Earlier this year, I discovered Bogotá Beer Company’s Chapinero Porter while shopping at Carulla.
It became my favorite beer in Colombia the moment I popped the cap and took a swig.
When I lived in the United States, I always had a wide selection of bottled microbrews to choose from at my local grocery stores.
In Colombia, there’s been a serious dearth of choice in Colombian beers available at convenience and grocery stores, restaurants, bars, and discotecas.
Thankfully, that’s begun to change in the last few years, with Bogota Beer Company (BBC) leading the way.
Colombia’s market is currently dominated by Bavaria, a subsidiary of the London-based multinational SABMiller. This one company controls 99% of the country’s six billion dollar a year beer industry.
Monopolistic companies have little reason to innovate, which might explain why brands as big as Pilsen, Aguila, and Club Colombia all taste about the same.
To give you a sense of how little variety there’s been until now, even “light” beers aren’t common here, let alone porters and seasonal brews.
According to a City Paper article, Berny Silberwasser, Bogotá Beer Company’s founder, noted the abundance of choice in the United States during a 1994 visit.
In 2002, using $40,000 in secondhand brewing equipment shipped from Portland, Oregon, he opened BBC.
It was in Bogotá that I first sampled one of his draft beers, during dinner at a Bogotá Beer Company pub.
I can’t say I remember the beer or food from that night a few years ago, but I do remember the atmosphere. It was decidedly Western, and I liked it.
Last month, Bogotá Beer Company opened its first English-style pub in Medellin. Once I heard the news, I scheduled a reader meet up to refresh my memory.
The BBC pub occupies the corner of Carrera 34 and Calle 8 in the Provenza sector of Poblado, a few blocks up from Parque Lleras.
The interior is styled after English pubs, with a long wooden bar, five beers on tap, and many more available by the bottle. Medellin may not be as cold as London, but the wood still creates a warm and cozy feeling.
In addition to the bar, and two interior rooms featuring flat HD televisions, there are a few small tables on the wrap-around balcony, as well as an outdoor patio in the front, where smoking is allowed.
Of course my first beer was a Chapinero Porter, which arrived in a regular size pint glass (9,900 pesos or $5.25). Whether on draft, or by the bottle, it’s the best.
There are three other standard offerings: the light Candelaria Clasica, the medium Monserrate Roja, and the honey-flavored Cajica Miel.
I’ve tried them all by bottle, with the Monserrate Roja being my second favorite after the Porter.
Unfortunately, that night they were out of the Roja, so I couldn’t try the BBC version of a Black and Tan (Porter and Roja).
In addition to these standard offerings, BBC produces special limited edition and seasonal beers too. These weren’t available either. We were told they were due to arrive the following week.
By the time you read this article, they should be fully stocked on all the beers.
But man cannot live on beer alone, which brings us to the other side of the menu, food.
BBC offers quality takes on all the classic bar food, both Western and Colombian, including:
- Buffalo wings with blue cheese (21,900 pesos or $11.50)
- Patacones with cheese and guac (21,900 pesos or $11.50)
- Calamari (29,900 pesos or $16)
- Nachos (15,900 pesos or $8.50)
- Bogotá-style empanadas (16,900 pesos or $9)
- Three mini burgers (26,900 pesos or $14)
I opted for the last one, the three mini burgers, all of which came with a different gourmet topping, including:
- Bacon and avocado
- Cheese and caramelized onions
- Cheese from the coast
Along with a few pints of Porter, these mini burgers and the potatoes they arrived with filled me up.
Bogotá Beer Company is one of my new favorite bars in the city. It’s perfect for happy hours with coworkers, going out with friends, or to get some beer and grub while watching the local soccer.
It’s exactly the kind of place I’d go to in the United States to watch World Cup matches. If I’m in Medellin for the 2014 World Cup, you now know where to find me.
Special thanks to pub manager Juan Carlos Jaramillo and staff for their hospitality. We’ll be back!