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, PhD, Assistant Curator of Anthropology at The Field Museum.
"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 Bal is about 250 miles south of Cuzco. In early July, Dr. Williams and colleagues from The Field Museum and the University of Florida discovered more than 20 preparation vats and the remains of what were once open-hearth fire pits. In the fire pits, hot-burning llama and guinea pig dung, along with other refuse from the settlement, were used to boil water and other ingredients to make chicha. These fire pits revealed ash and broken shards of the large ceramic preparation vats, which held 10-15 gallons.
Boiling fruits or grains is the first step in preparing chicha. Like the mash created in the beer brewing process, the boiling vats contained the sugary mass that would be converted to alcohol in the fermentation stage. From these boiling vats, the liquid would be transferred to fermenting jars where it was converted into chichi in about 5-7 days.