Chilean beer

Some acquaintances came through to visit and brought with them bottles from the Southern Cone. Some I’d tried, but others are new. Both Chile and Argentina have loads of old world European influence based on centuries of immigration, and while the former also draws a lot of influence from the poorer parts of the British Isles (case in point: O’Higgins was a naval hero and now a widely used name), the latter boasts some of the most progressive open immigration legislation in the world.

I was recently tasked with providing some other folks with some recommendations for a couple relatively obscure towns in Argentina. Even with minimal research, I was blown away by just how much variety there is, even in rural areas that mostly cater to outdoor expeditions of various sorts. I’m already relatively familiar with what Chile can offer based on travel there, but Argentina was and is a revelation. And that’s not even to mention the hop fields in El Bolson, Argentina. I only regret I haven’t had a chance to try the Mapuche hops of Argentina just yet. Some day, perhaps.


Cervecería Austral Lager: Brewed in Patagonia of Chile, this is very golden, and tastes a bit of vanilla and honey spread over toasted whole wheat bread. Crisp, but quite filling and I’m done after one. 4.6% ABV.


Kuntsmann Lager: Brewed in Valdivia, Chile, this is more copper-colored to match the caramel malts, but unfortunately it’s less dynamic of a taste. More caramel in the aroma and some to match in the taste, along with some woody hops, but not quite as interesting to drink as the former. Lighter, though. And at 4.3% ABV I could drink three of these before getting bored. Eminently crushable, as they say.


Kuntsmann Torobayo Pale Ale: [Somehow I lost the notes on this. If for whatever reason you really care that much, you can read my comments on it from last year. I mean if you think of it as the Blue Moon of Chile, it’s pretty good.]


Cerveza Cape Horn Pilsener: 4.8% ABV and certainly one of the better pilseners I’ve had in South America. Golden and a little turbid, it tastes of honey on toast chased by a really nice woody bitterness.  A really floral bouquet in the nose, maybe even some banana? Brewed with wheat and (surprisingly?) sugar in the very southerly city of Ushuaia on the Argentine part of Tierra del Fuego. (Looking at the place of sugar in the ingredients list, I wonder if that was for priming since this is bottle conditioned.) Tasty.


Cerveza Artesanal Antares Altbier: A bit past its drink-by date. Smells of slightly stale bread and maybe some peaches? Tastes of caramel, whole wheat bread, balanced, and leaves a nice lingering bitterness. A pretty reddish copper. Somewhat thin, however, and a bit watery. I tell you what, though, I think most Bolivians would enjoy this 5.5% beer.

These last two were the real treat, though, brought all the way from Easter Island, technically a Chilean possession, but really quite distinct culturally speaking. So, I suppose this isn’t Southern Cone beer either, except on the basis of nationality. Oh well. These were shared among friends, hence the small pours.


Cerveceria Rapa Nui Mahina Pale Ale: Tastes of delicious bread, and chewy to boot. Drinking this is an exercise in understanding how much your base malt can influence the outcome of a beer, and this clearly was not made with pilsner malt. There’s some banana aroma, it’s snappy and soft all at once, with a background hint of something meaty or savory. I enjoyed this at 4.8%; almost disappointed to share it.


Cerveceria Rapa Nui Mahina Porter: Red highlights on a dark brown body and tan head. It’s 6.8% and smells of fresh cut wood and whipped cream. It tastes very clearly of a sweet, light chocolate, a bit of roasted barley, and then creamy at the end. Everyone liked this one.


—— In English: ——

There are plenty of beer-related books I’d love to read–perhaps even a couple I’d aspire to write–in my native and preferred English. But, more than that, there’s a massive dearth of Spanish language brewing materials. There’s no Joy of Homebrewing or How to Brew in Spanish. Amazon’s list of books with “cerveza” in the title include two that seem to teach about homebrewing, but clearly that’s missing the two aforementioned seminal tomes for most homebrewers in North America. As such, homebrewing globally tends to be the domain of English-speaking and/or European expatriates, and a few English-speaking locals.

Still, even as English is the lingua franca, it also often represents a class difference. The average Bolivian does not speak English, and the Bolivians with the best English are those who have spent time abroad or in bilingual schools. Nothing wrong with that, but it makes brewing an inaccessible hobby (beyond the many challenges already you face here without any homebrew shops) to people who can’t pick up hops/bottle caps/bottlers in a neighboring country or courier here via air freight.

So today, where Session #95 asks us to comment on the beer books yet to be written, I’d humbly suggest that a question that needs considering is, “what languages should we be translating beer literature into?” Surely Spanish should be high on that list, especially as Argentina, Mexico, and Chile are emerging into a kind of beer brewing maturity ready to compete with their northern counterparts. (Brazil certainly fits into that category, although the availability of resources in Portuguese is a question I have no idea about). To be fair, many of the homebrew shops in Chile and Argentina that I’ve encountered do have some resources like the booklets that sound like the first editions of Joy of Homebrewing as described by Charlie Papazian, as well as numerous classes on brewing. So the roots are planted and there, but there needs to be some cultivation.

