Beer Festival in Buin: A Pint-Sized Peek Into Chile's Beer Culture

It seems that everyone knows Chile is renowned for its vineyards and wine but after drinking all I could stand of the fantastic grape juice, I found myself wondering: where are all the good beers?

Photo by Mallory Pillard
Photo by Mallory Pillard

The answer was found on a sunny Saturday (March 3rd to be precise) at the first annual Buin Beer Festival. About half an hour south of Santiago on Route 5, Buin is a town that is larger than expected, but still retains its small town Chilean charm. The Beer Fest was held at a soccer field; entry was 3,000 pesos (about $ 6.00), a price well worth paying for all the free beer samples.

Vendors in tents sold beer in large glasses while giving tasters of their own unique brews. I opted for mine in a plastic cup, but many others brought sturdy beer mugs to reuse throughout the day. The town of Buin plans to have the Beer Fest every year, and though it was intimate and quaint this year, the festival looks set to become an annual highlight to complement the growing thirst for beer in Chile.

 Photo by Mallory Pillard
Photo by Mallory Pillard

Cristian Cantillana, representing Compania Cervecera Araucania at the festival, agrees. When Compania Cervecera Araucania micro-brewery started they sold 10,000 liters each month. In a short time, they were selling 40,000 liters each month. "Now," Mr Cantillana informs me, "you can find the beer in many markets all over Chile, even Unimarc."

Unimarc? I thought Unimarc only sold Cristal and Heineken and the usual go-to, Austral. Mr Cantillana says that the beer he represents is different. Even my semi-inexperienced beer palate told me that there was something intriguing about the Grassau Allipen Ale; I ordered a large glass. The ale is brewed from the thermic underground waters of the Allipen river, from which it derives its name. Mr. Cantillana explains, "It’s the water used in the brewing that makes the beer unique."

 Photo by Mallory Pillard
Photo by Mallory Pillard

Even if you are not an avid beer drinker, the Buin Beer Fest is a fun festival to visit. They have live music, food stalls selling completos or meat skewers (the perfect beer companion), tents to shop for jewelry and clothes, a rock climbing wall and a trampoline for the kids. The strawberry or eucalyptus beer samples won't be to everyone's taste but it’s interesting to say you’ve tried it. Though not on a par with the rowdy Octoberfest celebration, it is worth the trip to take a peek inside Chile’s booming beer culture.

Buin Beer Fest.
March 3+4, annually
Av. Manuel Rodriguez #755 Buin, Chile
Price: About 3,000 pesos
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