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The Guatemalan Beer Monopoly & My Pursuit for an Ale

Quetzaltenango, GuatemalaWhen I arrived in Xela and got my hands on a map one of the first things I noticed was a “Cerveceria Nacional.” A national brewery? Only two blocks from where I’m staying? Furthermore, the thing is huge and takes up three city blocks. I wasn’t necessarily interested in visiting the brewery since I’ve [...]

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

When I arrived in Xela and got my hands on a map one of the first things I noticed was a “Cerveceria Nacional.” A national brewery? Only two blocks from where I’m staying? Furthermore, the thing is huge and takes up three city blocks. I wasn’t necessarily interested in visiting the brewery since I’ve been on my fair share of brewery and distillery tours but this had me intrigued. If this is a national brewery is there some type of Guatemalan national beer?


In short, yes. And it sucks. Maybe ‘sucks’ is a bit strong but it’s a fizzy, yellow lager without much flavor that sells under the name ‘Gallo’. If you care to taste it for yourself it’s exported out of Central America under the name ‘Famosa’. Until recently (as in the last seven years) the Ceverceria Centroamericana had an absolute monopoly on the Guatemalan beer market, however, InBev has made some inroads with Brahva. This is essentially the same beer as Gallo. The best lager here is Cabro Extra. Nothing phenomenal but a solid lager. When I walk into any place selling beer my choices essentially boil down to the following:

  1. Dorada Ice – I haven’t tried this since any beer that ends in ‘Ice’ is not worth drinking
  2. Gallo – I think we covered this one already
  3. Brahva – InBev’s version of Gallo.
  4. Cabro Extra – Of the lagers here this is the one to drink.
  5. Moza
  6. Ridiculously overpriced imports (Heinekin and occasionally an 80 quetzal bottle of Guinness).

In this limited beer selection there are two beacons of hope. The first is Moza which is a decent bock beer brewed by the Cerveceria Centroamericana. Unfortunately, it can only be found in 12 oz bottles and costs 15 quetzals a bottle which is more than I want to pay for a bottle of beer here. This might not sound like too much but when I can buy a liter of Cabro Extra for 30-35 quetzals the scales tip against Moza.  Even if I did drink Moza on a regular basis after drinking lagers for the past two months I was dying for an ale or something other than an average lager.

Seek and Yee Will Find…

From Quetzaltenango 2010-10
Some of your beer choices in Guatemala

Asking some fellow tourists who have spent more time in Xela than myself I found that the American micro-brew craze has emigrated to Guatemala in the form of a hole-in-the-wall bar called “Kings and Queens”. For 35 quetzals I can get a liter of Red Ale or an ok stout. Jackpot!

Side note:
All this beer talk made me thirsty so I went out to buy a liter. There is a cantina 50 ft from where I’m staying, however, all they serve is Gallo.  Thus, the bottle of Gallo in the picture above.  I guess some beer is better than no beer at all.

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Filed under: Cubicle Ditcher, Guatemala

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.