Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
I read an article a
couple of weeks ago which reminded me of the significant connection
between beer and spiritual life.
The article highlighted work done by a team
of archeologists with the Field Museum in Chicago. Twenty years ago
the researchers discovered the site of an ancient brewery in Cerro
Baúl, a mesa in southern Peru. The brewery they discovered contained
original equipment, clay storage vessels, and spaces for milling,
billing, and fermentation.
The pre-Inca Wari Civilization used the
brewery to produce chicha de molle, a significant component in their
religious and cultural ceremonies.
The research team recently analyzed some of
the vessels they found at the site to learn secrets of the Wari
brewing process. The clay used to make the vessels came from a
nearby location. Many of the beer’s ingredients, including molle
berries, are drought resistant. Thought it was alcoholic, the beer
only stayed fresh for about a week.
The information they learned suggest Cerro
Baúl maintained a steady supply of chicha by producing it. The
supply was not limited by the need to trade or by changes in the
The brewery apparently became an important
place for Wari festivals and for people to reaffirm their
connections to Wari culture.
Researchers believe festive gatherings, with
the promise of beer, strengthened social capital and helped maintain
healthy national unity. The Wari civilization lasted for
approximately 500 years from 600 to 1100 CE.
The Wari were not the only or even the first
civilization in which beer helped maintain the soil fabric.
Sumerians, in Mesopotamia, regarded beer as an essential part of
The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh extols the
significance of beer.
The Field Museum archeologists hope their
research reminds us about the value of beer in creating and
sustaining social institutions and cultural bonds. They have
partnered with Off Color Brewing in Chicago to brew a modern variant
of the chicha from Cerro Baúl.
This article got me thinking about how
things are the same now as they were 1,000 years ago. We still
gather in places where beer is available to celebrate and strengthen
our social connections.
I have some of my most significantly
spiritual conversations while sharing a beer with someone. It is
particularly meaningful for us to renew our practice of getting
together over beer for festivals and festivities this month.
We begin this July by taking time for
Independence Day. It is easy for us to get caught up in expectations
and traditions and forget to pay attention to our independence.
I encourage you to spend time early this
month reflecting on independence and strengthening social
relationships over a beer. This year it is 243 years since the
nation was brought to life by people who enjoyed a good beer. Raise
a glass to them.
This month is another anniversary as well.
We celebrate 50 years since the first person set foot on the moon.
Take some time later this month to look up into the night sky and
raise a glass to the moon and the brave pioneers who left their
footprints on it.
Like our Wari brothers and sisters so many
years ago, we get together and renew our social connections with
beer. It may not be exactly chicha de molle or the beer of the
Sumerians, but we stand on their shoulders and share a cultural bond
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life
mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft
brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg is a
recovering attorney. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk.
You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com,
and he writes a blog for the Contemplativechannel