Photo credit: La Toma Cervecera
Craft Beer in Medellin: It’s Better Than You Think
Pablo Escobar. Cocaine. Drug cartels. The next big craft brew scene? Colombia is a country of several faces, and its world reputation suffered significantly during the drug wars. Unfortunately, many people know it to be a dangerous place.
However, the Medellin, Colombia that I came to know during my six-month stay couldn’t be further from that perception.
Finally able to breathe again after years of suffering, Colombia is experiencing a wave a foreign visitors as it has never before seen. In fact, tourism in Colombia has exploded by 250% since 2006. And those visitors have helped to bring something beautiful to the country.
I’m talking IPAs, chocolate stouts, coffee stouts, cannabis pale ales, amber ales, and several other incredibly delicious brews. Although it may not be the first thing that you think about when you think Colombia, it should certainly be on your radar. Let’s take a look at what I found in Medellin.
A Scene in its Infancy
Since I wasn’t old enough to experience the craft beer boom in the United States in the late 1990’s, being in Medellin gave me a taste of what it must have been like when the scene was in its early stages.
For example, we checked out the La Toma Cervecera craft beer festival in Medellin. Although we were only expecting a few different beer booths and some people hanging out, we showed up to a fifteen-minute long line just to get in the warehouse/brewery.
Once we paid for our tickets and got our mug/requisite palate cleanser (sliced chorizo), we walked into a surprisingly poppin beer festival. It was complete with multiple different independent beer companies, small booths serving artisanal food, a guy giving beer tattoos in the middle of the party, and the classic industrial layout (think exposed beams, open roof, beer tanks, and everyone sitting at wooden pallet tables).
With all of the different options to try, it was difficult to decide where to start (luckily we had time for several). The difference that stood out to me the most about many of the companies is that several of them were clearly just some friends that got together to brew some craft beer.
For example, we stopped at one booth, and the poor guy’s bottles were just exploding and overflowing one after another (we finally got a decent kiwi IPA off of him). Although not every beer that we tried was excellent (in fact, most were not anywhere close to what you might find in the US), it was pretty awesome to witness the beginning of the craft beer boom in Medellin.
With all of the different companies that showed up, you might think that it’s easy to find craft beer in Medellin.
Unfortunately, that leads me to my next point.
Photo Credit: La Toma Cervecera
Hard to find in Stores
If you’re from a craft beer-loving country such as the United States (sorry Europeans/Aussies, the beer in the US is the best), you’re going to find it quite difficult to track down a good brew in the city. In the supermarkets (yes, even in Carulla), the best that you can find is Club Colombia (not a bad beer in its own right), a few iffy imports, and some Bogota Beer Company (pretty solid, actually).
For the good stuff, you’ll have to track down the few places in the city that stock craft beer in the bar. Luckily, if you’re a tourist, that shouldn’t be that hard to do. Some of the best places for craft beer in Medellin that we found were the following places:
- The Brew House in Poblado: Carries a decent selection of their own craft beers and several other local beers. Plus, the owner is a nice guy and great to drink with. He’s always there and will probably have a drink with you if you strike up a conversation.
- La Cerveceria Libre in Poblado: About a 5-7 walk from Parque Lleras. It’s a bit away from the more touristy stuff, but the beer selection here is good.
- Ragazzi Pizza and Pastas in Envigado: Although not everyone has enough time in the city to make it out to the suburbs, this is one of the best restaurants in Envigado. Their prices are excellent, their food is great, they always have several craft beers available, and the owners are super friendly.
- The Beer Store in Poblado: This one ‘s hard to miss. It’s directly in the center of Parque Lleras, but they have a pretty good selection of beer. It’s the only place that I could find the BBC IPA in Medellin.
Although there are certainly a few other places to get craft beer in Medellin (in Poblado and elsewhere), these are just a few of the better places that I found during our stay in the city.
As Colombia continues to prosper and experience influence from people all over the world, I imagine that the craft beer in Medellin is only going to get better. Whether you have two days or two months in the city, be sure to experience the scene for yourself.