The Session #6 Fruit Beer: Mfula Mfula, Pineapple Beer from Zululand

The Session(The Session is a monthly group blogging event. Learn more about it here.)

This month’s topic for The Session is fruit beer, hosted by Greg Clow at Beer, Beats, and Bites. Here’s my contribution to the fruitiness.

Mfula Mfula, also called riva riva in English, and nicknamed ‘cream of tart’, is a Zulu fermentation of bread, oats, sugar and pineapple. The base of bread and oats makes this technically a beer, fortified with processed cane sugar plus the natural sugar of the pineapple.

I brewed a 20 liter batch with a friend who worked in the kitchen of the hotel where I brewed beer. Here’s a recipe and some photos from our brewing session.

Ingredients for 20 Liters of Mfula Mfula

20 liters warm water
1 pineapple
3 loaves of bread
About 20-25 stale rolls
½ kg jungle oats
1 kg brown sugar
20 mg powdered bread yeast

Chop pineapple and crumble bread. Mix all ingredients well by hand until bread crumbs are very fine. Close lid loosely and leave over night to ferment. In the morning, strain the coarse chunks of pineapple and bread with a large strainer. We used a plastic net sack, the kind you get with a bag of oranges. Strain a second time with a fine sieve. Add a small does more of sugar upon serving in order to sweeten the taste and cut down on the strong, warm alcohol overtones. The whole batch should be consumed within one day.

Crumble bread
Crumble the old bread into a bucket full of water.

Brown sugar
Add brown sugar, oats and pineapple.

Mush it all together real good.
Add a few packets of regular old bread yeast.

Put a lid on it and let it ferment overnight. But don’t seal it tightly or else you’ll get a blowover like we did – I insisted we close the lid tight even though she told me it wasn’t important! You could seal it tightly and put a blowoff tube through the lid but keeping this sucker airtight isn’t really necessary because it’ll still be very much alive when you drink it the next day. There’s no time for nasties to get a foothold and make it taste weird – I mean, weird is a matter of taste I suppose.

Strain it once through something coarse like this netting from an orange bag.

Then put it through a finer sieve to filter out some smaller bits.

Enjoy! It’s white and very frothy like a white water river, hence the moniker “riva riva.”

I was told that this beer evolved in part due to the alcohol laws of Apartheid. For a period, black South Africans were prohibited from making or consuming alcohol. Eventually they were permitted to buy and consume drink, but only from government owned “shebeens.” So, just like Prohibition in the U.S., the illegal trade in alcohol focused on high potency – brewing a low-alcohol session beer was hardly worth the risk of being thrown in a South African jail, or worse.

22 Responses to The Session #6 Fruit Beer: Mfula Mfula, Pineapple Beer from Zululand

  1. Wilson says:

    You’re post reminded me of this beer my cousin brought back from Rwanda–this fermented banana stuff–beer–I forget what it was called, but I did not enjoy it. Necessity is the mother of invention, but for my buds, this one seemed like a misuse of bananas.

    Enjoyed your post!

  2. beeractivist says:

    Howdy Wilson. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I’ve traveled in several countries in East Africa and tasted a lot of traditional beers there. There are a lot of very different styles around. Tasting them is like tasting beer for the first time – for most people, the first taste isn’t very good. But if you leave your expectations behind and try something a few times it becomes quite easy to acquire a taste for it. Many people I know hate the taste of “bitter” beer. Many people quickly learn to love it. Go figure!

    Anyhoo, the beer frontier is broad and its fun exploring it. See you in Africa!


    • Salik Hard says:

      Hi Chris.
      I read your wonderful step-by-step instruction in how to make mfula mfula, and I am going to try it. But how hot should the water be when you start ? And does it have to boil first ?
      Best regards

      • beeractivist says:

        Howdy Salik, the recipe says “warm” because that’s what the brewer told me! So I wouldn’t worry too much about being exact with the temperature. It doesn’t need to be boiled. I think it basically just needs to be about room temperature. Good luck and cheers!

  3. timjo62 says:

    this sounds delicious!

  4. Dave Bonta says:

    We gotta do this for a party some time!

  5. beeractivist says:

    Very good idea. Let’s have a riva riva party!

  6. Jason Oliver says:

    Great photos of the ingredients and process.

    I like the party idea.

  7. beeractivist says:

    Sounds like a plan. I’ll supply the day old breads.

  8. Dave says:

    Speaking of Prohibition, I was talking with a fellow today who claimed that stock car racing – and hence NASCAR – got its start in the 1920s, with bootleggers needing to outrun the cops. Funny how outlawing stuff brings out people’s ingenuity.

  9. […] when I said that The Beer Nut tried the most unique beers, as the award really must go to Chris at Beer Activist, who brewed up a batch of mfula mfula (aka riva riva), an African fermented drink made with bread, […]

  10. KIVIIRI JAMES says:

    hello,please i am Ugandan and would love to start a beer industry.Would be interested in sharing some ideas on how to brew a cheap yet nice beer.In Uganda we only have wheat,millet,sorghum,maize that works as our grain and pineapple that works as our fruits.there are many fruit types but the pineapples are easy to get.Please can you advise.I will really be grateful.


  11. beeractivist says:


    I’m always excited to hear about new brewing efforts in Africa, particularly in East Africa where I’ve lived and traveled. I’m not sure there’s any way that I can help you but I certainly wish you very good luck. I hope you are successful!


  12. RR says:

    you say that it only needs one night to ferment but is one night sufficient enough for the chemical reaction to create the alcohol within the beer? I,ve seen some guys that leaves the beer partly sealed in a warm garage for a month to make a potent beer which is cheap and tastes nice for a friday night braai at your place.

  13. beeractivist says:

    Hi RR, Different drinks require different fermentation times but most will get started fermenting within hours if the conditions are all right. This particular drink is highly fermentable, and one night is enough to produce a decent amount of alcohol.


  14. giuseppe says:

    hello?! I have interest in africans beercoasters, please someone can help me?? thank you very much.

  15. Peter says:

    Shouldn’t one leave it for longer than one night to ferment? I’m goin to try this recipe, but here are the variations I’ll do:
    I’ll use a fermentation lock (Home made, pipe into a glass of water)

    I’ll leave it for one week, just to get a bit of potency

    Lastly I’ll use brewers yeast (difficult to find, but I got a couple of packs from pick n pay)

  16. peter says:

    Hi is there any way to preserve homemade pineapple beer?

    Thanks in advance.

  17. Sibongiseni says:

    Greart instructions

  18. Morakane says:

    My Mfula Mfula looks watery,,,what can I do

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