USD Researchers Help Inspire New Craft Beer

Image Wari Researchers USD assistant professor Matthew Sayre and student Aaron Mayer are researching the Wari people of Peru. The seeds they're holding from that part of the world inspired a new craft beer called Wari.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- On an archaeology trip to Peru in 2002, Matthew Sayre, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of anthropology at USD, found large seeds he had never seen before. They turned out to be from the Peruvian pepper tree. Later excavations led to the discovery of an old brewery located at the top of Cerro Baul, where thousands of Peruvian pepper tree seeds were kept to make an ancient civilization’s beer over 1,000 years ago.

Now, the The Field Museum in Chicago will be brewing and selling its own version of that ancient beer. The ale was developed based on the remains of brewing evidence from the site of Cerro Baul where the Wari people once lived. That first excavation that Sayre took part in helped lead to the discovery of the special ingredients used in the new limited-edition craft beer.

The U.S. has the most beer styles in the world, largely because of its thriving craft industry. Craft beers differ from traditional styles because of the use of various ingredients and different methods of fermentation. This particular Wari beer is unique because of its Peruvian pepper berries and purple corn, making it one of a kind.


Aaron Mayer, a student at USD who studies alongside Sayre, is trying to further the paleoethnobotanical research and evidence concerning the ancient history of the Wari people. In the labs on campus, Sayre and Mayer aim to understand what other foods and plants were used by that particular civilization. They have recently looked at another kind of seed that was possibly used in the fermenting process long ago. Sayre published an academic article in 2012 about Wari cuisine.

The beer will be available on tap and in bottles at The Field Museum’s Field Bistro as well as in bottles at select retailers. The museum will hold a public release of the Wari Ale on Thursday at its Hop To It event.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News