As far as booze goes, South America is best known for its award-winning wines, particularly those out of Argentina and Chile. But locals have also started appreciating local brews. And, as is the trend pretty much worldwide, a number of craft suds have surfaced across the continent. These are the local favorites, including some of South America's best craft beers, and where to find them. Salud!
Colombia, a country that values time spent socializing and imbibing, claims one of South America's fastest-growing artisanal beer scenes. The brand 3 Cordilleras launched back in 2008 after the owner returned from the US with a newfound love for artisanal beers, and is now hugely popular in Medellin. They bottle six types of beer, including a rosé, and the labels point to the brand's playful, lighthearted character. The brewery also offers tours and hosts live concerts with local music talent.
Leave it to the Germans to bring beer to the far-flung Patagonia region in Argentina. Mr. Otto Tipp opened the first local brewery in the nature-loving, bohemian town of El Bolsón wedged in a valley of the Andes Mountains. El Bolsón is known for producing some of the freshest, tastiest artisanal ingredients and produce in Argentina with a focus on organic, and hops get the same treatment. The brewery is still a small operation, offering the basic color scheme of red, blonde, and black on tap in one microbrewery located in a woodsy area. Non-alcoholic malt beer and a wheat beer with fruit notes also are on draught, and visitors can peek into the brewing process from where they sip.
Cervecería El Bolsón
Also native to the small but fertile town of El Bolsón, is the eponymous brewery Cerverceria El Bolson. In addition to standard light and dark brews, all bottled and marked with artsy labels, the Patagonian producer also makes good use of the area's organic agricultural environment, mixing and bottling flavors that include strawberry (a top seller), black cherry, honey, and a spicy beer. The combination tasting room-and-restaurant (beer and food pairings suggested on the menu) is a social spot, with locals and travelers alike filling the tables. For those craving an El Bolsón beer elsewhere in Argentina, this site contains an exhaustive list of suppliers throughout the country.
While Argentina's artisanal beer scene is concentrated in Patagonia, stylish porteños (people from Buenos Aires) were not going to miss out on the microbrewery trend. Antares is a lively restaurant with massive tanks of beer behind the bar supplying a number of artisanal, draught beers. For the undecided, Antares offers a beer flights ranging in quantities for tasting. The grub off the German-inspired menu is also a draw, and all locations offer great happy hour deals on food and brews. Antares beers are found exclusively within their establishments, though in addition to multiple locations in Buenos Aires, spots are scattered throughout the country.
Cusqueña beer, named after the capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco, is found all over Peru and increasingly abroad. The beer is fermented with barley rather than a corn blend, and fans prefer it for its crisp, pure taste. Another local favorite, chicha, is decidedly different (and generally brand-less); in fact, it is more like moonshine than a slick bottled Cusquena. Chicha is a native South American beer, heavy and flavorful because it is made from fermented corn. Most bars in Peru have chicha, though it is rarely something that appears on a menu: It is the simple, local, down-home booze.
The Chilean independent brewer launched in 2003 after one of Kross's founders returned from the beer-loving country of Ireland and, when searching for the best local beers, decided to partner up and start making his own. The focus is on using the best quality products to produce the brand's five renderings: a Golden Ale, Stout, Pilsner, a seasonal lager Maibock, and the Kross5 ale in honor of the brewery's fifth anniversary. Kross has been recognized with more international awards than any of its Chilean counterparts, winning over boozers and judges in competitions around the world.
Beer is the beverage of choice during the raucous Brazilian Carnival celebrations that take partying and dancing to the streets. While most Carnival goers purchase cans of the omnipresent, everyman's Brazilian beer Skol (not to be confused with the cheap vodka), the staggering number of liters of beer consumed during this stretch of holiday shows just how much Brazilians love their beer. One of the more high-end but still accessible brands people seem to adore is Bohemia. It's considered the nation's first beer, as well as the country's current best Pilsner.
Photo credits: Glass of beer in Lima, Peru via Shutterstock