Anyone else on a mission to drink their way around the world? If you just answered yes to that question then you’re in the right place! South American beers may not be the world’s most famous but there is no doubt that this continent is home to an ever-burgeoning beer scene.
If there’s nothing that you love more than enjoying a cold one with epic views, take note. This list of the best beers in South America is bound to get you craving a pint. ¡Salud!
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11 Popular Beers in South America
1. Aguila – Colombia
Aguila is a light crisp pilsner that has been brewed in Colombia since 1913. It is one of the country’s most popular beers, along with Poker and they are both owned by Bavaria Brewery. Although not one of the best beers out there, its refreshing taste is palatable for most drinkers. There is also a low alcohol version of this drink available.
The beer has risen to fame through its yellow and blue branding – believed to be inspired by the Colombian flag. It is also the official sponsor for the Colombian national football team. At the start of 2020, Aguila made international news when it decided to put other brands on its beer caps to encourage responsible drinking. Hear more about the campaign in the video below.
2. Cusqueña – Peru
Cusqueña is one of the major players in Peru’s beer market. As the name would indicate, this regional beer originates from Cusco. When it comes to the availability of beer in Peru, the country tends to work on a regional system. For example, you are far more likely to buy Pilsen Callao close to Lima because that is where the Callao district is.
There are four varieties of Cusqueña, Dorada (lager), Roja (red ale), Negra (dark ale) and trigo (wheat beer). You’ll quickly recognise Cusqueña when you see it in a bar. The bottle labelling uses traditional Inca patterns and features an image of Machu Picchu above the logo.
3. Quilmes – Argentina
Arguably the most popular beer in Argentina is Quilmes. It dominates the market, representing a whopping 67% of the beer industry within the country. This lager is pale, with only a slight note of hops. Easily recognisable for its blue and white labelling, Quilmes is the national beer of Argentina and also the official sponsor of the national football team.
Cervecería y Maltería Quilmes was founded in 1980 by German immigrant, Otto Bemberg. The brewery was established in Quilmes, a city within Greater Buenos Aires. That explains why this beer is so easy to find in the bars of Buenos Aires!
4. Pilsener – Ecuador
Pilsener has the largest market share of any of the beers in Ecuador and is the one you’ll predominantly see throughout your travels. This light lager is brewed by Cerveceria Nacional Ecuador and comes with a thick head (the beer that is, although you might get one if you overindulge!).
Pilsener has been around in Ecuador for years which has encouraged brand loyalty. In fact, the beer is actually known as ‘la cerveza de los Ecuatorianos’ which in English means, ‘the Ecuadorian’s beer’.
5. Cristal – Chile
Although Chile is arguably most famous for its corn beer, also known as chicha, it is Cristal that dominates the market. This pale lager is citrusy and light, making it the ideal companion to a meaty meal!
Cristal is brewed by Compañía de Cervecerías Unidas (CCU) who also make a number of other popular Chilean beers including Escudo and Dorada. As well as the standard Cristal, there is also Cristal Light and Cristal Zero, the latter of which contains no alcohol.
6. Paceña – Bolivia
When it comes to drinking beer in Bolivia, options are fairly limited. Although there are regional beers on offer, these can be hard to get your hands on as you travel. Popular beer Paceña is brewed in La Paz using purified water from the Andes mountain range. Some say that this means it won’t give you a hangover, although we’re not so sure about that!
Paceña’s parent company Cervecería Boliviana Nacional S.A, is responsible for around 80% of Bolivia’s beer market and they are one of the largest employers and exporters in the country. As you travel around Bolivia, you will notice that Paceña is always sponsoring events so look out for their branding at sporting stadiums, music festivals and in the nighttime economy.
7. Brahma – Brazil
According to Statista, Brahma comes in the top 10 when it comes to the value of leading beer brands globally. This is unsurprising when you realise that the beer is the second most consumed in Brazil, after Skol. This cheap and light beer has been praised for its savvy marketing and has won multiple awards for various campaigns. However, the beer is not without controversy.
The brand has been under pressure to change its name because an interfaith coalition is unhappy that the beer shares a name with a Hindu God. Companhia Cervejaria Brahma has pushed back on this, claiming that the beer gets its name from Joseph Bramah who invented the draft pump valve and has no connection to Hinduism.
8. Kunstmann – Chile
This German-inspired beer has really cemented a hold on the Chilean market. Made in the region of Valdivia, this is one of the beers which is said to have kick-started the craft beer scene in Chile. Unlike other craft beers from the region, Kunstmann is relatively easy to find across the entire country.
Every year, the brewery holds the ‘Bierfest Kunstmann Valdivia’ event. This is a little like the Chilean version of Oktoberfest and celebrates German folk music and dance. As well as being popular in Germany, Kunstmann beer is exported to Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, the US, Argentina and Korea.
9. Club – Colombia
It might be more expensive than the competition but few people who try Club regret spending the extra pesos! This leading brand produces three different types of beer, blonde beer, red beer and dark beer. It is pretty similar to Peru’s Cusqueña in terms of flavour and the different varieties available.
This refreshing drink has won the Gold Medal of Belgium’s Monde Selection on a couple of occasions, cementing its reputation as one of the continent’s best beers. The dry lager is the ultimate refreshing treat on a hot and humid day.
10. Bundor – Chile
It would be fair to say that Latin America has jumped on the craft beer train later than a lot of the other regions. This doesn’t mean to say that you can’t find delicious craft beers out there though!
Chile’s city of Valdivia is known among locals as the beer capital of the country. Bundor is one of the most popular makers of craft beer in this area. However, it is worth noting that this is hard to find when you move outside of the region. No matter whether you like a pale ale or potent stout, Bundor will have something to suit.
11. Chica de Jora – Peru
For a more traditional taste of South America, don’t miss Chicha de Jora. This fermented corn beer dates back to Incan times and has long been drunk by those living in Andean locations. It would have mainly been consumed as part of a ceremony or during festivities.
In Peruvian culture, it is still considered to be polite to pour some of your drink onto the earth before you take your first sip. This is seen to be an offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth). While you’re unlikely to see people doing this at Wild Rover, it is something to bear in mind if you are drinking with locals.
What is your favourite beer from South America? Let us know in the comments below!