South America is not known for its rich brewing tradition, I knew that when I got on the plane to Montevideo. I was certain that if I want to taste really good beer, I would rather have to go to the Czech Republic for one year or bring my own beer to South America. So far my fears have occurred, but only partially. The mainstream beers sold in the most countries in South America are really watery, and that's okay if you like it, and the majority of the South American population seems to like it that way, I on the other hand don't like it all, for me a beer has to have character. That said I was surprised to find out that there is a quite big craft beer scene in South America. Chile has some neat microbreweries and Argentina as well. So yes, I'm a little bit disappointed so far, but there are also gleams of hope! Let's take a look at the beers of Peru.
The Backus and Johnston Brewery has, of course not counting craft beers, a monopoly over the beer market in Peru. Backus itself is part of the globally acting SABMiller from London. All previously independently managed mainstream breweries are now incorporated into Backus. Read up on the history of Backus on Wikipedia if you like. The main brands by Backus are available almost everywhere in Peru, the beer market splits up into those three main contenders:
- In 1994 Backus took control of the National Beer Company (Compañía Nacional de Cerveza S.A.), and since then has the rights over the Pilsen Callao brand. Pilsen Callao is a blond lager which comes in a bottle, as a can and on tap.
- Cusqueña was acquired in 2000 by Backus. It is the most popular brand in the south of Peru and comes in four flavors: Roja (a red lager), Dorada (a golden lager), Negra (a dark lager) and Trigo (a wheat bear). I tested the red and golden lager.
- Cristal is a lager which is now brewed in every brewery of Backus, i.e. in Ate (Lima), Motupe (Chiclayo), Trujillo, Arequipa, Cusco and Pucallpa.
- The Nuevo Mundo Cervecería from Lima serves five different beers: Cabo Blanco (a blond ale), Panam' (a pale ale), Pampa (a porter), Amaz' (an amber ale) and Premium (a triple). A Panam' pale ale miraculously found its way to me.
- The Sierra Andina Brewing Company is located in the high Andeans, in Cascapampa, near Huaraz. They offer four Ales: Inti Golden Ale (a blond beer), Huaracina Pale Ale (an american pale), Alpamayo Amber Ale (an amber version) and Don Juan Porter (a porter). I got to taste the first three of them.
- The Cervecería Barbarian is located in Lima. They brew a Red Ale, a Porter, an IPA, a Lime Pale Ale, and more. I was able to snatch a bottle of the Red Ale.
Here is an overview of the tested beers:
01 Pilsen Callao
02 Cusqueña Roja
03 Cusqueña Dorada
04 Cristal Lager
05 Nuevo Mundo Panam' Pale Ale
06 Sierra Andina Inti Golden Ale
07 Sierra Andina Alpamayo Amber Ale
08 Sierra Andina Shaman IPA
09 Barbarian Red Ale
And the winner (i.e. my favorite) is...
In the category Cerveza Artesanal the trophy goes to Sierra Andina Inti Golden Ale, a nice and full blond ale, rich in taste and color. Cusqueña Dorada wins in the category Cerveza Popular, because sometimes also the packaging counts, and as before, blond is always better.