The longer umqombothi is left to ferment, the higher the alcohol volume it has.
This is according to Ndumiso Madlala, Soweto Gold Brewmaster, who says that in modern times, mqombothi which contains yeast is added to readily brewed traditional beer to kickstart the fermentation process.
The issue of alcohol content in mqombothi is in the news since African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee member Tony Yengeni said in his drunk driving case, that he only had three sips of mqombothi when he was arrested by traffic authorities in Cape Town, for allegedly being five times the legal alcohol limit.
Speaking to #NightTalk's Gugs Mhlungu and Sizwe Dhlomo, Madlala explained the fermentation process of umqombothi, and answered the question of whether the traditional beer can be detected by a breathalyzer.
Listen to the conversation below:
If you consume mqombothi within three days, its alcohol content is quite low— Ndumiso Madlala, Soweto Gold Brewmaster
In modern times, because we've standardised umqombothi, what some people do to activate the fermentation process is to take readily brewed mqombothi and add a carton into the brew that already has yeast, to kickstart fermentation— Ndumiso Madlala, Soweto Gold Brewmaster
We know that as you leave the brew to ferment longer, it gains much more potency. The trick is no one knows when you've left the brew for 10 days in an instance, how much alcohol it has— Ndumiso Madlala, Soweto Gold Brewmaster