Friday Beer Blogging: Inebriation Is Your Link To The Past

The Wari Empire in Peru introduced secular, expansionist militarism to the Andes, and its culture and customs have long intrigued precolumbian experts. Recently a team of archaeologists showed the importance of beer in Wari-era diplomacy, and in so doing showed the importance of beer in archaeology.

The day started reasonably enough.

The 25-hectare summit of Cerro Baúl is known to have once been a bustling city, packed with houses and ceremonial buildings. Although archaeologists have known about these ruins since the 1970s, the exact purpose of the ceremonial areas has remained unclear.

The puzzle attracted the interest of Michael Moseley, an anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Moseley has closely studied the Wari Empire, which ruled much of what is now modern-day Peru before being overtaken by the Incas around AD 1000.

Then, they discovered beer.

Through careful excavation and analysis of the site, Moseley and his fellow researchers have pieced together a story of what they think happened there: the inhabitants were beer-makers, they say. And the workers involved were probably high-class women. The researchers say the booze was probably produced for drinking ceremonies with the neighbouring Tiwanaku people, with whom the Wari competed for scarce resources in the desert environment.

This is where we all get to try our hands at archaeology. Would you take midden pollen cores? Measure isotope ratios in the ash piles? Amateur. The correct answer, of course, is to guesstimate the hooch recipe and get down Wari style.

The archaeologists tried their hand at recreating the ancient chicha recipe while visiting the region, though given the results Moseley says: “I’m not sure our ethnobotanist got the recipe right.” The result was so spicy they had to mix it with modern beer to make it drinkable.

At that point somebody discovered a clothespin:

Moseley and his colleagues also found nearly a dozen shawl pins embedded in the brewery floor. These pins, which look like long needles with flattened heads, are thought to have belonged to the most privileged Wari women.

And then things just got silly:

The archaeologists admit that the women could have thrown their pins on the floor as part of a ritual once the brewing was completed by someone else. But they point out that the pins are found throughout the ash deposits. Alternatively, the heat from the boiling vats could have made the women remove their shawls, they suggest, and the pins were lost in the process.

We don’t know for sure whether the Naked Peruvian Princess Brewers would have been discovered without chicha, but professionals always err on the side of caution.

Unless you got to the chicha before archaeologists bogarted the urn, your best chance at enjoying a fizzy, head-spinning mug of humanity’s distant past comes from Dogfish Head in Delaware. Responding to a request by archaeologists investigating ancient Phryngia, Dogfish Head reconstructed a recipe from residue in pottery recovered from the tomb of King Midas himself, in modern-day Turkey. The results were surprisingly drinkable.

Midas Beer
See the world through golden goggles

Reaching further into the history of inebriation, archaeologists in China announced last December that they may have uncovered the very birth of beer itself, stretching back some 9000 years into the distant past. This raises the important question: which came first, civilization as we know it, or beer? Think about it.

Needless to say, Dogfish Head is on the case.

***Update***

Your Friday non-beer alternative: Beaujolais season is back!

Those of you who think the annual Nouveau release is a marketing gimmick for astringent syrup can kindly pipe down. The wife and I will be attending a beaujolais party with the Pittsburgh Alliance Francaise and we plan to have a jolly time. Find out more here.






28 replies
  1. 1
    KC says:

    Man, I like this Friday beer blogging thing. It’s a real gift to the blogosphere. Think I’m going to go home and nurse this cold with a couple Full Sail Ambers now.

    Thanky you, Tim F., thank you.

  2. 2
    srv says:

    Beer. Not just for breakfast anymore.

  3. 3
    Boombo says:

    Obviously beer came first. Before beer, all we had was “civilization-as-we-know-it-minus-beer, aka the era of not-worth-our-time”.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    Vladi G says:

    Ya know, if these folks were anything like the Mayans, they might not have brewed that beer for drinking. The Mayans brewed for consumption, but let’s just say that the means of delivery wasn’t always oral.

  6. 6
    Vladi G says:

    Or rather, “The Maya”. Whichever one is correct.

  7. 7
    Tim F. says:

    BTW, I understand that one takes pollen cores in lakebeds and excavates middens by hand. But hell, this is beer blogging.

  8. 8
    Halffasthero says:

    Once again, I am going OT on the beer blog which I concur with KC is a good stroke of inspiration. I just tried a scotch called Bowmore Islay single malt ($49.00/bottle – ouch) and have decided I need to be rich so I can drink it regularly. If you have a chance to try it and you like scotch, it is a must.

