LOCAL CORN-BASED HOME-BREW
This is one of the hard-to-get experiences left on my to-do list. I’m fascinated by indigenous beers, beers uniquely of a place and not replicated anywhere else—beers that have been brewed for centuries using recipes and processes passed down through the generations. One of those beers is chicha.
Visit to Peru Photo Gallery
Chicha, or chicha de jora (as opposed to chicha morada which is nonalcoholic), is a fermented drink made from maize. In Peru, chicha has its distant origins in religious ceremonies. It has lesser prominence in other Central and South American countries, which have their own versions. Production varies; some contain additional adjunct sources of starch and sweetness, plus fruits and spices can be used. Some versions are made with germinated maize, some now include malted barley, while other more infamous and ancient versions are (or were) made with ground maize that’s chewed by the chicha-makers and spat out in small balls—the act of chewing allows an enzyme in the saliva to help break down the starch in the maize into fermentable maltose (the beer is later boiled, sterilizing any grossness from the chewer’s gob).
It’s an ancient drink, essentially home-brew, and not a singular thing— there’s great variety around Central and South America. In Peru, seemingly the best place to go to drink it is Sacred Valley in the Andean Highlands, not far from Machu Pichu (so, when I do finally get there, it’ll be on another doubled-up Bucket List trip). If you end up there, then look for houses with red flags hanging outside—these tell you that you’ve found a chichería. Today the most likely brewing process includes germinating the corn in water, then drying it out in the sun—essentially replicating barley’s malting process. Then it’s ground, mixed with water (and often malted barley), boiled, and left to ferment naturally, sometimes with additional flavorings added. It is drunk still-fermenting-fresh and there will probably be a sour edge to the soupy, low-alcohol brew. Sounds delicious, right? Especially if some Peruvian dude has already been chewing on the corn kernels.
Of course, this is all gleamed from desk research and might be entirely wrong, but it sounds wonderful and the idea of a Peruvian pub crawl through small chicherias, drinking local home-brew up in the highlands, sounds like something I need to experience.
Elsewhere in South America…
Peru has over 30 craft breweries. Colombia has over 50 breweries. Chile has over 100 breweries. There are more than 200 in Argentina. Over 300 in Brazil. South America is also the big gap in my beer-drinking travels, having only been to Brazil. There’s a serious amount of beer and brewing happening in South America now and it’s the next big stop on my on-going Beer Bucket List adventures.
Beer at the Ends of the Earth
A FEW FINAL REMOTE BEER DESTINATIONS
I’ll finish my Beer Bucket List with some suggestions for far-flung destinations that you (and I) might just get to one day.
The world’s southernmost breweries (and Argentina’s hop-growing region)
If Svalbard Bryggeri (see post 158) is on top of the world as the northernmost brewery, then you need to head all the way to the very south of Argentina, to the very south of South America, almost as far south as you can go, to drink at the world’s southernmost brewery. There’s a surprising amount of craft beer in Patagonia and, at the very bottom of them all, on the Argentinian side, is the Fuegian Beverage Company (Heroes de Malvinas 4160, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina), which makes beers under the brands Cervecería Beagle and Cervecería Cape Horn. Look up the location; you
probably didn’t realize the world even went down that far. And they brew with actual glacier melt. On the Chilean side (but not quite as far south) is Cervecería Austral (2473 Patagona, Punta Arenas, Chile), which was founded in 1916.
If you’re in Patagonia, then look up Bariloche, a town with around 15 breweries, while 62 miles (100km) south of there is El Bolsón, Argentina’s hop-growing region. Yes, they have a hop-growing region and most breweries use these local hops—every year, around harvest time, they host a large beer festival in the spectacular surroundings of the hop fields (www.ellupuloalpalo.com).
The most remote brewery in the world
Cervecería Rapa Nui brews on Easter Island, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away from any mainland. Their Mahina beers (that’s the Polynesian name for the moon) include a moderately strong Pale Ale and a powerful, chocolate-y Porter. To see the famous Moai statues cut from volcanic rock is a lifetime bucket list goal for many people and now it comes with a local brew—probably the remotest local brew in the world (www.facemy blog.com/mahinarapanui).
Is there anywhere else that remote? Well, there’s Stone Money Brewing Company, which is in the Manta Ray Bay hotel on Yap, Micronesia. Or on Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands, there’s the Matutu Brewing Company (Tikioki, Titikaveka, Rarotonga, Cook Islands).