I love beer, real ale is my fave and I’m also a big fan of good Belgian and German beers – Chimay, Duvel, Erdinger, Leffe, Paulaner, Westmalle and that.
Colombian beer is pretty shit. Bavaria (a massive brewery that SAB Miller paid 7.8 billion dollars for and that has probably about 95% market share) makes 5 Colombian beers, all average and below average lagers. Bogotá Beer Company and Colón make European-style beers that sell for more than you’d pay for a pint in London, this might be less disagreeable if the beer were even half as good as your average British beer. You’ll be served BBC or Colón, in Bogotá at least, in most bars that serve draught beer.
San Tomás makes not bad Hefe Weizen, Märzen, Dubbel and a lager. If you are a fan of these styles of beer and don’t want to pay the hefty price charged for imported beers then give San Tomás a go. I’m told by an expert that what San Tomás lacks is due to insufficient maturing time – the cost of the storage would make the beer too expensive to market.
A friend has told me that 3 cordilleras, a Medellin brewery makes great beer, I’ve yet to taste it.
The funniest beer in Colombia is Duff, funny from the staggeringly blatant copyright infringement point of view…
Wholly unexpectedly, I recently found myself drinking what I have no doubt must be the best beer in Latin American and certainly better than a lot of ale that I’ve drunk at home. We Met Juan Camilo through Lee, an English guy who’s been in Bogotá for about 5 years, used to work at the Ivy and runs El Inglés, an English café on Kra. 11 with 69. Having tried his beer I was keen to meet Juan Camilo and after a few minutes of listening to his passionate and highly informative talkings it was clear that he was the veritable expert. Needless to say I was very much looking forward to it when he invited us to his house for a tasting.
We tried, and when I say tried I mean drank with great pleasure, American and English pale ales, Southern English and American brown ales, and an English IPA, with brewing notes and detailed explanations regarding the classification and properties of, and differences between the beers. All were exquisite and I felt quite privileged to have had the pleasure. We had invited Nick along, another Colombian friend of ours who is in the process of opening a brewery. By the end of the tasting I was really hoping that Nick and Juan Camilo could in some way work together, combining Juan Camilo’s expertise with Nick’s facilities and business plan – I’d love to be able to buy (or better still get for free ) beer of the quality that Juan Camilo makes and also would like to help introduce Colombians to good beer.
Update: Nick’s beer is good. Better than a lot of beer you get in pubs in the UK. We are in the process of getting it out to market, we’ve had a few tastings in the brewery and already have one pub chain owner interested in buying and many more interesting in trying the beer. We are also organising ‘Piss up in a brewery’ events, the trial of which was a great success. I can’t wait until I can get this beer commercially!
And, better still in the short term, Juan Camilo has just given me 3 bottles of his IPA, it was young when we tried it, it is now perfect – by far the best I’ve ever had. Mmmmm – beer!