What exactly is “Bicervecina El Inca”?

The Cervecería Nacional Boliviana (CBN)–an AB-InBev subsidiary–is the largest brewery in Bolivia, and perhaps surprisingly, it actually offers a pretty decent variety of beers to the mass market consumer, including two dark beers, Paceña Black and Bicervecina El Inca. The former is a fairly straightforward black version of the Paceña flagship line of beers, sweetened and darkened with artificial flavoring into a cloying, molasses and raisin juicey beer (that, bizarrely, won an International Taste & Quality Institute crystal star last year).

The latter is ubiquitous in the highlands of Bolivia, and you most often encounter it at fruit juice stands. See below:

batido bicervecina

Fruit juice stand in La Paz. You can just make out the Bicervecina El Inca beneath the oranges, to the right of the orange soft drink.

Yup, here in Bolivia you can get a healthy fruit smoothie, made with a fresh assortment of produce to your specifications, whipped up with a pint of dark beer as well. El Inca is a dark, sweet, very malty beer clocking in at a very light 3% ABV, and considered a beer of the campesino–the peasant’s drink. Unbalanced towards sweetness, the low grade of alcohol makes it socially acceptable to have one with lunch in polite company without raising eyebrows (whereas, say, ordering your standard 5% lager might have people thinking you’re a bit of a borracho). Obviously, it’s also perfectly acceptable to have one mixed in with your morning Jamba juice equivalent.

What exactly the “bicervecina” part is, I have no idea. Double-brewed? Back-sweetened? Implying it’s highly malty? I really have no idea.

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4 comments
  1. Ivo Foianini said:

    I was not aware that bi-cervecina has alcohol in it! My understanding was that this drink was a pure malt with no fermentation. Anyways, good to know…I recommend mixing one bottle with a raw egg, it’s a good breakfast mix.

    • Well there you go, raw egg and a sweet malty beer for breakfast…not really something you hear about every day. Thanks for recommendation!

  2. Matt said:

    I have a friend that I am trying to brew Bicervecina El Inca for. Does anyone know the ingredients and process that go into brewing this beer.

    Thanks in advance!

    • You’ll have a hard time finding an actual recipe given that it’s a CBN beer, but there’s a few things you can figure out easily enough. You’ll want to use a base malt of pilsner, and it probably needs to finish around 1.015 or 1.020–it’s very sweet. You can either load it up with a LOT of crystal malts and a very low attenuating lager yeast, or, if you have access to force carbonation, ferment it to around 3.5% ABV and then back sweeten it with caramel (which is what I’ve been told they use for sweetener). The ending profile is dark, malty and raisiny sweet. Chocolate is not a significant part of the flavor profile.

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