Beer 511

Exploring the Craft Beer and Homebrew Scenes in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Category: Peru Beer (Page 2 of 4)

Peru’s Craft Beer Explosion

Beer in Peru, as elsewhere, has been undergoing a process of concentration of ownership and production decisions for many decades.  In Peru the process ocurred as the Backus & Johnston’s brewery and the Cerveceria del Sur each out-competed or absorbed local and regional brands, then merged under the Backus & Johnston umbrella, and then itself be bought by ABInbev a few years ago. As result, many styles of beer faded from memory to be replaced with macro-produced lagers.

There were always upstarts and holdouts, of course, but in time they all succumbed. Even, it seems, the well-funded Tres Cruces brand from the AJE Group, an international beverage corporation founded in Ayacucho by the Añaños family.

In the past decade, however, there has been a different set of breweries developing, who played by different rules. – producing small amounts, self-distributing, and putting out a wider variety of styles. However, even though there were rumours of craft breweries in Lima, they were all but invisible, and there was only one brewpub – the Cerveceria De Tomás (later renamed Mi CebiChela) on Ave. Rosa Toro.

Then, three years ago -it seemed all of a sudden- craft brew bubbled up and burst on to the scene. The Cerveza Cumbres brand from Cerveceria Gourmet had made it into some high-end restaurants, and Barbarian and Sierra Andina had managed to get shelf space in supermarkets. Barranco Beer Company had opened a high-profile brewpub, and was soon followed by Barbarian and Nuevo Mundo opening their own taprooms.

Today, there are some two dozen craft beer brands being produced in Lima alone: Ágora, Amarílis, Barbarian, Barranco Beer Co., Beer Stache, Brewson, Brutus, Candelaria, Chinekus, Costumbres, Cumbres, Curaka, De Tomás, Greenga, Hops, Invictus, Jaya Brew, Kennel, Lima Brew, Maddok, Magdalena, Melquiades, Nuevo Mundo, Oveja Negra, Santos Demonios, Saqra, Siete Vidas, Sumaq, Teach, Tío Luque, and Zenith.

Outside of Lima, we find Machay, Mamacha Carmen, and Melkim in Arequipa; Cervecería del Valle Sagrado in Urubamba; Amarus, Oráculo, and Perro Calato in Ayacucho; Dörcher Bier in Pozuzo; Wayayo in Huancayo; and Sierra Andina in Huaráz.  There is also a lone meadery: Ragnarok, situated on the outskirts of Lima, in Pachacámac.  (There are, surely, other small breweries but because their products rarely make it into the Lima market they don’t get the exposure.)

Many of the above were partially, or wholly, founded by foreigners -French, North Americans, Australians, Indians- who settled Peru, or Peruvians who had lived abroad and had come into contact with the European and North American homebrewing and craft brewing communities. Although some of them are well-appointed microbreweries, most would qualify as nano-breweries, and some are not much more than skilled home breweries who are able to package and sell their product.

Many, perhaps most, started by advertising on their own FaceBook pages and taking orders directly  from customers over the phone for delivery within their respective cities. Online vendors, such as La Barra de Grau, La Bodega Cervecera, and 1518 Chela, helped spread the word and provincial brewers to break into the Lima market.  They have been joined in the past year by two brick-and-mortar craft beer bottle shops in Lima: La Bodega Cervecera’s own retail store in Surco, and La Cerveteca, which opened 8 months ago in Miraflores.

In the meantime, Barranco Beer Company has opened stands in other points of Lima and in a couple in other cities, and Barbarian is opening a second taproom in Lima.   Maddok and La Candelaria have joined Sierra Andina and Barbarian on the shelves in major grocery store chains. Craft beer is increasingly finding its way into restaurants, bars, and cafes, and magazines, newspapers and television programs frequently run features craft beer and the best places to get it.

Craft beer is still but a miniscule part of the Peruvian beer market, but it is one that is getting increasing attention, and is clearly here to stay.


Beer Review: Saca Tu Machete

I’m in Peru at the moment, and last night I went to the Barranco Beer Company‘s brewpub in Lima for the 2017 Saca Tu Machete release.

Saca Tu Machete is a 9% abv, 55 IBU, imperial stout brewed with algarrobina syrup, native limo hot peppers, and Tettnang, Chinook, and Columbus hops.

The beer is hearty without being “chewy” or cloying. There is some coffee in the nose and in the taste, as well as some chocolate and raisin notes –probably contributed by the algarrobina.  While there is no discernible alcoholic “heat”, the limo peppers provide a pleasing undertone of “warmth” throughout, but particularly at the back end, but without making the beer at all spicy.

Despite the relatively high hopping rate, Saca Tu Machete is not an overtly bitter beer. In fact, it is a bit sweet.  If you like dark beers and beers with a lot of flavor but without the bitterness of, say, an IPA, this is one to try.

The beer is available at Barranco Beer Company’s brewpub in Lima’s Barranco neighborhood (Av. Almirante Grau #308) on tap with nitrogen and in 24 oz. bottles.

A bit of Peru beer history

This is an image that I came across online.  It’s an early advertising poster from the Backus & Johnston Brewery Company in Lima, from back when telephone numbers in the city could be counted in the double-digits.

The poster remarks that the brewery -which started as an ice company- possessed a “magnificent” ice facility imported from the U.S.A., and that it’s beer-making equipment was “the best and largest in South America.”

