1,000-year-old brewery found

Mountain-top brewery in Peru made 'chicha' on large scale

July 29, 2004 - Archaeologists working in southern Peru found an ancient brewery more than 1,000 years old. Remains of the brewing facility were uncovered on Cerro Baśl, a mountaintop city over 8,000 feet above sea level, which was home to elite members of the Wari Empire from AD 600-1000.


Predating the Inca Empire by at least four centuries, this Wari brewery was used to make chicha, a fermented beverage similar to beer that played an important role in ritual feasting and drinking during Peru's first empire. Ancient Peruvians made chicha with local grains and fruit, which is quite different from today's commercial beers typically made with barley and hops.

"We believe this important find may be the oldest large-scale brewery ever found in the Andes," said Patrick Ryan Williams, Assistant Curator of Anthropology at The Field Museum.

Large ceramic vats stood between the wall and pairs of stones lining the wall. Fruits or grains were boiled in preparation vats as the first step in making chicha, an alcoholic beverage similar to beer. The dense ash along the wall contained shards of the vats, and dark stains on the floor are the remains of fires that burned more than 1,000 years ago.

"The scale of chicha production in this building with multiple fires and vats, indicates that this was not a home-brewing operation," he added. "It was an elaborate brewery that produced massive amounts of chicha."

Cerro Baśl is about 250 miles south of Cuzco.

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