Persimmon Beer

By Melissa D. Corbin | February 15, 2016
Because the water was often unsafe to drink in slave communities, the enslaved would ferment beverages such as persimmon beer. The first brewing would be very strong and then the last beer would be referred to as a “small” beer for children. Culinary historian, Michael Twitty, explains, “ They call it beer, but it’s closer to a liquor. It has the bubbly ferment, but it tastes more like a wine or sherry.” While persimmons are a fall fruit, you could easily use other foraged fruits as the seasons allow. He shares his paternal grandmother’s formula here.


  • 10 cups wild persimmons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • Clean, dry, red pine straw


When you gather persimmons, use a sheet on the ground and shake them with a broom onto the sheet. They break and bruise easily. If the persimmons are not mushy and a deep, orange-red or purple, they are not ripe and will give you an unpleasant astringent flavor. You can simulate nature’s frosts by freezing and thawing, etc. the persimmons. This will promote them to ripen. After repeating this process, leave them in the refrigerator and check often for mold. Wash any broken or bruised fruit, but don’t throw it away! I usually use a gallon jug used for wine to contain this beverage. Be sure to take the cap off (in the sink) frequently and let the gases out to prevent the beer from blowing up, as it has once on me!

Boil the persimmons in a lot of water and in a large pot, while stirring and breaking the fruit up. As the water cools, mash the persimmons in the water until the pulp is freely flowing. Then strain the pulp laden liquid several times into a bowl, being careful not to allow seeds in. Strain the pulp in the pot several times with water, which you can use to make more beer. In the bottom of the empty wine jug, place a few strands of dry, red pine straw. Pour in the sugar and honey. 

Pour the persimmon pulp liquid on top of that and add the yeast. Cap loosely and make sure that you air the liquor several times. As the pulp and yeast form a think loaf in the neck of the bottle, be sure to keep watch over the fermentation. After a few weeks, strain the entire bottle, removing the mash. To keep the fermentation going, add sugar to the reserved liquor each week. After several months the persimmon beer should be ready to enjoy. Allow to ferment for longer periods of time to develop its complex, light, fruity flavor. 

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