  9. 9
    Vladi G says:

    Tim,

    What’s your opinion of the trappist ales like Chimay?

  10. 10
    demimondian says:

    You know, Tim, you’re right that the release of Beaujolais Nouveau is not a marketing gimmick to sell an astringent syrup.

    It’s a marketing gimmick to sell an undrinkable, nasty, astringent syrup with enough excess oxygen to guarantee that each bottle remains around next year will be spoiled, and thus will not compete with next year’s “vintage”.

  11. 11
    Lines says:

    OOOOH, the fight is on!

  12. 12
    Tim F. says:

    Vladi,

    Trappists will have their day, I can guarantee. Rochefort #10 may be the best beer on the planet, and we have a case of Leffe in the fridge at home in honor of the wife’s birthday.

  13. 13
    oscar wilde says:

    Nouveau! Oh please. philistine.

  14. 14
    stickler says:

    Silly beer drinker:

    Rochefort #10 may be the best beer on the planet

    No, non, nein. The best beer on the planet is Duchesse de Bourgogne, a Flanders red ale.

    Oh, who am I kidding. There is no “best beer on the planet.” There are many contenders for “worst beer on the planet,” but “best?” Too broad.

  15. 15
    JWeidner says:

    What’s your opinion of the trappist ales like Chimay?

    I know it was asked of Tim, but I can’t help myself. I find them a bit too dry for my taste. Last time I had Chimay white (or was it blue? I don’t remember…) in particular it struck me as more like a champagne…just not what I’m looking for in beer.

    By the way Vladi G. – you from So. CA / an Angels fan? Just curious if Vladi G. = Vladimir Guererro

  16. 16
    Perry Como says:

    It’s a marketing gimmick to sell an undrinkable, nasty, astringent syrup

    Since this time tomorrow I’ll be making fun of the cheese eating surrender monkeys from the heart of enemy territory (Paris), I was wondering if Beaujolais Nouveau goes well with toasted marshmallows? Or would it be better with smores? I guess it could be anything cooked over an open flame. Suggestions?

  17. 17
    Stormy70 says:

    I just tried a scotch called Bowmore Islay single malt ($49.00/bottle – ouch) and have decided I need to be rich so I can drink it regularly. If you have a chance to try it and you like scotch, it is a must.

    I am on it, dude. Lots of merrymaking to be had over the holidays.

  18. 18
    Krista says:

    Since this time tomorrow I’ll be making fun of the cheese eating surrender monkeys from the heart of enemy territory (Paris)

    You’re going to Paris? (Makes pitiful yearning noise..) Say hello to the Pont Alexandre for me. Goddamn, that city is beautiful.

  19. 19
    Krista says:

    Stormy – if you ever get up this way, you have GOT to try Glen Breton single malt. They can’t call it scotch, ’cause it’s not made in Scotland, of course. It’s made in Glenora, Cape Breton, and it’s smoother than a baby’s arse. It’s the kind of scotch that makes you want to take just the teeniest, tiniest sips, letting the flavours slowly meander over your taste buds.

  20. 20
    Joe says:

    Tim F. — is your name in real life, Alan Colmes? Because you sure act like him. Everytime John says something outrageous and slanders the Dems, you do something like “Friday Beer Blogging” or some such nonsense.

  21. 21
    Vladi G says:

    By the way Vladi G. – you from So. CA / an Angels fan? Just curious if Vladi G. = Vladimir Guererro

    Yeah. I’m from SoCal but I live in Chicago. I blog the Angels during the regular season and will probably write abou their off-season moves. I’m concentrating on the LA Kings now.

  22. 22
    Halffasthero says:

    Stormy – just an FYI. They sell it in different ages I have come to find out. I purhased the 17 yo variety. The 12 yo appears to have better reviews from what I have read. Not sure I agreed with the 17 yo being described as “smokey and sweet” bu that was one review.

