Chicha: Peruvian Beer from Fermented Corn

There are a few tasks I must complete every time I travel internationally: eat meat prepared in the traditional way of the region, pick up spices unavailable at home, and learn about the local adult beverage.

At the end of my trek through Peru, I had seen the slaughtering of the goat, had picked up coca leaves and La Huertita (a spicy curry-esque chili powder used to make Aji de Galina), and now it was time to find the drink.  Chicha! 

In the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco and the high hills of the Sacred Valley (“Valle Segrundo”,) the Quechua people strap a red banner to a long stick of wood, prop it skyward from the front door of their homes, and wait for their community and passersby to spot the flag (and indication), that within the walls they are making and serving Chicha.

Chicha has been the favorite drink of the native Inca for centuries, consumption dating back long before the Spanish Conquest, as recorded in the region’s Quipus (stories told with strings.)

It is made of fermented corn in large barrels, and must be made every day as the shelf life is only that long.  A spoonful of the prior days’ batch is added to the new batch to activate the enzyme that produces this alcoholic (about 3%, equivalent to beer,) deliciously sour and crisp, Inca beer. It is enjoyed in the field (often served as an incentive for harder, longer work hours,) at parties, or at “Chicha Bars” that are found outside of Cusco.

And like great mixoligsts of America, there are masters of Chicha in Peru.  We found ours at Descanso, where we were served the original and the special of the day, strawberry Chicha!

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Categories: Food + Drink, History + Legends, On the rocks

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