Estilos de Cerveza

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.


I sent the series on Developing a Bolivian Style of Brewing to a group of my fellow brewers here in Santa Cruz, and one of them–an anthropologist–weighed in with this feedback.

By Drew J-G

Like you shared, it is really impossible to make a “Bolivian” beer simply because of the huge geographic and ecological and cultural diversity inside these borders. A regional beer would be more appropriate. As far as marketability, doing a quinoa and coca beer would probably be considered as the most “Bolivian” but that is only because the world’s image of Bolivia is the Andes and Altiplano. For the rest of the country chafing under a government that wants to make Aymara and Quechua culture ubiquitous, it would seem neocolonial to call it “Bolivian.”

The truth is, going a little further in the aside about chicha, Beer itself is colonial. Rather than argue that chicha is the South American answer to Europe’s beer, we must also recognize that beer is not really from around here. It is the Coca-Cola of alcoholic beverages on this continent. The reason Argentina might have more tradition in microbrews is that they have a lot more migrants from Northern and Western Europe, they historically displaced(/killed) the indigenous population, and they have the climate to grow the ingredients. Even then, Argentina’s mass beer consumption is less diverse even than Bolivia’s (or it was when I was there eight years ago).

I guess I wonder, with the criteria that you gave in this series, if part of the historic and geographic roots needed to create a new type of beer would also mean that all the ingredients should be cultivated where the beer is brewed. Just like chicha is made of local products, beer is (was) too when it was invented and the tradition reflected in that list of types reflects the origin not just of the beer, but of its ingredients. So, would adding a Chaco honey or achachairu really make it a regional beer if the other ingredients had to be brought from somewhere else? Would that mean that the only fully Bolivian beer could come from the valleys and mountains where all the key ingredients to traditional beer can be and are produced? I am a little ignorant on this. I am really just thinking out loud.

I know that today you can get anything just about anywhere, which is the part that makes this discussion so interesting. At some point, though, I guess we have to recognize that a Bolivian beer will be a beer with influences and accents from all over the world, and that doesn’t make it any less Bolivian. Like you said, the end product is more what counts in the classification rather than how you got there.

This reminds me of an example: Early American anthropology at the turn of the 20th century was mostly concerned with recording and studying the few remaining Native American tribes that lived “traditionally.” Their concern was that with the rapidly changing world around them that these groups and their lifestyles and cultures would “disappear.” So they would go to these villages and instead of asking the people about their lives, they would ask about how their grandparents lived because they believed that the previous generations had lived “authentic” lives while the current generation, due to the influence of modern technology and global economic and dominant Euro-American cultural forces, no longer lived authentic lives.

Of course today, anthropologists recognize that you can’t go up to a Sioux family living in South Chicago and say “you aren’t authentic Sioux because you don’t live the way your ancestors did, you don’t hunt bison and you live in a huge city.” Cultures change constantly in reaction and in interaction with the many social, ecological, and cultural forces around them (and the differing levels of power in each of those relationships). So, those things have an effect on what “Bolivian” means as you explore in this series. I just say that to say you shouldn’t try to split hairs about Bolivian-ness when it is buried under so many layers, as is the history of beer and its global conquest.

This doesn’t end up sounding much like a conversation about beer, so much as anthropology. If I had to design a Bolivian style of beer, I’d say stick with the quinoa for sure. Try to spice it up with aji chuquisaqueño. It is the special spice they use is those delicious sausages and empanadas in Sucre. You can find it dried at the market, or sometimes in powder form, although most people from Sucre that I know swear buying it here in Santa Cruz just isn’t the same as bringing it from Chuquisaca. And also, the trimate blend might be a nice herbal touch with a little more something that just straight coca.

Originalmente escrito por Charlie Papazian, autor de The Complete Joy of Homebrewing y traducido con su permiso.

Todos los tipos de cerveza se evolucionan de las combinaciones de y relaciones entre:

1. Ingredientes
2. Procesamientos
3. Embasamiento
4. Comercialización (Marketing)
5. Cultura

Estos cinco factores básicos crean variedad y estilos distintos. ¿Dónde se empieza para entender como estos fundamentales crean una cerveza? ¿Dónde empieza la cervecería? ¿Qué pueda anticipar el consumidor de cerveza?

En la cervecería, la esencia de un estilo de cerveza empieza con el entrenamiento del personal de la cervecería, y el personal de comercialización (incluyendo la red de distribuición) y gestión. Cuando les aprendan y aprecien estas cinco relaciones básicos y el papel que contribuye cada uno a las calidades finales de la cerveza, los estilos estarán apreciados por el consumidor y tipos distintos de cerveza emerjan en el mercado.

