Enter the gateway of North-East India with a rice beer in your hand from Assam. Apong is a local drink of Assam made by the Mising people. The preparation of this drink is an exclusive domain of women. It is of two types and has an alcoholic content of 5%-8% abv.
The historical knowledge on the origins of the Apo tradition in the North-Eastern regions are not recorded, However, it is believed that the tradition comes along with the early Chinese and Mongoloid descendants of the region. Similarly, the ‘term’ Apo is not a general term used for addressing their rice drink as each tribe identifies the drink with different names. However, it is believed that the traditional rice beer was first developed by the ‘Mising people in Assam. Thus the etymology of the word refers to its Assmaese origins.
Across the different tribes, the brewing method has certain differences, but the substrates used for fermentation are the same. This indicates a common ancestor to the brewing culture in North-Eastern India. Traditionally, two kinds of Apo are being brewed in these regions known as Apong Nogin and Po:ro. The starter cakes called E’pob a made out of crushed rice and medicinal plants are used to make the health quotient. These starter cakes are one of the most important elements of the rice beers made in the North-Eastern region, including Apo. This refers to the connection between different tribal groups and ancestry. This also refers to the idea of sacredness associated with the Apo making across different tribes as it is not made on an everyday basis, but only for ceremonies, festivals, marriage, and group gatherings. In this regard, historically and culturally, the Apo remains as an element of identity in these regions.
The Apo and the Mising people
Apo is known in different traditional names based on the respective tribes. Apo is believed to be first developed by the Mising people in Assam. The term Apo is derived from the traditional name of ‘Apong’ beer spoken by the Mising people. The Mising community is identified to be an early Mongoloid descendant groups which use Austroasiatic language in India. The Mising community is a plain tribal of Assam habituated in the Vally (Brahmaputra Valley) of the Brahmaputra river in Assamese districts like Lakhimpur, Sonitpur,Sibsagar, etc. Traditionally the major occupation of the Mising community was the collection of fire Woods along with agricultural practices.
The Mising community is generally known for its passion for traditional cooking methods and food items, along with their indigenous knowledge of folklore medicines that have been shared through generations of the Mishing tribes. The cooking method of the Apong beer is also believed to be shared by the ancestors of Mising immunity and later spread throughout the tribes in North East India. However, the traditional and cultural practices of the Mising community in Assam is distinct from other tribal identities in Assam, and the Apomg beer is an integral element of the culture, tradition, and rituals of the Mising community.