A Brief Treatise on Native Beer, Featuring a Tiswin Recipe and a Terse Inquiry on Origins

Thousands of years ago civilization was born. It expanded, taming and despoiling lands and people. Eventually an empire born of civilization arrived on North America and found, not an empty continent theirs for the taking, but a diverse country populated by native tribes. Whence came these tribes? If Mesopotamia was indeed the cradle of humanity and civilization and mushroomed thence how did a portion of the dwellers in the cradle get to North America prior to its "discovery" by colonial powers?  A recent episode of Cartoon Casual, a podcast recorded in Kingman, delved into this subject of how North America was populated.

The hosts of the show, the Casualties, let us name them for now (fine, it was Joe Fellers & Paul Gaines and Joe's daughter, whose name I may spell wrong and, well, that will cause me grief, so for now she'll have to remain unnamed herein) are veritable wells of arcane knowledge who posit existential queries that are not easily parsed by mortal minds and they have answered this question.

Evidently, the ancients could fly. In planes, that is, not like Superman because, well, that's just silly. Regardless of where the native inhabitants of this land originated or what mode of transport bore them hither it has been learned that they were brewers who utilized the local ingredients. Perchance we can still learn from them.

The Apaches, among other native people to this land, made a beer from corn that went by the name tiswin. The book American Indian Cooking: Recipes from the Southwest tendered this tiswin recipe very, very similar to one I found and posted back in 2015.  A recipe I still have not attempted to make.  Not either of them.

  • 10 lbs dried corn
  • 4 gallons of water
  • 8 piloncillo cones
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • peels from 3 oranges

In some case the "wort" made from the above ingredients would be left to sit in an olla and would ferment from the yeast remaining in the container, since it was not washed; a wild fermentation of sorts occurred. Therefore, it seems this yeast would be available in and adapted to the Southwest.  This is where Bootleg Biology would come in handy.  Verily, my yeast wrangling skills could use development.

Additional edification came from this look at tiswin.  The olla mentioned above is a clay jar, or pot.  It is porous so liquid will seep into the walls of the jar.  If the liquid within is water, it will condense on the outside of the pot and wind blowing over the surface would keep the water inside quite cool via this basic evaporative cooling method. They can also be used for irrigation. The pots are buried, with just the necks visible, and filled with water. The water seeps out and the surrounding crops consume it.

Sustainability. Evaporative cooling. Yeast ranching. Fine, maybe I believe they did fly here.

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