Learning to appreciate the German styles

One of the unusual things most people don’t realize about the city of Santa Cruz–and to be fair, Bolivia in general–is its lengthy German heritage and the subsequent oddities that come out of it. Take for example, the Cementerio General on the first ring in SCZ–the main entrance leads to a large cemetery full of crypts and such, but just off to the right of the main entrance is the Cementerio Alemán (German Cemetery), complete with an endowed chapel that gives mass every day in German.

On top of it, you can usually find pretty decent German food (insofar as one might consider German food something to actively seek out), and our favorite locale is the pleasant and charmingly decorated Bistro La Casona on Arenales between Beni and Murillo. Mostly it’s the best sandwich place in town that we’ve found as well as boasting the best beer menu, with a variety of Erdinger and Paulaner imports on offer, along with Paceña on tap and Corsa available as well.

Likewise, scanning the small selection of available imported beers in the grocery stores, and you’ll usually find some staples from the Bitbürger lineup, a couple Bolivian micros (if any), and a smattering of other random options. In a word, German styles are more available than most.

Hence, whereas in the US I’d opt for English, American, or Belgian styles, here I find myself happily forced to explore the German styles. Hence I’ve tried more pilsners, bocks, dunkels, and schwarzbiers than I’d normally go for, and it’s been a good experience. Hailing from North America, I inherit the the tastes and preferences–you might say prejudices and biases–that come with it (except for a commitment to bitterness; frankly, I could care less about IPAs). I’m prone to novelty, flashiness, and extremities. So, it’s a good exercise to have to tone it back and appreciate the fundamentals and self-imposed limitations that are often associated with the German brewing traditions. I recommend it as a exercise.

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