Most notable, however, from a consumer standpoint is the variety of beers made by Backus & Johnston back then: Pilsen, export, lager, märzen, stout, and a dark beer labeled “Gato Negro” (black cat).

Decades later, their production had grown massively, and the company itself had expanded into a near brewing monopoly -the Unión de Cerverías Peruanas Backus & Johnston- having absorbed other breweries throughout the country.   At the same time, despite the expansion in the number of the company’s brands and volume, the beer variety shrank. By the turn of the century the only ones that had survived were the pale lager and a dark lager.

In the past decade, however, the company has started to break out of that straight jacket, albeit cautiously.  It has used its Cusqueña brand to float a few “special” beers: Cusqueña Trigo (pale lager made with a percentage of wheat), Cusqueña Quinoa (made, obviously, with some quinoa), and Cusqueña Red Lager.  It has also dipped its toe into the “top shelf” market with Abraxas, a beer it describes as a “super premium” and sells for 400% of the price point of its regular beers.

Arequipa’s “Cerveceria Alemana”

Another piece of brewing memorabilia that I recently acquired is a 111-year old cancelled invoice from the Cervecería Alemana (lit. “German Brewery”), which was located in the southern Peruvian city of Arequipa.

The attached voucher is dated 23 August of 1905, and is for 1 dozen bottles of Märzen beer, 1 dozen bottles of Pilsner beer, and the deposit on two dozen bottles. The voucher was issued by Donato Lister, and was made out to José S. Monje.

The cancelled invoice itself is dated 31 August 1905. The price for the beer is listed as s/. 6.40 and the price for “2 dozen boxed bottles” is s/. 5.60, but either through a math error or giving a customer a break, the price charged to Mr. Monje was just s/. 10.

The Cervecería Alemana was one of Peru’s earliest large-scale breweries. It was established in 1898 by Ernesto -or Ernst- Gunther, a German immigrant, recently arrived from Bolivia.

When Gunther and and his business partner, Franz Rehder, opened the Cervecería Alemana there were several other small breweries in Arequipa: Cervecería Germania, Cervecería Arequipa, Cervecería Gambrinus, Cervecería Teutonia, Cervecería Francesa, and one other.

The brewery was originally located on Mercaderes street, but in 1900 Gunther travelled to Germany, returned with new German equipment, and moved the expanding brewery to 177 Calle de La Merced, into the plant of the closed Cervecería Francesa. The Cervecería Alemana soon outpaced competitors, and in 1908 a second brewery was established in Cuzco.

The Cervecería Alemana was renamed Companía Cervecera del Sur, S.A., in 1935, and consolidated as the CERVESUR corporation in 1954. For years it dominated the beer market in southern Peru, with its two flagship brands: Cerveza Arequipeña and Cerveza Cusqueña.

The company was finally acquired by the Union de Cervecerías Backus & Johnston brewing empire in 2000. However, both, Arequipeña and Cusqueña continue to be made, and the latter can sometimes be found in US markets.

Beer Review: Muy Malvada Peruvian Porter

Muy Malvada Peruvian Porter -whose name literally translates to “very evil one”, but could be read as “very naughty one”- is a collaboration beer brewed by Lima’s Cerveceria Barbarian, in conjuntion with Two Roads Brewing, out of Stratford, CT, and Evil Twin Brewing, with HQ in Brookly, NY.

Muy Malvada is brewed with jora, sweet potato, and aji panca. Jora is the germinated corn that is also used to make the Andes’ traditional corn beer, chicha. Aji panca is a variety of chile pepper, specifically a variety of Capsicum baccatum, which is a staple of Peruvian cuisine. It has little to no heat, and mostly adds a bit of red tint and deep pepper flavour to dishes.

In Muy Malvada the pepper flavour is evident in the background, as a very, very tiny spiciness at the back end. Much more mild, in fact, that I’ve tasted in the US in beers brewed with ancho or chipotle chiles.

As porters go, Muy Malvada is actually quite nice, and coming in at 6.5% abv and 20 IBU, it is falls quite nicely within the definition of porter. Although it is more like an American porter than its British counterpart, the panca and perhaps the sweetness imparted by the sweet potato, do set it a bit apart.

I really liked this beer, and when I met one of the owners of Barbarian, Diego Rodriguez, I made it a point to ask about it and its genesis.

Diego explained that it came about as a joint project with the other two breweries, and the specialty ingredients were selected as a way of making the beer a Peruvian porter. I would say that they succeeded in giving it a local character. (In fact, when I read Stan Hieronymous’ recently-published book, Brewing Local, this beer is one that kept coming to mind as a successful example of a beer with an evocation of place.)

Now, I grant you that this review comes a bit late, given that I was in Lima in July, but as Diego Rodriguez explained, the plan was that Evil Twin and Two Roads, and perhaps a rep from Barbarian, would rebrew the beer in the USA this Fall.

In the USA it is set to be marketed as Pachamama Porter (they had intended for that to be the name in Peru as well, but “Pachamama” was already registered to another brewery).

I have not seen any references to it on either Evil Twin’s or Two Roads’ websites or FB feeds, but if you live on the east coast or have access to their beers through a distributor, bar, or bottle shop, keep your eye out for this one. I think you won’t be disappointed.

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