The Wonderful Beers of Chile and Peru

Sometimes you need to leave the humdrum of the city and go to another city. Sometimes that city is a little far from home. Say, 5,730 miles from home.

If I haven’t posted lately it’s not because I’m forgetful or lazy, it’s because I traveled to Chile and Peru to try the beers they brew (among other things).

The beer scene in Chile and Peru reminded me of Europe, meaning that most breweries didn’t offer a hazy IPA. While I did find one place that brewed “American-craft style beer” including a hazy IPA, the choices at most places were lager, lager, and lager (with a couple of ales). 

So, if you’re planning a trip to Chile or Peru, or if you live in Chile or Peru, or if you wanted to find out what you’re missing by neither visiting nor living in Chile or Peru, here are the beers that I drank and enjoyed.

Kunstmann

Drinking a kunstmann torobayo
Enjoying a Kunstmann Torobayo

Kunstmann is a big-time beer producer in Chile. Based in Torobayo, Valdivia, Chile Kunstmann was founded by German immigrants who essentially dominated the Valdivia beer scene after another brewer was destroyed by an earthquake. Yup.

The main Kunstmann beer to try is Torobayo, named after the city the brewery is based in. This mainstay has an amber color, though the malt flavor was lighter than what you’d find in most ambers brewed in the U.S.

The closest thing to a stout I tried was the Bock, which Kunstmann describes as a cerveza negra, or a black beer. It had plenty of smoky and chocolaty flavors, and while I’m sure there are plenty of stouts available in Chile and Peru, I’d bet stout drinkers would prefer this bock anyway.

But my personal favorite of the bunch was the Kunstmann Lager, which was a lager

Kunstmann torobayo and Chilean michelada
The Torobayo from another angle! And a Chilean michelada.

 

Austral

Austral beer lager

Based in Punta Arenas, Magallanes, Austral is so far south that I’m pretty sure they’re the first major brewer north of Antarctica. The brewery is literally located on a street named Patagona, which translates to Patagonia if you needed help. 

The cool thing about a brewery located so close to Antarctica is the ingredients they use. Calafate, a beer named after a berry-type fruit used in the beer, tastes like…well, calafate.

The calafate flavor is somewhere between a blueberry and a general fruit sweetness, but the taste is so subtle compared to the lager that someone had to explain to me that fruit was in the beer because I’m that clueless. Well done, Austral. 

Another beer I only got to try once was the Torres del Paine, named after the famous national park where many Patagonia hikers go to get their next profile picture taken. Too much time is spent hiking and not enough spent enjoying this well-bodied lager. 

Perhaps the biggest crowd-pleaser from Austral would be the Lager, which is a lager.

Cusquena

The last beer that seemed to be everywhere in both Chile and Peru is the Cusco-based Cusquena. As a tourist, I had no clue as to the scale of any of these breweries, but Cusquena seemed to be pretty big, and I’d bet you can find it just about anywhere in Peru and Northern Chile.

The main Cusquena beer I tried was Dorado, which long-time fans of the film The Road to El Dorado will correctly assume that this is a golden lager. Dorado was perhaps the best golden lager I tried, though I admittedly spent a lot of time drinking pisco sours and not beer. 

Roja, which was really more of a blonde/amber color than red, didn’t pop up as much for me, so I only tried it once (that I know of). What I remember was a pleasantly bitter flavor, but nowhere near the realms of pale ales and IPAs.

The only other beer I tried from Cusquena was Trigo, and oh boy, I have no idea how to explain this one. It’s good, and the green coloring on the bottle made me think of a super-bitter IPA (thanks, Sierra Nevada). It felt sort of heavy like an IPA, but the flavor was still malty and much closer to a traditional lager.

 

And there you have it! Some of the wonderful beers of Chile and Peru. I swear that someday I will return to finally try calafate sie-by-side with the Austral Calafate. 

Thomas Short

Thomas Short is a freelance writer based in Seattle, WA. His work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, CraftBeer.com, and more. You can reach Thomas at tshort0702@gmail.com.

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