English on the coasts of Massachusetts and Virginia (1620).Article 11 of 18 The carob beer along Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers.

The scattered and late ethnological observations.


Other data on fermented beverages come from more recent field observations made between the 17th and 20th centuries by Spaniards, French or Anglo-Saxons. They are rare and scattered in accounts of exploration and travel or, from the 19th century onwards, in ethnological studies. They open up the field of investigation because they mention types of beer different from the usual maize beer: tuber beer, carob beer. Or the possibility of fermented soups, a primitive form of brewing. There is a clear split between the peoples of the Great Southwest and the others, with one unexpectedly great exception: the peoples of Alaska and the Great Northeast learned to make beer from Russian settlers in the 19th century.

These observations written by European settlers are mostly rudimentary and repetitive. They are full of self-justification for colonisation. They reiterate the immoderate taste of the Amerindians for European alcohol, proof that God and Providence had granted Christians the right to replace these savage peoples on the new promised land. In 1753, Benjamin Franklin summed up this vision in a few simple and abrupt sentences : “[They] are extremely apt to get drunk, and when so are very quarrelsome & disorderly ... indeed if it be the Design of Providence to extirpate these Savages in order to make room for Cultivators of the Earth, it seems not improbable that Rum may be the appointed Means. It has already annihilated all the Tribes who formerly inhabited the Sea-coast. [1]

A second historical stage of colonisation begins in 1802 with the sale of the French Louisiana to the 13 states government by Napoleon. This purchase doubles the size of the US territory. The colonisation is supervised by the American army and militias, which push the front of colonisation and the grabbing of American Indian lands ever further westwards.

A third step concerns the Southwest and the colonial rivalries between Mexico and the United States. In 1848, Mexico signs the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo which cedes to the United States 1.36 million km2 of territory corresponding to the current states of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona. The American colonisation front set off again, this time against the Apaches, the Navahos and all the Amerindian peoples of the Southwest. The semi-nomadic way of life of the Apache is seriously threatened.

Apaches and their maize beer.

The Apaches is a large Indian group that includes the Jicarillas, the Lipans, the Kiowas, the Mescaleros, the Chiricahuas and the Western Apaches. The Chiricahua and Western Apaches in  Southwest prepared a kind of corn beer called tula-pah , tulapai, tulpi , tulipi (yellow water) or tiswin using sprouted corn kernels, dried and ground, flavored with locoweed or lignum vitae roots, placed in water and allowed to ferment. Tula-pah and tiswin are markedly distinct, with a laborious process. This type of beer is one of the few for which we have late but valuable technical descriptions.

Apache Scouts circa 1888. One of them is pouring Tiswin maïze beer from a jar into a goblet.
Apache Scouts circa 1888. One of them is pouring Tiswin maïze beer from a jar into a goblet. Employed by the US Army to fight other Apaches.

The intoxicant and curse of their lives is túlapai, or tizwin as it is sometimes called. Túlapai means "muddy or gray water." It is, in fact, a yeast beer. In preparing it corn is first soaked in water. If it be winter time the wet corn is placed under a sleeping blanket until the warmth of the body causes it to sprout; if summer, it is deposited in a shallow hole, covered with a wet blanket, and left until the sprouts appear, when it is ground to pulp on a metate. Water and roots are added, and the mixture is boiled and strained to remove the coarser roots and sprouts. At this stage the liquid has the consistency of thin cream soup. It is now set aside for twenty-four hours to cool and ferment, when it is fit for drinking. As the túlapai will spoil in twelve hours it must be drunk quickly. Used in moderation it is not a bad beverage, but by no means a pleasant one to the civilized palate. The Apache, however, knows no moderation in his túlapai drinking. He sometimes fasts for a day and then drinks great quantities of it, – often a gallon or two – when for a time he becomes a savage indeed. [2]

Another method of brewing tulipi maize beer given by Hrdlička:

Tulipi was introduced among the White river Apaches, within the memory of men of middle age, by an old man of the tribe, still living in 1900, called “Brigham Young”. It was brought from the southerly Chiricahuas, who were said to have learned to make it in Mexico. In manufacturing it, a woman takes some dry corn and soaks it over night in water; in the morning a hole is made in the ground, the bottom of which is thicky covered with yucca leaves, on which the corn is spread and covered with a gunnysack. The corn is then sprinkled one a day with warm water, until it begins to germinate, when it is allowed to grow under the sack until the sprouts are about two inches in height, which tales a week, more or less, according to the weather. The corn is next taken out and spread on a blanket, where it is left one day to partially dry. On the next day two women grind the corn, one rough and on fine, and mix and knead it like dough. To about ten pounds of the dough are added, in a large earthen vessel, about four gallons of water. The whole is thoroughly stirred, the placed on the fire, and boiled down to about on-half the original quantity. During this boiling is added the “tulipi medicine” (to make the otherwise weak liquor intoxicating and exciting), composed of certain roots which I can afterward told where those of the loco weed, or jimson weed (Datura metaloides).