  23. 23

    […] Today we raise a plastic stadium cup to the best cheap beer, or the cheapest good beer that I’ve ever seen – lager and porter made by Yuengling Brewing Company, which advertises itself as the oldest brewery in the US. If you’re a fan of historical brewing and you live in America, you can’t visit a tastier patch of living history without taking a long swim. […]

  24. 24

    […] Right, beer. I don’t actually know that much about beer. It’s true that I have a pretty good grasp of how it’s made, and I can name maybe half of the varieties that you find in civilized parts of the world, not counting crazy regional stuff like chicha. But when it comes to knowing beer like I wanted to know that redheaded track star in tenth grade I’m a total piker, and I happen to like it that way. However, there are some guys who truly know their shit, some of whom happen to maintain very good blogs. Without further ado, here are some blogs run by folks who truly know their stuff. I’ve added an asterisk to the guys who keep a blogroll. […]

  25. 25

    […] On a related note, I finally picked up a four-pack of the Midas Touch that I mentioned back in the mists of ‘05. An interesting experience, plummy and effervescent, like something between beer and champagne. Not necessarily a strong dinner beer (side-by-side with another Dogfish Head 4-pack, 90 Minute IPA, my wife and I finished the IPAs first) but it might go perfectly with hors d’ouevres or a royal funeral. […]

  26. 26

    […] Some of the enthusiasm for historical brewing comes from the misplaced assumption that the hooch people drank back in the days before quality control or geographic competition did not taste like fermented cardboard tinged with nightshade. Some did, especially brews made in remote habitations with little choice over what to ferment and how. In many other cases the brewers can only recover a fraction of a long-lost recipe, the written part, losing the fine details honed through hundreds of years of continuous experimentation. Naturally in brewing the magic (or the undrinkable medicinal backwash flavor that seemed to come from nowhere) lives in the details. For example absinthe (.PDF, and the host may or may not have scanned it legally). Chicha may or may not fall under that category; the ethnobotanist admitted that he may have made a mistake but the stuff that Peruvians enjoy today can itself be a pretty caustic brew. As with anything taste-related your mileage may vary. […]

  27. 27

    […] Whenever I see a new product from Dogfish Head I think, score! More than any other American brewery this Delaware brewery puts out products that amaze (90 min. IPA), infatuate (the quality Belgian-style Raison D’Etre) and simply fascinate (e.g., a 2,700-year-old brew scraped from the tomb of King Midas himself). Dogfish Head’s latest, though, just feels wrong. […]

  28. 28
    Nextaq says:

    Peru have step pyramids? I maybe can take them back to Egypt.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Whenever I see a new product from Dogfish Head I think, score! More than any other American brewery this Delaware brewery puts out products that amaze (90 min. IPA), infatuate (the quality Belgian-style Raison D’Etre) and simply fascinate (e.g., a 2,700-year-old brew scraped from the tomb of King Midas himself). Dogfish Head’s latest, though, just feels wrong. […]

  2. […] Some of the enthusiasm for historical brewing comes from the misplaced assumption that the hooch people drank back in the days before quality control or geographic competition did not taste like fermented cardboard tinged with nightshade. Some did, especially brews made in remote habitations with little choice over what to ferment and how. In many other cases the brewers can only recover a fraction of a long-lost recipe, the written part, losing the fine details honed through hundreds of years of continuous experimentation. Naturally in brewing the magic (or the undrinkable medicinal backwash flavor that seemed to come from nowhere) lives in the details. For example absinthe (.PDF, and the host may or may not have scanned it legally). Chicha may or may not fall under that category; the ethnobotanist admitted that he may have made a mistake but the stuff that Peruvians enjoy today can itself be a pretty caustic brew. As with anything taste-related your mileage may vary. […]

  3. […] On a related note, I finally picked up a four-pack of the Midas Touch that I mentioned back in the mists of ‘05. An interesting experience, plummy and effervescent, like something between beer and champagne. Not necessarily a strong dinner beer (side-by-side with another Dogfish Head 4-pack, 90 Minute IPA, my wife and I finished the IPAs first) but it might go perfectly with hors d’ouevres or a royal funeral. […]

  4. […] Right, beer. I don’t actually know that much about beer. It’s true that I have a pretty good grasp of how it’s made, and I can name maybe half of the varieties that you find in civilized parts of the world, not counting crazy regional stuff like chicha. But when it comes to knowing beer like I wanted to know that redheaded track star in tenth grade I’m a total piker, and I happen to like it that way. However, there are some guys who truly know their shit, some of whom happen to maintain very good blogs. Without further ado, here are some blogs run by folks who truly know their stuff. I’ve added an asterisk to the guys who keep a blogroll. […]

  5. […] Today we raise a plastic stadium cup to the best cheap beer, or the cheapest good beer that I’ve ever seen – lager and porter made by Yuengling Brewing Company, which advertises itself as the oldest brewery in the US. If you’re a fan of historical brewing and you live in America, you can’t visit a tastier patch of living history without taking a long swim. […]

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