Local beer

Five of Chile's best craft brewers

From north to south, Chile has a growing number of high quality outfits producing an enticing range of beers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 Category: Tourism - Entertainment - Food - Culture
Kunstmann is a Chilean favorite. (Photo: Marcos Escalier T./Flickr) Kunstmann is a Chilean favorite. (Photo: Marcos Escalier T./Flickr)

When world class beverages and Chile are mentioned in the same sentence, chances are that the conversation is about wine. But the South American nation also has a long and increasingly distinguished beer history.

Beer in Chile dates back to the mid-19th century when a wave of German immigrants settled in the country's colder southern regions, bringing their barley, hops and traditional recipes with them. Since then beer has become an important part of Chilean life and can be found in abundance at most barbecues and social gatherings.

For decades the local beer scene has been dominated by the ubiquitous Cristal but in recent years the country has experienced a booming demand for craft beers. In response, several new microbreweries have opened throughout the country, introducing local beer lovers to an impressive range of new tastes.

Here This is Chile introduces you to five of the country's most exciting craft beer producers.

Cervecería Kunstmann

The Kunstmann family first emigrated to the southern Chilean city of Valdivia from Germany in 1850 but didn't begin making beer until the late 1990s. At first they began brewing in their garage, distributing the home-made products among their friends and neighbors. The business grew steadily and today Kunstmann is both an icon of Valdivia and one of Chile's favorite craft beers.

Its range of beers include:

    Torobayo Ale, a traditional amber ale
    Lager
    Bock, a dark, bitter beer
    Torobayo Honey Ale
    Gran Torobayo, a strong ale made with hops imported from German

Our pick: Torobayo Honey Ale

Kross Cervecería

The Kross story began in 2003 when a Chilean engineer returned to his homeland after a living and working in Ireland. Having grown accustomed to high quality beer he hunted around for the best beer in Chile until he met Asbjorn Gerlach, a Chilean engineer who operated a tiny boutique brewery. Joining forces the two engineers formed Kross in the town of Curacaví, not far from Santiago. Earlier this year, it picked up seven medals at the International Beer Challenge in England.

Its range of beers includes:

    Golden Ale, based on a typical English pale ale
    Stout
    Pilsner, made with Czech hops
    Maibock, an amber colored lager
    Kross5, a strong ale left to mature in oak barrels

Our pick: Kross5

Szot Brewery

California native Kevin Szot came to Santiago in the 1980s for work and met his Chilean wife, Astrid Karen. After a decade in Miami, the pair returned to Chile with their children and, not being satisfied with the quality of beer on offer, they decided to set up their own brewery, just outside Santiago. Despite its small size, Szot has been turning heads in recent years, receiving medals at the Australian International Beer Awards in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Its range of beer includes:

    Amber Ale
    Strong Ale, which is 7.5 percent alcohol
    Stout
    Rubia al Vapor, an amber lager

Our pick: Strong Ale

Cerveza Austral

Established in the southern Patagonian city of Punta Arenas in the late 19th century, Austral claims to be the southernmost brewery in the world. It combines traditional German recipes with glacial water and an old-style, slow brewing process to produce some of Chile's highest quality beer.

Its range of beers includes:

    Cerveza Austral, a golden colored lager
    Polar Imperial, a richly flavored, darker lager

Our pick: Polar Imperial

Desértica Cerveza Artesanal

After three years of research, testing and refinement, Desértica bottled its first commercial brews in August 2010. Begun by three friends and beer lovers from the northern port city of Antofagasta, this company aims to blend traditional ingredients and production techniques with a unique Chilean flavor. Still in its early days, Desértica is hard to find in Santiago but is readily available in popular, northern tourist havens such as San Pedro de Atacama.

Its range of beers includes:

    American Ale
    Pale Ale
    Lager

Our pick: American Ale

Teaser photo: courtesy Cervecería Kross

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