After the first boiling, enough water is added to make up for the loss, and the mixture id boiled for the second time, until reduced again by one-half. The liquid is then strained through a can with many perforations, cooled till luke-warm, and poured into the tulipi jug, a vessel used only for tulipi, and never washed. Finally some coarsely ground wheat is added and left floating on the surface, soon after which fermentation begins.

It is best to put the liquid into the tulipi jar and add the wheat in the evening, for then the mixture is well fermented by morning and fit to drink at noon; but as it then rapidly increases in strength and acidity, to prevent spoiling it must be used on the first day after fermentation has commenced. If good tulipi is to be had, all these points must be well observed.” (Hrdlička 1904, 190-191) 

In short: a well-controlled method of malting maize. Brewing is done in summer and winter. The whole process takes 8 to 10 days. Tiswin is a low density and nutritious beer. Variants are introduced by locoweed plants of the genus Astragalus and Oxytropis, jimson weed Datura stramonium. This beer stays on the borderline between alcoholic beverage and psychotropic potion. “In addition to the pleasurable effects, Apache advocates of túlapai stoutly protested its nutritional and medicinal value. “Its corn and its feeds your body” said one. It also has diuretic properties and was a powerful laxative.[3]

Wheat was introduced by the Spanish in the 16th century [4]. In the 19th century, for lack of maize, the Apaches and their neighbours were able to malt wheat. After the Apaches were confined to reservations in 1872, their dependence and economic vulnerability increased: wheat rations supplied by the US army replaced maize, except for brewing beer. As for chemical yeast, it was a product introduced into the Indian reserves by the American agri-food industry [5] : “The San Carlos Apache, one of the tribes among whom the subject of food was given especial attention, depend chiefly on meat and wheat. From wheat flour and baking powder they make large, thin tortillas, 10 to 12 inches in diameter, such as are met within Sonora. These they toast for a few moments on a tin heated over coals and then eat them warm. Another bread, said to have been in general use before wheat came into vogue, is made by mixing corn meal and water and baking the batter. These Apache plant but little corn and most of it serves for the preparation of tesvino.” (Farabee 1908, 22). The inter-tribal conflicts multiply following the decision to lock up all Apaches, whatever their tribe, in the same San Carlos reservation : “On the prairie, just outside Apache Pass, there was a man who kept a shop and bar. Some time after General Howard left [in 1875], a band of outlaw Indians killed this man and took most of the goods from his shop. The next day some of the Indians on the reservation got drunk on tiswin which they had made from maize. They fought among themselves and four people were killed. » (Mémoires 1993, 117)

Huera, wife of Mangus, a Chiricahua Apache chief. She was known for the quality of her tizwin beer. She encouraged resistance against the settlers and the US Army and organised an escape of Apache prisoners
Huera, wife of Mangus, a Chiricahua Apache chief. She was known for the quality of her tizwin beer. She encouraged resistance against the settlers and the US Army and organised an escape of Apache prisoners.


Between 1905 and 1906, S. M. Barrett collected the words of Go Khla Yeh, a Chiricahua Apache chief and one of the last resistors to the conquest of the West. The man whom the Mexicans derisively nicknamed Geronimo (Jeronimo), left his own testimony on the brewing of tiswin-beer: "The ground maize (by hand with stone mortars and pestles) was not only used to make bread. We also crushed it and soaked it, and then, after fermentation, we made 'tis-win' which had the power to intoxicate and was highly prized by the Indians. This work was done by the squaws and children." (Mémoires 1993, 58). The Apache chief did not mention the germination of maize grains.

