Anyone know this beer?

Recently got an email from a reader, with a recipe request.

I noted that you had an article on Belgian beers and thought I would write to you on the off chance you could direct me to a beer recipe. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zaire from 1981-83 in the Bandundu region. The preferred beer by my crowd was Primus. I always assumed it was brewed based on a Belgian or German beer adapted to the conditions of Africa but but never knew for sure. I do know that it provided me and my fellow PCVs with many hours of enjoyment when we would come in from the bush every 3 months or so. Now that I brew my own beer I would love to locate someone with a recipe for Primus so that I could work on perfecting it in time for a reunion that we are hoping to hold in the next year or so. Any ideas on where I might find someone with a recipe?

HI David – what little info I could find out indicates that Primus is brewed by Heineken-owned breweries in the Congo, the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi – looks to be pretty much a standard Dutch/Belgian lager (in the tradition of Heineken, Stella Artois, etc.) light gold in color, 5% abv… I can find no one that has a recipe on line, and I highly doubt it is imported into the US (if it were and if I could get a taste, I could come up with an approximate recipe….) – I think your best bet will be to track down a recipe for Stella Artois or Heineken and start there – if you have time to brew it a couple of times you might play with the hops from batch to batch, use a little maize or rice as an adjunct to lighten it some… White Labs has just introduced a yeast strain called “Belgian Lager” which would probably give you a really good approximation of what they are using in western and central African breweries… Let me know if you can’t find a starting place among the Dutch an Belgian lager recipes, I may be able to help there. Good luck!

Thanks for the great advice. I’ll begin with something along the lines of Stella with some maize or rice and see where it takes me, I’m sure the brewshop I use up in Columbia, MD will be able to get me the Belgian lager yeast. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Primus wasn’t the best beer in Zaire, that accolade probably went to Simba or Tembo brewed out in Kasai/Shaba area, but the memories it helped create certainly rivaled anything else brewed on the continent 😉
Feel free to use the question for your on-line article and include my email. In the strange world of brewers I suspect there has to be at least one other person out there who has had a longing for Primus.
Again, thanks for helping head me in the right direction, or at least a direction. David

SO, readers, any insights out there? Anyone else want to take a shot at a recipe for this obscure African brew?

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