Granted, book printing and distribution in Latin America is a different challenge than the ease provided by Amazon and easy mail order, but I’d suggest that there’s most certainly a demand for (at least abridged) Spanish editions of the introductory homebrewing materials.

And just as a side note, if there’s anyone looking for a translator, I humbly offer my services. Salud!


—— En español: ——

“Sesión 95: Casi TODOS los libros se faltan escribir (en español)”

Hay bastante libros acerca de la cerveza que quisiera leer–tal vez algunos que aspiraría escribir–en mi inglés nativa y preferida. Pero mas que eso, hay una falta masiva de materiales en español sobre el hecho de la cerveza. No hay ninguna Joy of HomebrewingHow to Brew en español. La lista de Amazon de libros con “cerveza” en su titulo incluye dos que hablan sobre la cerveza casera pero es claro que falta los dos libros seminales anteriores para la mayoría de cerveceros caseros en Norteamérica. Entonces la cerveza casera mundialmente mayormente es el dominio de extranjeros que hablan inglés y/o europeos, así como unos locales que dominan inglés.

Todavía, con inglés como la lingua franca, también representa una diferencia de clase. El boliviano promedia no habla inglés y los bolivianos con el inglés mejor son los que han pasado tiempo en el exterior o en escuelas verdaderamente bilingües. No hay nada malo con eso, pero hace que la cerveza casera es un pasatiempo inaccesible (ademas que los muchos desafíos que se encuentran con ninguna tienda de la cerveza casera) para la gente que no pueden comprar el lúpulo/tapas de botella/embotellares en un país vecino o pedirlos por courier.

Entonces hoy, donde al Sesión #95 nos pide comentar sobre los libros de la cervezas que todavía faltan escribir, sugeriría humildemente que la pregunta que se necesitan considerar es “¿a cuales idiomas debemos traducir la literatura de la cerveza?” Seguramente el español debe ser muy alto en la lista, especialmente mientras Argentina, Mexico y Chile están mostrando una madurez en la cerveza que está listo para competir con sus contrapartes norteños. (Seguramente Brasil cuenta con esa categoría pero la disponibilidad de los recursos en portugués es una pregunta sobre cual no tengo ninguna respuesta.) Para ser justo, muchas de las tiendas de la cerveza casera en Chile y Argentina con cuales me encuentran si tienen algunos recursos con las libretas que parecen como fueron las primeras ediciones del Joy of Homebrewing así como las describió Charle Papazian así como varios clases sobre como hacer la cerveza. Entonces los raíces ya son sembrados y allá son pero falta la cultiva.

Concedido, la imprenta y distribución de libros en Latinoamérica es un desafío diferente que la facilidad proveído por Amazon y el correo facíl pero sugería que ciertamente hay una demanda para ediciones en español de las materiales introductivas de la cerveza casera (o al menos una edición condensada).

Y como una nota al lado, si alguien busca un traductor, ofrezco mis servicios. Salud!

Szot Microbrewery comes up quickly when you start looking into Chilean microbreweries, and with good reason. They brew a nice variety of ales and lean on their Rubia al Vapor (steam beer) as a flagship beer, but what pushes Szot to the next level are their special beers, including their Wild beer. I had the chance to exchange some messages with Kevin Szot, and he said that the Wild is based on their steam beer, but fermented with a secondary bacteria from their “local flora and fauna.” The bottle I had was their 2013 edition (brewed in 2011), and Kevin clarified that it is not a lacto bacteria, and needs two years to let the nail polish remover smell fade and come into its own. I was able to culture the yeast from the bottle–it was a vigorous fermentation within hours, surprisingly–and added it to my yeast bank. As far as I know (to be fair, I know very little), this might be the only wild beer in Chile. 

Szot Wild, Wild Steam Beer (although Szot compares it to a Gueze), 5.8% ABV

Appearance: copper/light brown, tiny chill haze, very low carbonation, sliver of off-white head.
Aroma: apple or grape juice, some cinnamon.
Taste: all malt at first, biscuit and toasty. Some sweet caramel malt there. Some oak, it’s tannic and fruity.
Mouthfeel: low carbonation, almost flat.

Overall, this tasted a lot like a sweet, malty brown ale. I was caught off-guard only because I tend to associate “wild” with “sour,” which of course is not necessarily the case. I’d love to have had the Rubia al Vapor next to it to compare, but overall, this was tasty and fascinating.

Kross can be found pretty much across Chile, and while it might just have been timing, their annual special anniversary release was as easily encountered as their Pilsner and Golden Ale. Apparently it is brewed with seven hops and aged on oak. Unfortunately, this review was a bit rushed, because this is a beer for long evening.

Kross 5, Strong Ale, 7.2% ABV

Appearance: clear brown, off white head, low carbonation.
Aroma: caramel, hint of peaches.
Taste: whiskey and malt at first, but over time, the sweet toasted coconut/macaroon character really pops out.
Mouthfeel: heavy-bodied, best for sipping.
Overall, the oak is easy to pick out and definitely pushes this beer from interesting to fascinating. I would love to eat this with a steak.