The list of herbs added to maize beer is long, each one with its expected effect on drinkers: « The alcoholic drinks peculiar to the Indians of the Southwest and of northern Mexico are mainly produced by fermentation of corn, mescal, and maguey. The corn liquor is usually known as tesvino (also as tesvin, tizwin, or tulipi); it is ordinarily (with fermentation not carried to the extreme, and in the absence of vegetal excitants, narcotics, or other liquor) a weak alcoholic beverage with a slight nutritive value, and is not a strong intoxicant… The knowledge and use of tesvino and mescal extend into Arizona, pulque and the maguey liquors being made only in the more southerly part of the region here considered. Besides the above some of the Indians occasionally prepare fermented liquor from the pitahaya, from mesquite beans (Mexico), from native grapes, and from other fruits, or from honey…

The White Mountain, San Carlos, Chiricahua, and Mescalero Apache make tulipi or tesvino, to which are generally added as ''medicine, to augment the effects of the drink, small quantities of several roots of native plants.

The writer took special pains to ascertain the ''medicines" added by the San Carlos Apache to the tesvino and the reasons for their use. The number proved large beyond expectation, but the results of the inquiry why each particular substance was employed were rather disappointing; the openly avowed purpose of the majority was to "make more drunk". The individual articles and reasons for their use are as follows:

I-zē-lu-ku-hi ("crazy medicine": Lotus wrightii); the part used is the root; they say, it "makes us more drunk."

Chil-ga-le ("make noise": Cassia couesii); part used, the root; "makes the tulipi stronger."

I-zel-chih, a plant that was not identified, is also occasionally added to the tulipi to make it stronger and more intoxicating.

I-ze-du-ghu-zhe ("medicine sticks"); root occasionally added to the tulipi to make it "taste more bitter—stronger."

Sas-chil-tla-hi-zē, sas-chil (Canotia holocantha); a plant with a root of aromatic taste, that is often added to the tulipi "only to make it taste better"; the root is chewed occasionally "just like candy." The seeds of the plant, after being roasted, are also used for the same purpose.

Ga-chuh-pi-tla-hi-ya-he (''under-it-the-jack-rabbit-makes-his-bed"); root occasionally added to the tulipi "to make it stronger". The same is true of the roots of me-tci-da-il-tco (Perezia wrightii), and thli-he-da-i-ga-si (''horse-eats-it"). Besides the above, the San Carlos Apache occasionally put into the tulipi some of the inner bark of the mesquite, which "just makes the drink taste sweeter and better, so we like to drink more of it”. » (Farabee 1908, 26-27)

Rancheria of the Apache Chihende tribe on the San Carlos reservation, 1882.Rancheria of the Apache Chihende tribe on the San Carlos reservation, 1882. Deprivation, economic misery and forced sedentarisation.

The technical mastery of the Apache women, who brew the beer, is impressive. They control a process that takes more than a week, including malting. They know how to use a wide range of plants. They brew various kinds of beer, the technical details of which are lost. The technology of the Apache women belies the preconceived ideas of brewing historians who portray the Native American beers as primitive, barely drinkable brews.

John Bourke, a US cavalry captain who participated in many military campaigns against the Apaches in 1872-83, specifies two characteristics of Apache maize beer: it is low in alcohol, it is sour. “The new recruits from among the Apaches were under the command of a chief responding to the name of "Esquinosquizn/' meaning "Bocon" or Big Mouth. He was crafty, cruel, daring, and ambitious; he indulged whenever he could in the intoxicant "Tizwin," made of fermented corn and really nothing but a sour beer which will not intoxicate unless the drinker subject himself, as the Apache does, to a preliminary fast of from two to four days. This indulgence led to his death at San Carlos some months later.” (Bourke 1891, 183). Furthermore, Bourke links fasting to other techniques (psychotropic plants) that alter states of consciousness. In other words, drinking beer is not the goal in itself for an Apache or Cheyenne.

[2] Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian Vol. 1, 1907, 19-20.

[3] Locoweed or rootbark of the lignum vitae selon James L. Haley, Apaches: A History and Culture Portrait, University of Oklahoma Press, 1997, 98.

[4] First to prepare the wheat bread for the Eucharist, then to satisfy the taste of the Spanish colonists. The same policy applied to the vine and wine.

[5] In the second half of the 19th century, all colonial powers around the world tried to replace traditional foods and drinks with industrial products that were presented as healthier, better integrated into national market economies and less likely to have a cultural link with so-called 'pagan' traditions. Native American beers are particularly targeted by these colonial policies in North and Latin America. The same policies were pursued in Africa by the French, British, Portuguese or Belgian colonial authorities.

English on the coasts of Massachusetts and Virginia (1620).Article 11 of 18 The carob beer along Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers.