Consumption of Burukutu, Benue’s local brew overtakes beer, others as prices soar

*It’s healthy source of blood — brew consumers

*It’s cheaper than beer

THERE is currently a growing obsession for a local brew called Burukutu, or BKT for short, among young men and women in Makurdi and its environs at the moment. Before now, the consumption of the brew was associated with the poor and illiterate on the street. But all that has changed, and BKT is now generally favoured and found on the tables of the high, middle, and common men in Benue State. Drinking spots in the state now brandish the drink as a first choice for all, and nobody is ashamed of displaying or consuming it with pride. Indeed, the sorghum-based drink is now the toast of the town, especially at weekends when, in the conviviality of the morning, they share the drink, share thoughts, and share ideas.

Burukutu has become the choice of not a few, particularly among those who before now were addicted consumers of beer and alcoholic beer drinks. Some have even gone so far as to coin special names for the joints they patronise and go a step further to form social clubs at such Burukutu drinking joints. Suffice it to say that before now, the rate of consumption of beer and other alcoholic beverages in the state capital, particularly, was way high. It was a common sight to see people gathering in beer drinking spots at the close of work, to share their bottles of beer with friends. Though that drinking practice still exists, it is now obvious that the traffic to these beer drinking spots that you find in the streets of the town has drastically reduced, and much of the diversion is headed for BKT joints strategically located in parts of Makurdi town.

The development has also seen local brewers smiling to the banks given the unexpected  patronage they now enjoy. Though some have attributed the high patronage of BKT joints to their affordability given the sharp rise in the cost of a bottle of beer and other alcoholic beverages, the love for BKT, which goes for as little as N700 for a four litre bucket, even among the elites who can easily afford beer, opens up different lines of argument as to the motivation for the rush and addiction to the local brew. A journalist, Dennis Achussa, one of the promoters of Burukutu drink, who said he has been drinking the local brew for about two decades, gave an insight into why the brew has gained prominence among the people.

Hear him, “Burukutu is one of two Tiv beverages. The other is “Iber.” The difference between the two is that while Burukutu is fermented, Iber is unfermented. Originally, it was a drink meant for elders and brewed at occasions such as market days, celebrations of rites like Ivom, Kwav, Amar, and any other feast that the Tiv would have. Soon, it gained prominence among age grades (Kwav). Brewed from either millet or sorghum, consumers of Burukutu believe that it is nutritious and contributes to a higher volume of blood in the body. Originally, the Tiv called it Tashi, meaning (there is still something to life). And it was considered offensive, to sit alone to drink Burukutu. That is why often, you find people drinking it in groups, sometimes sitting in a circular fashion.

“During Burukutu sit out, normally according to friends or age grade, moral values and how resources are shared are learned. It is time to learn from the acts of heroics of our forefathers as well as new developments in the land. It is a ground for socialisation as much as it is for learning the Tiv way of life. Those who should know say millet is a good source of protein, fiber, key vitamins, and minerals, and that its potential health benefits include protecting cardiovascular health, preventing the onset of diabetes, helping people achieve and maintain a healthy weight because BKT drinkers do not develop pot belly, and managing inflammation in the gut. Locals may not know this, but the one thing that they hold on to is that Burukutu gives ‘more blood.’

“It is nearly two decades now that I have been consuming the beverage. I cherish and enjoy it most when it comes with “fermented locust beans, onions, and green leaves” or “Nyata with Alie” or small fish in vegetables such as garden eggs. My choice days for the beverage are Saturdays and Sundays. We usually gather under the name “Mega Culture,” relax, learn new things, and/or share experiences before dispersing. It is important to note that many people are leaving beer for Burukutu because it saves resources. No matter how prices of products have gone up, Burukutu is still sold at N700 per four litre compared to a bottle of beer that goes for N400. And more so because it is more nutritious than beer. I prefer it to beer, as do many others.”

On his part, another consumer and promoter of the local brew, Mr. Emmanuel Gwaza, pointed out that “drinking BKT is a matter of choice, because personally, I was into taking beer but I stopped because I don’t like the content anyone. Now I take BKT, and the one I enjoy most is the one made of millet because it is highly nutritional. The contents are just millet and water, which are natural products. So it nourishes the body, and if you see my body, you will accept that this man is properly nourished because I take a large quantity of BKT, especially on Sundays after church. I take it on weekends. I do not take it on work days, considering my position as a civil servant. I ensure I drink responsibly.

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“Aside from its nutritional value, it also creates a forum for you to interact socially with friends where issues of culture are discussed because it is a drink that is consumed by adults. And anytime we converge, we discuss very serious family and traditional issues, recalling past practices. BKT carries everybody along, there is that sign of communal living where a large quantity is bought by one person and it is drank by a whole lot more people. So you see that people who don’t even have come around to sip to their satisfaction. And to add to it, the price is friendly compared to beer and other alcoholic beverages.” I want to discount the belief that most people are into BKT consumption because of money, no. I can afford to buy beer or any kind of drink, but I opt for BKT because I know it is natural and healthy for all ages.” 

Vanguard