Art of 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 weather.

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 their civilization.

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 with them.

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 on http://www.patheos.com.

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