Seung and I are traveling through Chile with the intention of visiting as many breweries as possible in ten days and with the south end of the country off limits for us. I’ll try to post a few updates as we go. Our beer trek begins in Santiago.
When he first visited, Kevin Szot was “amazed at how bad Chilean beer was.” A former CitiBank career-man, he decided to move to Santiago with his Chilean wife and four children after his son was diagnosed with Leukemia.
Chileans of the Pinochet era, he says, were quite proud of Crystal, the national beer brand which accounts for seven in ten beers–and most of the rest are just different brands from the same brewery, Cervezeras Chilenas Unidas. To combat the lack of diversity and full-flavored beers, Szot began brewing four ales and one steam-style lager at his eponymous microbrewery last December.
Located in a utilitarian industrial park on the outskirts of the city, Szot Microbrewery is one of the twenty or so small breweries in Chile. Kevin prefers to call his beers boutique, conjuring the sophistication of wine, rather than “artesanal” as the others are called. The term artesanal, he says, suggests the beers are amateurish, yet according to La Cave magazine, his Stout is the best beer in Chile.
Speaking of stouts, Kross brewing in Curacavi, produces a stout that won a silver medal at the Australian International Beer Awards. Kross is run by Asbjorn Gerlach, a German who also immigrated with his Chilean wife. Asbjorn claims that he and his co-brewmaster are the only professionally trained brewers in the country – at least within the artesanal brewing scene.
Curacavi is halfway between Santiago, the capital, and Valparaiso, a port town about an hour and a half away. It’s an ideal tourism spot, hopes Asbjorn. The setting is a lovely little valley farming community. The town also boasts a chocolatier of international quality, and several chicha producers. In other South American countries chicha usually refers to a corn-based beer, but here it is basically a rustic country wine fermented in giant clay pots and served fairly young. Between the brewery, the chocolate-maker and the charming grape-covered chicha shops, Curacavi is a fine tourism pit-stop indeed.