Drink Beer Inspired by an Ancient Recipe at Chicago's Field Museum

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Love history, archaeology, and obscure craft beers? Thanks to Chicago’s Field Museum, you'll soon be able to combine all three. Starting in March, museum visitors will be able to sip on Wari Ale, a single-batch limited-edition brew based on a recipe that the Wari people of southern Peru enjoyed more than 1000 years ago.

The Wari Ale will be officially released at one of The Field Museum’s quarterly tasting and beer-science Hop To It events. Named after the Wari—who once ruled parts of modern-day Peru and northern Chile—it’s what the museum calls "a purple chicha de molle (corn and pepper) beer" and contains traditional ingredients.

Brewers from Chicago’s Off Color Brewing collaborated with Ryan Williams, associate curator of anthropology at The Field Museum, to create the “beer-like drink with a dry, grainy funk and pepper spiciness," according to Off Color Brewing's site.

The ale is inspired by an archaeological find. In 2004, scientists from the Field Museum announced that they unearthed an ancient brewery while excavating the mountaintop city of Cerro Baúl (600 to 1050 CE). The facility predated the Inca Empire by at least four centuries, and its size indicated that the Wari once produced—and enjoyed—massive quantities of an alcoholic, beer-like drink called chicha, NBC News reported. However, ceramics excavated at Cerro Baúl showed traces of maize and molle berries, which suggests that Wari brewers mixed the two ingredients to make a zestier—and more potent—libation than regular chicha.

Researchers believe the ancient brewery once produced 1500 to 2000 liters of the brew in a single batch, according to a museum press release. The Wari guzzled it at large parties thrown by ruling officials to thank subordinates for their service to the state.

The Field Museum’s Hop To It event on March 3 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. won’t be as beer-soaked as these early Peruvian fetes (attendees receive one glass of beer per ticket). Open to the public, ages 21 and up, the event will feature a beer tasting and lectures as well as a display of Peruvian beer vessels from 600 AD and artifacts from the brewery in Cerro Bau'l. Tickets are $35 for Field Museum members, and $40 for non-members.

Can’t make it? Starting on March 7, the Wari Ale will be available on tap and in bottles at the Museum’s Field Bistro. For more information, check out the museum’s website.

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