Traveling Tuesday: Better Cerveza in Peru

Hoperatives Erin (#102) and John (#13) got married this summer and spent a 2 week honeymoon in Peru.  While not treking through the mountains and the rainforest, they were out searching for great food and drinks (including, of course, some beer).

John enjoying the most popular beer in Peru: Cusqueña.  It’s a standard lager with a good malt backing and nice hop finish. Very refreshing.

Peru didn’t have much variety in terms of beer options, but there was no shortage of interesting and delicious beverages. Inca Kola is the nuclear yellow, bubble-gum flavored soft drink from Peru. You can usually find it at Jungle Jim’s and sometimes at some Krogers. Make sure you brush your teeth afterward!

Cusqueña also makes a dark “Malta” variety. The overt sweetness of the malt was a little too much. It reminded me of when I’ve made a really malty homebrew and it hasn’t fully fermented and/or conditioned yet.

What pairs well with Peruvian beer? Cuy, of course! What is cuy? You probably don’t want to know.*

We avoided alcohol most of our time up in the mountains because we were more than 10,000 feet above sea level and needed to acclimate to the thinner air. Happily, one of the best ways to prevent and treat altitude sickness is by drinking delicious coca tea. Peruvians have been growing coca for over 5,000 years, but the US’s lust for cocaine in the past 50 years or so means that coca is banned in our country. Sad face.

Feeling adventurous? Seek out a hole-in-the-wall bar where only the locals go, and ask for some chicha. Chicha is a homebrewed corn beer adored by people in the mountains (you won’t find it made commercially). Traditionally, corn is chewed and then spit into a bucket – the maker’s saliva helps instigate the natural fermentation process. I was assured that most people no longer make it this way…but I’m dubious of the truthfulness of that.
Our chicha was served directly out of the primary fermenter – notice it is unfiltered, and there’s about an inch of yeast/setiment at the bottom of the glass. Despite the low alcohol (usually only 1-3% ABV), the aroma is very alcoholic. It smells like a fermentation tank at a bourbon distillery (think: Maker’s Mark tour). Surprisingly, the taste is mildly sweet and incredibly refreshing.  It has a kind of soft drink quality to it.  And at ~35 cents for this entire glass, you’ll have more than enough money left in case you need a chaser.

After 4 days of hiking in the Andes Mountains, you better believe that we celebrated our arrival at Machu Picchu with a Cusqueña!…and some chicha.

Salud!

-John (#13)

*Before you pass judgment, ask yourself: is eating the muscle and flesh of a chicken/pig/cow (or whatever your culture finds it okay consume) really any different?

One Reply to “Traveling Tuesday: Better Cerveza in Peru”

  1. Wonderful stories from both Erin & John. What a way to kick off a marriage: with exotic brews (including the Coca Tea).

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