Peru’s oldest craft beer company, Cervecería Barbarian, is still a year shy of a decade old, yet the fledgling industry has flourished since Barbarian first began brewing. Now boasting more than 50 craft breweries — of varying quality levels, as Lima bartender Irina Moreno readily admits — the Peruvian craft ale industry may not have reached quite the dizzying heights of other countries, but it’s certainly nothing to be sniffed at.
In fact, there are plenty of local beers that pass with flying colors what Otto Dilba of Ale Asylum refers to as the “three-pint test.” If after knocking back — ahem, slowly savoring — three pints of the stuff, your craft beer of choice “didn’t become boring … that beer is well-made and worthy of your attention,” says Dilba.
Well, that settles it then. Get the next round(s) in.
La Nena, Barbarian
It seems apt to start with the OG Peruvian craft brewery, in business for nearly a decade. Despite serving up brews that run the gamut from Irish reds to sour ales, it’s the endearingly named La Nena (Babe) that rises to the top like a perfectly frothed head of foam. Considered by Moreno to be one of the best Peruvian wheat beers, La Nena is “fresh, light and delightfully acidic,” a summer brew through and through.
Pachacutec, Sierra Andina
From an absolute babe of a beer to the most powerful of all the Incas, we come to Sierra Andina’s Pachacutec. Popular in no small part due to its 10.5 percent alcohol content, Moreno aptly describes Pachacutec as “a beer for the brave” and “dark, very aromatic and full-bodied,” albeit with some sweeter tones to offset all that alcohol. Tread lightly with this one, though, or after a few pints you might find yourself in more of a pickle than the Incans following the arrival of the Spanish. If you’d rather try a lighter brewhouse bedfellow, then Sierra Andina’s Shaman IPA and its “hops that evoke floral, fruity notes” combined with “classic American flavors” also came highly recommended by Moreno.
Piña Cheliada, Bravado
Fruity beers — divisive at worst, delicious at best — can easily nose-dive into sickly sweet territory if the brewery isn’t careful when it comes to balancing its flavors. Lori Rice, author of Food on Tap: Cooking With Craft Beer and a certified beer server, notes that “the flavor of the fruit” rather than overwhelming sweetness is her personal preference. Cervercía Bravado’s refreshing Piña Cheliada surely fits that bill; pineapple comes to the fore in every mouthful, yet you don’t feel the need to brush your teeth post-pint.
Judging beers by their labels is arguably an amateur move but also entirely understandable when it comes to the pale pink perfection of this Cerveza Magdalena single-hop lager. The eponymous pistol-toting pistolera seriously ups the beer labeling game in an industry where packaging sometimes screams “this could also be a heavy metal album cover.” More importantly, though, a bottle of well-balanced and entirely drinkable Pistolera wouldn’t go amiss during an afternoon of day drinking under the beating Lima sun, and the lowish alcohol content won’t leave you feeling (too) worse for wear afterward.
A final recommendation for those who like their beer with a side of “unbeatable creaminess” comes courtesy of Moreno once again, in the form of Brujo. Brewed by Arequipa-based Invictus, Brujo (Wizard) is possibly unrivaled in the world of Peruvian stouts — a true rich winter beer with a dense head of foam and a hint of hops. Add coffee and chocolate notes, and Brujo will leave you bewitched.
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This year, OZY is going Around the World, bringing you untold stories from every single country on the map, one day at a time, to introduce you to new people, new trends and new places.