Sacred Valley brews up business in Cusco

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Beer and dorm rooms are two essential ingredients to the U.S. college experience. While the two typically culminate in a less-than fruitful, albeit fun, experience, for the founders of Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado in Cusco, Peru dormitories were just the beginning of a business venture. And just as multicultural as the scene on a college campus, so too is the team of brewers: Alex Ball (New Jersey, U.S.), Juan Mayorga (Peru), and Joseph Giammatteo (Maryland, U.S.).

Granted, the aforementioned dormitories are not the boisterous rooms that perhaps first come to mind, but are rather dormitories for girls in Cusco’s Sacred Valley region. Founded by Ball, the Sacred Valley Project provides housing and education for girls in the rural villages around Ollantaytambo to gain a better opportunity to advance themselves and become leaders in their own communities. Inspired to create a business that could support such a project, as well as fill a void in Cusco’s tourism market, Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley Brewing) was born.

beer
(Photo: Sebastian Galliani Facebook)

After a long and difficult road,’ the team was proud to officially open October 31, 2014. Soon after, they took part in Peru’s first craft beer festival , held blocks away from Mayorga’s childhood home. After the first day of the hop fest, many of the craft breweries discovered they had far underestimated the popularity of such an event. Empty barrels does not necessarily translate as direct profit however, as evident to new business owners.

We are only three months into operation and have many debts,’ says Giammatteo. The group of _cerveceros_ still manages to give back to the community however by throwing monthly parties at the brewery whereby 20 percent of beer sales go to a non-profit of the brewery’s choice. Giammatteo, Sacred Valley’s Head Brewer, explains that this kind of behavior and relationship with the community supports the philanthropic ideals of our business.

Just as the team has stayed true to a set of ideals and morals that support the communtiy, the beers themselves are not made perchance. Having brewed for 14 years as a home brewer and professional, Giammatteo explains that recipe development comes from a mixture of experience, love of beer and a curiosity for experimentation with flavors.’

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(Photo: Cerveceria del Valle Facebook)

So what is the recipe for success, so to speak, for developing not only new brews but a successful business?

Opening a brewery requires that you know enough about the brewing process to make good beer, and have the ability to bring in the needed ingredients and equipment to make the product on scale that make business sense,’ Giammatteo explains.

beer
(Photo: Sebastian Galliani Facebook)

In a country of varied terrain, rich with distinct flavors, craft beer appears to be the perfect pairing for the growing gastronomic culture. Using local products is not only possible and practical, it is what Sacred Valley prefers. Thus, such interesting and distinct flavors such as a Chicha Pilsner, and a Pumpkin Porter with Cacao, have resulted.

We have a passion for using what ingredients are available locally. Our process is not really trial and error, it is based on working with established style guidelines and an understanding of the ingredients that at hand, similar to how a chef uses ingredients in cooking.

Traveling and tasting international beers may sound like the basis for any free-bird, hop-thirsty traveler, however it’s all part of the job for Sacred Valley. Seeking out beers renowned for quality and creativity invites influence and bolsters creativity, leading to the development of Sacred Valley’s quality beer.

beer
(Photo: Sebastian Galliani Facebook)

While Sacred Valley can not claim to be Cusco’s sole craft beer supplier (Cerveza Zenith, Cerveza Kapun and Supay are producing at the moment as well), competition does not seem to be a factor in these beginning years of production. Rather, a community has been built among the artisanal breweries.

We [craft brewers]are so few in number and for the most part such very young businesses that we need to promote and help each other whenever possible. We have an association of breweries newly formed in Peru called Cervecerias Artesanales del Peru to promote and better the industry here.

beer
(Photo: Sebastian Galliani Facebook)

Around the world, consumers’ appreciation and interest in beer has been steadily growing, leading to an increasing amount of small breweries opening up. Although large, powerful companies have kept small companies at bay from success in the past, smaller labels are now receiving strong support from their local populous who appreciate a socially-conscious company.

The global connectivity that we all can access these days has allowed people to take the leap of faith toward opening breweries in Peru that might have felt [it]too risky in the past. I have to give a lot of credit to the first few small breweries to open in Peru, because they have opened the floodgates so to speak, building the momentum that allows for other breweries to open up.

The camaraderie felt within the industry is nearly unheard of, yet does not go unappreciated.

The best part about this industry is the friendship that we all share. I can sit down with the brewers from any company in Peru and collaborate, work on problems that we are facing and enjoy a beer as if we are all on the same team.

Sacred Valley Brewing (Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado)
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_Tasting room hours: Friday- Sunday, 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. (or by special appointment)_
_Food not currently made available, however guests are welcome to bring their own and have a picnic_.
_Monthly parties with food and music are held every last Saturday of the month, 2 p.m. – 10 p.m._
_Sacred Valley also offers catering services for special events. Contact by phone at 984 553 892_Cusco’s Sacred Valley Brewing company adds to the tourist market and gives back to the community, all with a delicious hop taste!

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Agnes Rivera

A U.S. native plucked from the green surroundings of her home state of Oregon, Agnes Rivera has been living in Lima, Peru, fulfilling various occupations such as teaching, translating, and journalism. While indoors she uses her time creatively to build "recycled art" and read fiction, she is quick to use any excuse to be outdoors, balancing her inner home-body lifestyle with an adventurous spirit to explore all that Peru has to offer.