The last five years have seen a boom in artisanal beer-making in Chile and there are anywhere between 70 and 90 microbreweries active in the country, ranging from backyard businesses to much larger operations. Most brewers are concentrated in the Lakes District south of Santiago, from Valdivia to Puerto Montt, as well as places further afield. These brewers are creating a significant turning point for Chilean beer.
- Szot (www.szot.cl) – This is in Santiago, but is one of the most ambitious startups. After getting the recipe down, they purchased a second-hand Belgian-built brewing plant and production has been rising steadily. Stout, Pale Ale, Barley Wine, Amber, Pilsner, Vapor.
- Kuntsmann (www.cerveza-kunstmann.cl) - The most significant brewer in the Lakes District. Their large brewery, restaurant, and beer hall just outside of Valdivia is perhaps the center of Chile’s beer culture. They produce bocks, lagers, and ales according to the Reinheitsgebot of 1516. Kuntsmann’s annual beer festival in late January is one of the most significant cultural festivals in Chile. The beer is sold throughout the southern half of Chile in upscale bars and restaurants. The Sam Adam’s of Chile.
- Pillán (www.cervezapillan.cl) – From Pucón, a beer that prides itself on the purity of the water from clean Lakes District streams. Keli Ale (red ale), Kuri Ale (stout), and a Milla Ale (blond).
- Valbier (www.valbier.cl) – A new microbrewery from Valdivia region recently put out one of the country’s best Amber Ales, which they call Red Ale, as well as a Black Ale. Really promising.
- Calle Calle (www.cervezacallecalle.galeon.com) – A microbrewery in the heart of Valdivia with German-Belgian tendencies. Llancahue (lager), Cau-cau (blond, 5.2%), and Cutipay (5%) are on hand, as is their Naguilan (5.5%), my favorite, which takes after an Irish stout with hints of chocolate.
- Crater (www.cervezacrater.cl) – A microbrewery near Pucon, on the road to Valdivia, produces just one Golden Ale and a Porter, which can be sampled in the brewery and in restaurants and pubs throughout Chile’s Lakes District. The brewery is attached to a small restaurant serving typical German foods.
- Cuello Negro (www.cuellonegro.cl)– Named after a black neck swan that is local to the region, Cuello Negro, has just a Golden Ale (5.8%) and a stout (8%), though they are two of the best beers available in Chile.
- Cerveceria El Duende – This small brewer outside of Valdivia, on the road to Niebla, has a decent Blond ale and Red ale. They also offer a half-day homebrew class.
- Kross (www.kross.cl): In the Casablanca Valley where Chile’s best white wines are produced is this award winning brewery that produces a Strong Ale, Maibock, an oak aged Kross 5 in 750 ml bottles, and three others. They are keen on food pairings. And one of the most progressive brewers.
- Mahina – Easter Island’s first brewery opened this year with a stout and a Pale Ale. Their double fermented, non-filtered and pretty decent. I was just on Easter Island tasting these and was really impressed. They’re not overly complex, but taste great and there has to be something said for the first beer produced on the island.
Background on Chilean Beer: A Chilean government initiative brought German families to southern Chile in the 19th century to help colonize the region and push out the native Mapuche. Approximately 8,000 Germans arrived and completely changed the genetic composition and culture of cities such as Valdivia, Llanquihue and Osorno where German traditions and brewing techniques have flourished. Now many cities have a distinctive German feel with beer that is based in German purity laws. Towns such as Osorno and Valdivia literally have dozens of small breweries and bier hauls. Newer generations of brewers like those mentioned above, rely less on the old European model and experiment with natural ingredients, double fermentation, and pairings with food.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.