Sucre + Potosi + Beer

So, I had a chance to travel to the highlands for the last couple weeks of Christmas vacations, and it seems that Sucre is pretty much the closest thing to a “beer town” for those of us who appreciate a good brew. I mean, there are multiple restaurants and bars in Sucre (and Potosi) that have beer on tap. What?! In Bolivia? Apparently so. It was a surprise to find draught beer, though, after having asked and been told from numerous sources that it doesn’t exist in Bolivia (with like, two exceptions)–anyway, that’s wrong.

Why Sucre? Probably because it’s packed full of European tourists who demand a fair amount of beer, different styles, and methods of serving (pitchers! “chops” = steins!). Lucky Sucre. Living in Santa Cruz, which seems to be the current hinterlands of micro and/or craft beer in Bolivia, you make do with what you make yourself. That’s okay. Eventually the infrastructure will come in.

Highlights from the trip included:

  • Bringing home two bottles from Ted’s Cerveceria: Ambar Belgian Pale Ale and the discontinued (got the last one at the bar!) Ñusta, which I think is probably a Belgian style golden strong (8.5% ABV) or somesuch brewed with honey. Looking forward to opening those in the next few days and harvesting the yeast to build my current yeast ranch.
  • Tried a Sureña Pilsner (I think? having a hard time differentiating between their three main brews, and most servers don’t really know anything about beer styles beyond “negra,” “roja” or “rubia”–everything in its own time) and the Sureña Stout, which tasted like carbonated blackcurrant juice with zero bitterness. Yikes.
  • Discovered Stier from Cochabamba, and tried their Strong Ale. Not a big fan. Wish they had their Frutilla or Weizen bottled around there–those might be interesting.
  • Tried my first Lipeña, a La Paz-brewed quinoa beer. Probably the most interesting brew I had this trip, to be honest.
  • Picked up a Warsteiner Pilsner and Erdinger Weissbier, the token German imports that seem ubiquitously available as Premium options in this country.
  • Sampled Potosina in Potosi (heck, even knocked some down in the mines of Cerro Rico), which claims to be highest brewery in the world–at 4000+ meters, they likely have a good claim.
  • Best beer menu on this trip was easily Florín in Sucre. They even have Leffe Blonde on the menu, although at 40 Bs I couldn’t quite bring myself to get it. Still, check it out.
  • Thought a lot about what it would look like to develop a distinctly Bolivian style or approach to beer, in the sense that you have “Belgian” styles, “West Coast” = hoppy, or “Cascadian” = brewed with Cascadian derived hops. I’ll draw that out into an essay and post it here eventually, maybe even translate it.
  • Wondered why hops are not grown in this country. The closest source I can track down is southern Argentina, well into the Patagonia. Bolivia is one of the ecologically most diverse countries in the world, surely there’s some biome that can handle hop growing? Rural agricultural development project, anyone? Seems too obvious, so there’s probably a good reason why not, but still…

Enough for now. Happily, this blog and various posts on the HomebrewTalk forum have paid off and I’ve met a couple other people interested in brewing! We’ll be throwing together a Dubbel this afternoon in what is my first 5 gallon batch! Exciting, yes?

I’m thinking there might be a place for doing some basic beer and homebrewing education in Spanish in this space. We shall see what comes.

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