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Micro Brews – A Small but Growing Beer Culture in South America

Baños, Ecuador- I have yet again gravitated to another Brewpub. This time in Baños, Ecuador. By this point I have been to quite a few South American brew pubs and tasted a fair number of micro brews in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador and they have been a mixed bag of beer brewing success. As I [...]

Baños, Ecuador-

I have yet again gravitated to another Brewpub. This time in Baños, Ecuador. By this point I have been to quite a few South American brew pubs and tasted a fair number of micro brews in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador and they have been a mixed bag of beer brewing success.

As I travel north I’ve noticed that these brew pubs are more prevalent in Ecuador given the large number of American expats choosing to live in Ecuador for similar reasons that others have chosen Panama. As they have moved south they have not only brought their wealth but their hobbies as well. Those previous home brewers have noticed that the booming brew pub market in North America is nonexistent in the south and have begun to try their hand at establishing something new in this part of the world. If it means a break from the lagers that rule this part of the world then I can only see this as the beginning of a good thing. Beer culture in this part of the world is reminiscent of the Budweiser days of the US. One or two beers in each country have monopolized the beer market and are holding it with a strong, but weak tasting, yellow fizzy fist.

The first headwinds are beginning to blow but are facing challenges. The first being the problem of establishing a market for something without a supply chain. Most places trying their hand in microbrewing are brewing with what they can get. And what they can get are usually ingredients for lagers in a lager laden marketplace. If they have been able to venture into ales they haven’t represented them well. Hops and yeast present two of the bigger supply issues but even something as simple as taps or a place to brew presents problems as these brew pubs’ popularity begins to grow.

In Baños ‘La Cascada Cerveceria’ opened their doors two months ago on the corner of the central plaza after the owners had been brewing in this part of Ecuador for the previous year and a half and selling their product in the hotel, ‘Posada del Arte.’ Throughout this time they have managed coddle together a supply chain and receive what they need on a fairly consistent basis to open their doors. Chatting with the brewer and owner they have made it quite clear that it isn’t easy down here.

Their malt is imported from Argentina through a supplier in Quito. Their malt source is consistent but it’s priced so highly they are considering establishing their own malting process to cut costs. Hops don’t grow well in this part of the world and obtaining the quantity they need has been a problem for them as well but they have been able to receive shipments from the US. The taps and much of what they use in the brewing process has been built locally. Through these rag-tag supply chains they have been able to brew some beer far better than what I’ve tasted elsewhere in South America. Their Belgian Ale is top notch and their Mora Ale is an original beer using the local mora berries (Mora – think Raspberry). Their price is right too at $2.50 per pint.

The first microbrews have begun to take shape but the real question has yet to be answered – Is the product selling? Are the locals drinking it or are sales restricted solely to foreigners?

From what I can tell it’s mixed. Travelers and expats still constitute the majority of the sales but locals seem open to trying something new. In general they don’t seem to like the hoppier style beers as would be expected but the stouts seem to do well.

The only negative side to these recent openings are that some places are opening their doors and charging for beer that should strictly remain home brew and not be a commercialized representative of a particular style. Some of these brew masters and their beers have a ways to go before it’s anything truly worth drinking. Others, I hope, will stay open for many years to come and help establish the market.

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Filed under: Cubicle Ditcher, Ecuador

About the Author:

Sam Langley left a comfortable and profitable job with an insurance company in the USA to travel the world. He has been going for years, and has not stopped yet. Keep up with his travels on his blog at Cubicle Ditcher. has written 147 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.