You probably think I'm going to talk about the potatoes after all that pre-trip blathering about all the varieties of spud in Peru. But I'm not. I'm going to talk about corn. More specifically, fermented corn. Even more specifically, beer made from fermented corn. Chicha. Peruvian corn beer with a two inch foamy head served in Big Gulp sized glasses by a little lady who uses a gourd for a ladle.
While we were in the Sacred Valley - a town called Urubamba - we noticed long sticks - 10 to 12 feet - planted in front of random structures. And at the top of the stick - a red plastic bag. We learned that this makeshift flag is a sign for thirsty passersby - HEREIN LIES A CHICHERIA - Peru's equivalent of a neighborhood pub. We stopped in one to sample the chicha and to play a few quick rounds of sapo, a Peruvian bar game that involves throwing gold coins into the mouth of a frog.
At first glance, chicha is ... well ... frightening. That big frothy head floating on top of a significant amount of murky liquid. Peruvians pour a few drops of their chicha onto the ground before they drink it - an offering to keep the gods happy. I was tempted to keep them really happy, but then I took my first sip. Not frightening at all. The version I really liked was chicha frutillado, made with strawberries. Strawberry Julius with a kick.
I'm no beer aficionado. I can't tell you if the finish was dry and hoppy with a touch of malt. I have the same problem with wine. All that talk about blackberries, dusty herbs, and pencil shavings on the nose.... I'm lost. I only know this - me gusto mucho. If you find yourself in Peru's Sacred Valley, follow the red flags to the chicha. And if you play sapo, aim for the rear of the board. Getting the coin in the frog's mouth is impossible - especially after the chicha.