Chhaang, The Truly Indian Fermented Rice Beer

When you have you a tiring week you probably like to open up a can of beer during the weekend and chill with your friends. In the last decade, the consumption of beer in India has increased by a great margin due to its distribution channels and cheap prices. Beer is one of the most preferred drinks among the age bracket “21-30” mainly because it gives you a happy high very fast and settles you down by the time you have to leave for home. It doesn’t give you a hangover which is the problem with most of the other alcoholic drinks. I am sure you must have heard about brands like Bira 91, Kingfisher, Simba, Corona and Budweiser but have you ever heard about Chhaang?

Today I am going that about the Indian beer which not everybody knows about. Chhaang can be said that is a beer from the Himalayas, Now, since this beer is from the Himalayas it carries medical benefits. In the Tibetan region, the farmers cannot afford to buy the alcohol which is generally found in wine shops so they create their own Chhaaag. It is also known as chang or Tibetan chang. In this article, I would be telling you about 5 things you need to know about Chhaang.

1. What is Chhaang?

The 1st of the 5 things you need to know about Chhaang is that this drink is also known as rice beer since the major ingredients used to make this Tibetan alcoholic drink are rice, barley and sometimes millet. Chhaang is not really considered to be an alcoholic drink in the Tibetan region because people of all ages drink it there, even the kids. Yes, you heard it right even the kids! It is a common part of life and is enjoyed at their festivals. Like I mentioned before, the farmers are not fortunate enough to buy the generally available alcohol so they create their own Chhnang (Since it is made from barley, it is widely available to them). In order to get a taste of it, you will have to go to the Himalayas because Chhaang is exclusive to this region and you won’t find it anywhere else in the country.

2. How is it made?

The 2nd of the 5 things you need to know about Chhaang is that In order to make this drink, you would be needing white rice (anything apart from basmati would serve the purpose), some water, dry yeast (Yeast is known as chanzi or pab in the Tibetan region). First, the chanzi is grinded so that it turns into a fine powder, then rice is cooked (just the way you would cook your normal rice). After the rice is cooked, it is stirred so that it becomes a kind of loosen, you wouldn’t want your rice to be clumpy. Once, this is done the rice is spread onto a surface to let it cool, once you realize that the rice has a little warmth left in it the yeast is added. You need to understand this, that the timing of adding the yeast is very important here. If you add the chanzi when the rice is too hot then your chhangg is likely to get sour and if the rice is cold then it would take a lot of time to get fermented. The rice mixture is poured into a container and is closed with a lid. After this, the container is covered with a warm blanket and left for 4-5 days.

3. How to drink it?

Honestly, don’t try Chhnang without knowing how to drink it. There are many ways through which you can drink Chhaang out of which 2 of them are widely popular. One way is to strain out the pieces of the rink and drink the liquid (which looks sort of like milk). For the second way, you will need butter, cheese (dried), sugar, butter; all these ingredients are heated up and mixed with the contents of the container in which you keep the rice. However, if it doesn’t give you a kick you can always mix both of these processes and I am sure you would be happy with the end result. This is the 3rd thing which you need to know about Chhaang

4. Where would you find it?

Like I have mentioned before, Chhaang is not a beer which you would get anywhere. For this particular drink, you would have to travel to the Tibetan region. Generally, it is served as a welcome drink in most of the places but if you do not get it as a welcome drink a bottle of Chhaang would cost you like Rs. 30 or 40. Don’t go by the price tag! It is said a small sip of Chhaang is equivalent to a bottle of Kingfisher or Corona.

5. Medicinal properties

The 4th of the 5 things you need to know about Chhaang are the medicinal properties. Whenever we hear about Himalayas 2 things comes to our mind’s purity and medicinal properties. Chhaang is no different. Since the Tibetan region is really very cold the people cannot think of sitting around the fire throughout the day so they have to consume something which helps them keep their body warm. Generally, Brandy is a drink which is spoken about when it comes to keeping your body warm but since the farmers there cannot afford a drink like brandy so they prefer making their own Chhaang. It is said that if you are suffering from cold, fever, allergy a few sips of Chhaang has the capacity of healing you.

6. Additive?

Well, there are certain plants which are used in the fermentation of Chhaang; some of them are considered to be poisonous and can damage the immune system. To avoid this, I will recommend you to get the local opinion about the different local brands and buy the one which they recommend.

So, these are the 6 things you need to know about Chhaang. Trying out different things is okay but don’t ever make it your habit. Drink responsibly and wish you a very happy high!

Featured “Photo of Chhyang or Chhaang – Fermented rice drink” by Sharada Prasad under CC BY 2.0

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