Mmmmm, beer…

by Alex on Nov.10, 2010, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

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.

botellas 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.

duff 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!


2 Comments for this entry

  • Snackerchip

    Reading this post has brought me a great deal of hope! I am a teacher here in Bogotá and just recently entered into the world of home brewing while spending summer in the States. Needless to say, I have been in a funk because I had leave the joy which is brewing back there and come to the wasteland of fermentation which is Bogotá. Until I read your post of course…

    I would like to ask you for the address of these facilities you speak of. I have had BBC (too watery) and Colón (slightly unadventurous, but drinkable), but lament the sheer drought which is the Colombian beer scene. Some other teacher friends of mine found an Cerveza Artenesal (¿not sure on the spelling?) about a week ago located on or abouts Calle 150 and Carrera 19. Pretty good beer, but like most places in Bogotá, three selections: Yellow, Brown/Red, and Dark. We hope to return.

    P.s. can a person get malt, hops, or yeast here?! If so and it’s really expensive can a person gypsy brew?

  • Alex

    It would be interesting to know what artesenal beer you were drinking up at 150 – aside from the breweries you have mentioned the only others I know of in Bogotá other than ours are Tres Marias and the Cervecería Irlandesa. It is said that the beer from the Cervecería Irlandesa is watered down with cheap lager and after having tried it I wouldn’t rule that out. I’ve not tried Tres Marias’s beer so can’t comment. Since writing the above post I have opened a pub in the Marriott Hotel building in Salitre – calle 26 no. 69b 45 local 1, it’s called Britannia. We have Sierra del Tigre American Pale and Brown Ales, Irish Red and our first batch of ‘IPA’, it’s not a true IPA, only having 35 IBUs (international bitterness units – an IPA needs 40 or more to be classified as such), we decided on this as the local market is not accustomed to bitter beers but it is going down so well with visitors and locals with a more sophisticated palate that we have decided to up the bitterness over the next few batches until we have a true IPA.

    You should swing by and put an end to this drought of yours, I can also give you contacts for all your home brewing needs – no need to mash and ferment travelling folk!

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