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.