Beervana: An ‘Ohm’-age to Cervezas Artesanales

While the craft beer renaissance is well underway in the United States and many parts of Europe, Chile's awakening is just beginning. If you find yourself longing for the abundant and eclectic beer selection once available to you in your hometown, the owners of Beervana, Ben Wood and Perry Hirsch, are here to end your suffering.

Photo courtesy of Maria Francisca Opazo
Photo courtesy of Maria Francisca Opazo

Beervana, located at Avendia Los Leones 106 in Providencia, operates as a retail store and distributor to various establishments throughout Chile’s metropolitan region. The team met two years ago through mutual friend Jaime Ojeda, owner of Loom Brewing Co., and began to put pen to paper almost immediately. The store will be celebrating its one-year anniversary this December.

It may be tempting to consider them the craft beer saviors of Chile, but, as long time beer lovers themselves, Ben Wood admits that the motivation for the store was not entirely altruistic.

“It was sort of a selfish thing that we wanted to bring these beers here,” he says. Regardless of their intentions, it worked. Their inventory has been incredibly well received and they boast the title of "Most Awarded Importer" in all of Chile.

Photo by Carmen Paulson
Photo by Carmen Paulson

However, the business began with a good deal of apprehension. Knowing the Chilean pallet falls on the sweeter side of the spectrum, they wondered if their unconventional selections would connect beyond the expat population in Santiago. Remarkably, today, 95 percent of their clientele consists of Chileans looking for something new and exciting to drink at home and stock in their pubs. Even more surprising, their best selling brews are India Pale Ales (IPA’s) – perhaps one of the least approachable and most distinct styles.

If there is anyone in this city you should trust to be your spiritual beer guide, it would be this duo. Beervana’s goal is to be as accessible as possible. Newcomers to craft beer are encouraged to step in for thoughtful recommendations. Customers can also “create your own” six-pack for those who want to sample from across Beervana’s wide selection.

The store holds three large refrigerators, each consisting of beer from a different part of the world; one dedicated to US beers, including Ballast Point, Anderson Valley, Rogue Ales, and Devil's Canyon; another to European beers, including Evil Twin, Duvel, and Tübinger; and the last to Chilean beers, including Jester, Granizo, Cuello Negro, and Rothhammer.

If you are looking for a place to pick up a six-pack of Heineken or some other vaguely beer-flavored water before hitting the town, think again. When asked why he declines to carry these generic brands, Ben Wood says, “I’m not a beer snob, I’m a beer nerd. If someone offers me an Escudo, I’ll drink it. It’s a beer. There’s just nothing exciting about it.”

Photo by Carmen Paulson
Photo by Carmen Paulson

Even so, Ben’s definition of craft beer is much less rigid, and much more Zen, than other fellow self-proclaimed beer nerds. While some experts say a beer must use specific ingredients and produce a limited amount of barrels per year to be considered “craft,” Ben feels the true distinction of a cerveza artesenal comes down to intuition. “I kind of compare it to punk rock,” he says, “you know it when you hear it, you know what they’re going for, and you can tell when someone is just doing it for the money.”

Even with only about 100 breweries from Patagonia to San Pedro, Chile is already starting to do great things with beer. According to Ben, Chile has the potential to go even further by challenging popular styles of the craft and finding its own niche.

He believes Chile’s advantage is that it possesses hundreds of ingredients that do not exist in other parts of the world. It is only a matter of time before Chilean brewers stop imitating the styles of the US and Europe, and start to realize their country’s organic potential.

His hope is that unique fruits like cherimoya and lúcuma and astonishingly cheap vegetables like avocado will start making their way into Chile’s cervezas.

So, if you find yourself craving something colder and more refreshing than wine this summer, or you are growing tired of the Pisco hangovers, then join the newly converted Chilean beer zealots over at Beervana.

Photo by Carmen Paulson
Photo by Carmen Paulson

Beervana
Providencia
Av. Los Leones 106 (y San Pio X)
(02) 2335-2295
Mon-Tues 12:00 to 20:00, Wed-Sat 12:00 to 21:00
Metro Los Leones
http://www.beervana.cl

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