Bryan Roth over at This is Why I’m Drunk has been hosting a series called the Six-Pack Project, focused on highlighting local beers that spread the word of good craft beer in each person’s homeland, so to speak. Bolivia’s not technically my homeland, but I hail from it as much as anywhere in my adult life, so why make an addition for Bolivia? Granted, there are eight departments (states) here, but there’s no department that itself has six different microbreweries in it. So, you have to expand your purview just a bit. Clocking in at roughly the size of California and Texas combined (or the size of Ontario for any Canucks reading out their), Bolivia’s microbrewery scene has been exploding lately, relative to the fact that there were probably about three in the entire country a few years ago.
So, it’s a good time to be interested in craft beer here! There are some exciting new developments, and why not take some time to highlight them. Here are the rules:
- Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
- Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
- Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
- Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.
So, what to choose to represent Bolivia?
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Santa Cruz
Corsa’s Lager was only released last year along with its counterpart Dunkel, but it is a stellar entry into a market already saturated by mass-produced lagers and tropical pilseners. Still, Lager is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of an overwhelming maltiness, dry finish, deep amber color, and rich flavor. The only drawback might be a lack of head retention, but that’s aesthetic at worst. Supposedly a Kolsch is currently being prepped for release. As the only microbrewery currently located in Santa Cruz, it bodes well to see it expanding.
Saya Beer “Viento Secreto” Ambar
La Paz, La Paz
As far as I can tell, Saya’s the microbrewery that’s been around the longest (since 1997), catering primarily to foreign travelers through the Adventure Brew Hostel that it’s associated with (I’d recommend it). Offering a free draught pint to guests of either the Dorada, Ambar or Negra, I ended up preferring the “Secret Wind”, a mild amber ale more or less of the real ale school. Not excessively imposing, but altogether very well balanced, it’s worth taking in.
The story goes that Ted was a Dutch homebrewer who relocated to Sucre and then decided to start his own microbrewery. It’s a great place to do it, with all the tourists who like something interesting to drink, and a local maltser to boot. Chala is a witbier that’s effervescent, cloudy, and tangy. Very refreshing, and sometimes brings to mind cider.
Lipeña Cerveza de Quinua Real
Aimed mostly at the tourist novelty market, Lipeña’s quinoa beer still represents one of the better, more balanced, and least-strange entries into beer that focuses on quinoa. It offers an unusual tang and flavor, but at 3.5% ABV and coming in 650 mL bottles, it’s a great way to pass a sunny afternoon overlooking one of Bolivia’s many scenic cities and towns. Plus, it’s difficult to be much more authentically Bolivian than this!
Kushaav Aleksandra Golden Ale
La Paz, La Paz
A brand new brewery as of this year, Kuschaav is going to be one to keep an eye on. The Golden Ale on offer is malty, but the hops are both present in the grassy aroma and very much so in the taste (the description emphasizes the fruity aspect, which is present, but it’s just very well-rounded and balanced overall). This kind of distinct hoppiness and lupulin flavor is unusual for Bolivia and something to anticipate. Their Coqueta Porter was by far the best dark beer I’ve tried in Bolivia as well, and quite good for a porter in general.
Potosina jumps on the list given its claim to be the highest brewed beer in the world, and that it’s a decent pilsner. Neither world-changing nor a must try, it’s a relatively small brewer brewing beer that most Bolivians will drink and enjoy, and thus most representative on a microbrewery scale of Bolivian beer culture.
What’s missing from this list? Most obviously an entry from Cochabamba, which boasts at least four microbreweries, of which I’ve only sampled one beer. To be fair, the only one of the beers listed here that is currently distributed nationally is Saya Beer, and that only started last month. I’ll be working on expanding that sampling in the next month or so, but we’ll see what can happen. So again, it’s an exciting time to be interested in beer in Bolivia.