Solo cuando estos básicos serán apreciados puedan crear una cerveza exitosa, introducido al mercado, vendido y apreciado completamente por el consumidor de cerveza.

This blog started as a place for me to post my beer recipes and share a bit with brewers who I might encounter along the way here in Bolivia. More than anything, I wanted it to be a record of beer brewing here in Bolivia. And of course along the way I’ve encountered others who are interested in brewing, beer styles, and so on.

So to really try to meet those goals, I’ve decided to start translating a series of blogs by one of the masters of the modern homebrewing movement, Charlie Papazian (with his permission). Papazian published The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, which was and still is one of the definitive points of entry into world of homebrewing for people interested. This series of articles was originally published in English on Papazian’s blog at the Examiner—it’s a 27-part series on beer styles, so it makes a good pairing and conversation partner to the ongoing series I’m exploring about developing a uniquely Bolivian style of beer.

Papazian’s series primarily focuses on the basics of beer and styles, and since it’s 27 parts, I’ll admit this is a bit of an ambitious outing because I’ll admit that translating is hardly the most riveting job in the world. But, it makes for good practice and maybe it can be a resource for the Spanish-speaking world as well. A quick note on translation: I’ll try to keep this as literal a translation as possible, although I will not try and translate a number of terms. For example, I’ll just leave style names fairly intact and refer to ale as “ale.” This transliteration makes more sense because it already has a fairly wide usage in Spanish as a differentiator from “lager.”  I’ll probably include a translation commentary where applicable as well, just in case that will help clarify things.


Este blog empezó como una fuente para poner mis recetas de cerveza y compartir un poquito con los cerveceros que quizá encuentre en el camino aquí en Bolivia. Más que todo, querría que seria un recuerdo del hecho de cerveza en Bolivia. Pues en este camino he encontrado algunos otros interesados en la fábrica de cerveza, los estilos, y todo lo demás.

Para cumplir con estos deseos, quiero empezar de traducir una serie de blogs del maestro de cerveceros caseros, Charlie Papazian (con su permiso). Papazian publicó el libro The Complete Joy of Homebrewing (“El Gozo Completo de la Cerveceria Casera”), que fue una introducción para los al mundo de fabricar su propia cerveza. Esta serie de artículos son originalmente publicado en inglés a través de su blog en el Mayormente enfocan en los estilos de cerveza y los básicos de cerveza en general.

Entonces, sin esperar mas, aquí empezamos.

Papazian: Origen y clasificación – parte 1 

La cerveza es una expresión del espíritu humano. Las ciencias técnicas son una herramienta para creársela, la psicología la comercializa y la ayuda para vender, pero su esencia siempre será una forma de arte. El proceso de estilizar cerveza es el arte de combinar cientos de factores para crear una combinación consistente de características de cerveza.  La complejidad de cerveza y toda de la diversidad que se ofrece lo expresa la variedad de los estilos de vida mundiales.

Hay un estimado 5.000 cervecerías comerciales en el mundo de hoy. Podemos estimar que cada cervecería produzca un promedio de ocho variedades diferentes de cerveza. Eso nos da 40.000 cervezas disponibles para venta a través del mundo. Mientras muchas cervezas sean similares en estilo, su fabricación individual y la cultura que rodea su goce y celebración los ayuda a definir la identidad de cada cerveza individual.

El conocimiento sobre los factores que influyen estilos y diversidad de la cerveza es útil en los procesos de formulación, gestión de cervecerías, evaluación de cervezas, competiciones de cerveza, ayuda al gobierno para regulaciones inteligentes, entendimiento sobre el patrimonio cultural de la cerveza y mas que todo—mejorando el disfrute responsable de la cerveza.

La palabra estilo se define como “una manera o técnica en particular por cual se hace, se crea, o se realiza algo, resultando en una calidad, forma o tipo distinta de algo.” Este es aplicable a todas las formas de arte, cerveza siendo algún. La Asociación de Cerveceros se han definido y catalogado más que cien estilos de cervezas diferentes de origen inglesa, alemana, checo, francés, belga, estadounidense, irlandés, y japonés (enlaces en inglés).

El mercado estadounidense es el mercado que ofrece el mejor nivel de diversidad del mundo. Hay realmente docenas de otros estilos populares en las varias regiones del mundo que hay “catalogar.” Con el crecimiento del comercio internacional y el crecimiento de experiencias interculturales, serán mas oportunidades para acceder, disfrutar e introducir nuevas variedades de cerveza a los mercados mundiales.

Originalmente escrito por Charlie Papazian, autor de The Complete Joy of Homebrewing y traducido con su permiso.