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The Beer Circle » 3 Cordilleras, Apostol, Bogota Beer Company, Cerveceria Bavaria, Colombia, South America » The Grand Colombian Beer Experience

The Grand Colombian Beer Experience

beer1Recently, I spent two weeks in Bogota, Colombia, and took the opportunity to sample the local beer culture. A single mega-brewer controls the vast majority of the beer market, but there are come encouraging signs that point to a hopeful future for the lovers of good beer. If your Spanish is lacking, as is mine, the two most important words to know when ordering a beer at a restaurant is “Cerveza Nacionales,” or “national beer.” A “Cerveza Importada” is an important.

The Reign of Adjunct Lagers

Sadly, this is the case in Colombia. The only major player in the beer market in Colombia is Cervecería Bavaria, a subsidiary of SAB Miller. When the vast majority of the beers are exactly the same, mainly because they are brewed by the same brewery, you’re left a bit under-whelmed. Bavaria brews Aguila (regular and light), Club Colombia (Dorada, Roja, and Negra – regular, red, dark), Costeña, and Póker, among others. The only real difference is the target market that Bavaria is aiming for with each beer type.

I would compare Póker with Milwaukee’s Best, which might not be too far from the truth considering both are owned by SABMiller. Póker is the bastard step-child of the other beer brands and aimed at the those without much to spend. Club Colombia, on the other hand, is aimed at more of the higher-end market. The labels are more elegant but the taste is pretty much the same. The Roja and Negra versions have a very slight taste improvement because they have to actually add a bit of malt to counteract the adjuncts. Aguila and Aguila Light would compare most with Miller and Miller Light. While all the beers in this category are ubiquitous throughout Colombia the Aguila brand is the middle of the road.

My favorite beer in this category, hands down, was Costeña. It is marketed to 20- and 30- somethings with active lifestyles. It was a bit more crisp than the other beers and went very well with the steak at Qudres, in Bogota’s Zona Rosa district. Qudres is a four-story restaurant that has to be seen to be believed. Each floor of this is titled after the sections of “The Devine Comedy” – Inferno, Earth, Purgatory and Heaven. The roving entertainment, especially for those like me that don’t speak Spanish, was hilarious.

beer3 beer2

What the hell did I just drink

I had one other drink that Bavaria makes. I had to give it its own category because I still have no idea of how to best describe it. Cola Y Pola is a low alcohol beer (2% ABV), but that is only the start. It’s a mixture of Colombian cola and adjunct lager. It is orangish in color and basically the flavor of a light cream soda but without the appearance in terms of consistency and head. Why did I buy it, you may ask. Well, I was in the Colombian version of WalMart in the grocery store section and was picking beers off the shelf to try.

Luckily the rest of the beers that I purchased lifted my opinion of the state of the art in Colombian beer.

Timbuk 3, hopefully!

Is the future so bright that I have to wear shades? Thankfully the last beers that I drank in Colombia all fell into this group. As the case is in the United States, leave it to smaller breweries to take the lead and brew some solid beers. I wouldn’t put any of these in the “Best of” categories in the world but I am hopeful.

Apóstol is a small brewery that was started in 2008 just outside of Medellin. Yes, that Medellin. Their philosophy is to make beers that fall more in the German-style, ranging from Hefeweizen and Märzen to Dubbel and Bock. Because of my sheer desire and purely scientific goals, I tried all 5 of their beers. The Dubbel was my favorite and closely resembled dubbels that I’ve had elsewhere. The brewery is expanding their distribution and can be found in a number of restaurants throughout Bogota. I don’t know their brewing capacity, but I would compare them to Boston Brewing: Good beer for the masses.

Can You Give Me An “Amen”

This is what I was waiting for. Great beers from the Bogota Beer Company and 3 Cordilleras.

The BBC started as a brewpub in central Bogota, which was the only place you could get their beer. They’ve expanded. Their slogon is now “La cervecería pequeña más grande de Bogotá,” or the “biggest small brewery in Bogota.” There are small BBC bars all over Bogota, 12 of them to be exact, and they are now bottling.

3 Cordilleras, from Medellin as well, has its background in the US craft beer industry. The owner began his interest in craft beer while living in Atlanta. He discovered Sweetwater and soon took a job there, learning everything he could for the next six years before returning to Medellin, where he founded 3 Cordilleras in 2008.

Where does this leave those looking for good beer in Colombia? Well, at this time, the only restaurants that you’ll find them is at the Bogota Beer Company’s brewpubs throughout the city. Sad. But hopefully some forward-thinking restaurants will be able to overcome the Bavaria juggernaut to squeeze in something new. You will find some craft beer in the grocery stores, etc. There is enough shelf space for it all since there is only one major producer in the country.

Even though I tried many forgettable beers it was still a great learning experience into the status of the beer world in Colombia. Right now, they are about 10-15 years behind the craft beer industry in the US but I hope that they will advance quickly and provide a great alternative.


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Written by Bob Pack

Simply put, Bob is a beer lover. He goes out of his way to try new beers whenever he can find them. The love of trying new beers had resulted in a beer label collection of over 1400. When it comes down to it, Bob is a hop head. He loves IPAs (including double and black). Stouts are a close second. His tweet reviews on @nova_beer are simple and approachable. Let him know what you think. Find Bob Pack on Google Plus

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