Different tribes have their own names and tradition of brewing rice beer, which has an important role in their socio-cultural lives. The northeast has over 150 tribes and 200 sub-tribes, each of them having unique traditions of making rice beer. Also, there are therapeutic values in the local brews of Northeast according to Researchers from the Jorhat-based College of Home Science (CHS)’s department of food and nutrition, Assam Agricultural University (AAU) and the Tamil Nadu-based Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology (IICPT).
So here are some popular local liquors in the Northeast which has gained quite a name across the region and the world.
1. Apong(Arunachal Pradesh)
Apong is a kind of a beer made out of fermented rice. It is atleast a 3-month process that includes drying, smoking, fermenting, filtering and finally the concoction is drunk out of a bamboo shoot. Apong is served at room temperature, and it’s sweet, malty, spicy, and “pretty potent”.
There are two main varieties of alcohol prepared by Tripuri women, viz. Chuwak Bwtwk and Chuwarak.
Chuwak bwtwk is basically a beer fermented of rice. Chuwak is considered to be most prized among Tripuris. It is used in special occasion and by elite class of society. It is offered to the honoured and special guest, to almighty Lord Garia in old days. It has soothing taste and special aroma, which attracts the people. Any one who has it would like to consume it second time and every time.
Chuwarak is a distilled variety of alcohol of Tripuri people. It is like scotch or champagne, if it would have been promoted and innovated like these brands it could have taken the status of Vodka, Feni etc. in in a global platform,and it is said that the Tripuri whisky is among the safest in the world as there has not been a single case of death due to poisoning by consumption.There are many varieties of chuwarak viz. made of Mami rice, of Pineapple, of Jackfruits, of Guria rice etc.
3. Chang (Sikkim)
Chang (pronounced “chung”) by the Bhutia people or ci (pronounced “chee”) by the Lepcha people or Thongba by the Limbu people (aka Yakthumba),is a local beer which is made by fermenting millet using yeast. Often called “Hot beer”, it is sipped from a bamboo receptacle using a bamboo pipe. The receptacle which has millet in it is topped with warm water a couple of times unit the millet loses its potency. Chang can sometimes be strong and very intoxicating indeed. It’s taste is kind of bitter but not overly so and has a good after taste.
4. Ka Kiad um & Bitchi (Meghalaya)
Rice-beer (ka’iad um) is a necessity for practically all Khasi and Synteng (Jaintia) religious ceremonies. It is the custom of the officiating priest to pour liberal quantities of the liquor from a hollow gourd (u klong) and offer to the gods on these occasions.
Bitchi is a fermented rice beer brewed only in the Garo Hills. It’s the colour of dull honey, and packed with a wonderful smoky, sweet flavor. It is light and has a delicious taste.
Both the concoctions are crystal clear with tempting flavors made from locally available fruits.
4. Zu (Mizoram)
Zu,the Mizo beer, made from fermented rice, millet or maize, was of three main grades – rakzu, zufang, zupui and zulawm – brewed by different groups of people for different occasions. The association of rice beer or zu, with the aspect of dance was integral.
Zawlaidi grape wine is also produced in Mizoram and is famous for its bubbly taste. The premium grape wine is in fact economically important for the former dry state with 80% of the city of Hnahlan being employed in the manufacturing of this wine.
6. Lao Pani (Assam)
Lao pani is a locally brewed rice beer fermented in the shell of a bottle gourd.They add a variety of substances like pepper and different kinds of herbs to produce lao-panis with varying nuances of taste and color. Lao-pani is also made of ripe jack fruits and varieties of banana at times.
7. Yu (Manipur)
Yu is the fermented drink common among the ethnic tribes in the State. It is prepared by fermenting rice, millet or Job’s tear and is as smooth as vodka. It need extra care while processing the drink and the best drinks are from those earthenware pots fermented for longer periods.
8. Zutho( Nagaland)
It is a rice beer local to the state of Nagaland. Made out of rice through an elaborate fermentation process, it is available in various levels of potency. It had a fruity aroma and sour taste and its unique aroma had characteristics similar to those of Japanese sake and sprouted rice sake.