Saturday’s Primera Feria de la Cerveza yielded less people than organizers had hoped, and the people we talked to generally blamed it on the elevated entrance fees. I’m inclined to agree, especially given that there was a general lack of diversity among the offerings, but it’s better than nothing! Together with my usual brewing friend, Ben O, and another new friend, we sampled a variety of beers from Saya, Sureña, and the imports at the Bitbürger stand.
We started the night with the La Paz-based Saya‘s four tap offerings, taking in their Dorada (5% Kölsch), pours with a beautiful, large, billowy, white head that sticks around forever. Translucent and blonde in appearance, it’s difficult to pick up a very notable aroma in the setting. Tastewise it is very mellow, smooth, inoffensive, and delivers a hint of malt at the end. A perfect introductory ale for Bolivia, where ales are still a novelty item. Next up was the Oktoberfest (6%) and while October falls during the spring months in Bolivia, this seasonal brew is perhaps a bit off, but it’s the spirit of the season that motivates this brew more than the weather anyway. On tap, it pours a clear amber approaching copper, retains an off-white head, and yields an aroma of caramel and malts. Not particularly bitter, its flavor is dominated by the obvious crystal malts and attendant caramel taste, with malt throughout.
In the same vein, the Ambar (6% American Amber/Pale Ale) is a clear amber color with billowy off-white head that dissipates slowly as you enjoy it. The aroma jumps out with green apples and sweet tart fruits, while it gives a medium body mouthfeel. Tends a little more towards the sweet, but only a little bit while a hop presence is discernible if not specific nor dominant. Most certainly an amber ale. We ended with the Negra (7% dunkel bock); dark brown and clear, with a dark head. Perhaps the batch wasn’t the greatest, but the aroma gave off some kind of skunk and among the three of us sampling, it won none of us over by its aroma. The flavor is dominated by roasted barley with little malt or hops present, and it was medium-bodied at most. A tad unbalanced for the preferences of those present.
Moving next door to Sucre-based Sureña, we got one of everything: three pale lagers and a “porter stout”. Bicentenario (5.5% international style lager) was sweet, Sesquicentenario (6% export lager) was almost peppery, dry, and smooth, and the clear-bottled Sureña 33 (5.5% international style lager) ended up the preferred pale lager from Sureña, with its smooth malty flavor, which surprised us, but given that in a previous tasting Paceña Ice came out on top of its other brethren, perhaps we ought not be so taken. Finally, we took in Chanchito (4.8% “porter stout”), which while promising some kind of complexity given its ingredient bill that included “malta torrefactada” (I think that’s roasted malt), syrup, and caramelized sugar. The roasty aroma did not deceive, although it’s a very, very sweet beer with pretty obvious notes of raisin present in a full body. Okay, but filling.
Finally, I ended the night at the tent primarily serving up Bitburger imports. First up was Benediktiner Weissbier (5%), which I’d never had before. It was hard to grab much of an aroma, but the mouthfeel was full-bodied with a spicy taste dominated by cloves–very little of the expected banana presence, but it did not take away from the overall experience and still quite refreshing. I’d drink it again. Next was the Bitburger Premium Pils (4.8%), refreshing and a lovely contrast to all the international style lagers of the festival. The biggest noticeable difference was the dryness delivered by more present hops and a grainy aftertaste. No fruitiness whatsoever. IT was my second time trying this, and while I might have preferred it out of the bottle versus in a can, it was still a welcome contrast to the barely pilsners available here. Last up, was Köstritzer Schwarzbier (4.8%): oh, so delicious and beautiful. Held up to the light, it yields a lovely red hue in the glass while retaining its head throughout the entire session. The smell yields malt and roast, and the taste is dry and roasted, with malt to follow. Little obvious presence of hops, but this yields a very well-balanced, easy drinking and savor-able dark beer that appeals. I could drink this every day.