is preferred for brewing beer.

Properties of Rice Beer

कासार्शोग्रहणीदोषमूत्राघातानिलापहा । स्तन्यरक्तक्षयहिता सुरा बृंहणदीपनी ॥

Su Su 45/175

Sura is useful in kasa (treating cough and cold), arshas (piles and constipation), grahani roga (digestion and gastric problems), and mutraghata (urination and prostate problems). It alleviates vata (pain, bloating, borborygmi, constipation, or diarrhea) and is useful in stanya (milk production during breastfeeding) and rakta kasaya (blood production and curing anemia or iron deficiency). It is brmhaka (boosts immunity) and Dipani (increases metabolism).

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  1. Pepz Trekker

    Hello Ankur. Could you please emailed me a copy of rice beer making too. I love to learn more about rice beer brewing.

  2. Would love to learn some more. Could you please share some more details? on whats’ the best hops and yeast for this?

    1. Lenny
      If you are making rice beer in oriental style then only koji is needed no additional hops or yeast is needed.
      if you are making it in American style…. then bittering hops are used https://www.arishtam.com/product-category/home-brew-ingredients/beer-hops/ipa/

  3. Hi Ankur,

    Would love to connect with you regarding preparing rice beer. Kindly let me know.


    1. Hi
      We just emailed you the details.

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