We were perusing some lists of shockingly exotic alcohol beverages. Nestled among the Baby Mouse Wine and the Mare’s Milk Wine, we found, at long last, the beer made with human saliva. It is otherwise known as chicha and it goes back thousands of years, to roots in the Andes region.
The above video does an excellent job of describing why anyone would chew up maize, add some saliva, and then brew it into beer. The Dogfish site further explains:
The most exotic and unique component of this project, from the perspective of the American beer drinker, happens before the beer is even brewed. As per tradition, instead of germinating all of the grain to release the starches, the purple maize is milled, moistened in the chicha-makers’ mouths …, and formed into small cakes which are flattened and laid out to dry. The natural ptyalin enzymes in the saliva act as a catalyst and break the starches into more accessible fermentable sugars. On brewday the muko, or corn cakes, are added to the mash tun pre-boil along with the other grains. This method might sound strange but it is still used regularly today throughout villages in South and Central America. It is actually quite effective and totally sanitary. Since the grain-chewing (known as salivation) happens before the beer is boiled the beer is sterile and free of the wild yeast and bacteria you would find in modern Belgian Lambics.
The New York Times adds that “In other words, they spit in the beer.”