Palm sap begins fermenting immediately after collection, due to natural yeasts in the air (often spurred by residual yeast left in the collecting container). Within two hours, fermentation yields an aromatic wine of up to 4% alcohol content, mildly intoxicating and sweet. In other words, fermentation converts the sugar in the Palm wine to alcohol. The wine may be allowed to ferment longer, up to a day, to yield a stronger, more sour, and acidic taste, which some people prefer.
Palm wine may be distilled (extracted in drops) to create a stronger drink, referred to locally as “ogogoro”, “Kai-kai”, “village gin”, or “country whiskey”. This means that distillation concentrates the alcohols created during fermentation and converts all that delicious palm wine into ogogoro.
Longer fermentation produces vinegar (used rather as a condiment or preservative) instead of stronger wine. The vinegar can also be applied to wounds to stop heavy bleeding; this way, it plays the role of methylated spirit.
From Palm Wine to Ogogoro
Ogogoro is a form of local gin distilled from fermented palm wine. The delight of the distilled palm wine has earned it several names including “Kai-Kai”, “Akpeteshie”, “EgunInuIgo.”
The gin carries both cultural and economic significance in virtually all parts of the country and plays an essential part in many religious and social ceremonies. For instance, Ijaw priests pour it on the ground as offerings to their gods, while in many traditions fathers of brides use it as a libation with which to pronounce their blessing on a union.
The Fermentation Process
Some of the fresh palm wine is brought back to base and sold while the remaining portion is made into Ogogoro. To prepare Ogogoro, fresh palm wine is allowed to ferment by storing it in large drums for about a week.
The drums are sealed using thick nylon material in order to provide a cool environment and to keep them away from direct sunlight. This is beneficial as it prevents the growth of bacteria that can spoil the sap.
After about a week of fermentation, the palm wine is ready for heating but has to be thoroughly mixed first. The local distiller prepares two drums with fermented palm wine, a smaller container, and a paddle. The paddle is to stir the thick fermented substance while the container is used to transfer and pour the substance from one drum to another to aid mixing.
At this stage, the fermented palm wine resembles a thick and reddish-brown sludge that requires mixing because the denser elements sink to the bottom of the drum during fermentation.
After mixing, the substance is transferred into metal drums which sit on top of a burning fireplace. The mud fireplace serves as a heating system for the substance in the drums above it. The fire is produced using firewood which is replenished often to provide consistent heat.
Metal pipes to channel the Ogogoro
Metal pipes attached to the metal drums run through the wooden container to the plastic container. The condensed fermented palm wine is collected through pipes that pass over the wooden tank.
The wooden container is filled with water to cool the hot drink before dripping out into plastic containers. After the Ogogoro has been collected, the waste is poured out from the metal drums.
Palm wine and Ogogoro for sale
After distilling, Ogogoro is stored in plastic containers for sale. While the container on the right contains pure Ogogoro, the one on the left contains Palm wine. In the rural areas, some pieces of local wood are added to one of the wine or ogogoro tanks for medicinal purposes.
Beer is an alcoholic beverage usually made from cereal grains, barley, corn, sorghum, millet, rice, wheat, oats, and possibly the palm tree; through the process of fermentation in which microscopic fungi called yeast consume sugars in the grain, converting them to alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.
Practically all indigenous African Beers are fermented drinks that follow similar formation procedures, even though the contents and tastes may in one way or the other differs across the board.
A well-known African Beer brand is ‘Pito’, which is a dark brown traditional alcoholic beverage of the Binis in the western part of Nigeria, prepared from malted grains (Sorghum, Maize or Millet; or both). The drink has a pleasantly sour taste. The production process involves fermentation at its initial production stage and the final product comes out as an alcoholic drink.