In Ecuador, everyone drinks Pilsener. It’s just what you do. It’s a sponsor of a major soccer team, its logo is seen plastered everywhere.
But there is also Club, or Club Premium I should say. It comes in a small bottle and is branded as a higher end option, yet tastes pretty similar.
For the vast majority of people who visit, or even live in Ecuador, that is the extent of their Ecuadorian beer experience. Pilsener or Club (both brewed by the same big brewery, Cervecería Nacional Ecuador, part of SABMiller).
However – there are more options.
Club Roja, Dorada and Conquer are found in some places. If you’ve tried them all that’s great, but you’ve still missed the best. As these beers are still brewed by the big brewery!
The good news is that there is a growing craft beer scene emerging in Ecuador. With a bit of effort you can unearth companies like Cerveza Umiña, Roche’s Brewery, Cherusker and Montañita Brewing Company.
Find these craft brewers and your beer selection in Ecuador suddenly includes stouts, IPA’s and strong Belgian-style tripel ales! Flavours like chocolate, hops, bananas and raisins can be found in decently complex, small-batch brewed beers.
I wasn’t able to sample all the craft beer in Ecuador (sadly none of it exists on the Galapagos Islands yet, where I spent most of my time), but I managed to sample a mix of eight different macro and micro brews from the country. I shall return sometime in 2013 to try the rest…
Popular Beers of Ecuador
Pilsener by Cervecería Nacional Ecuador
This is easily the most popular beer in Ecuador. Yes, it is grainy. It has a bit of sweetness that makes it taste decent when cold. A typical corny, light lager beer that is great in the Galapagos and heat of the day or for a long night outs at the club. It is better than many macro lagers in Canada or the US, so don’t be gutted if it is the only beer you can find.
This very light coloured lager comes in a green bottle. It is quite sweet, and is often slightly skunked – but still drinkable. Fresh it’s a better lager than Pilsener but not by much and it’s not usually fresh. Different flavour profile, not quite as grainy, yet no flavours that really stand out either. Not worth paying more for than Pilsener, except to say you tried it.
Club Premium Roja
Roja beers seem to be all the rage down in South America right now. A little darker than your typical lagers, but still usually pretty generic. In the case of Club Roja, it is an amber ale colour and decently malty for a South American brew. It sustains a lingering, foamy head which is also a nice surprise. No skunky aroma and no off-taste. Quite drinkable, even when not ice cold. A big step up from regular Club or Pilsener offerings.
Craft Beers of Ecuador
I enjoyed the Roja, Rubia and Tripel offerings from Roche’s microbrewery at Mulligan’s Pub & Grill in Quito.
This is a medium orange-red colour beer. It has little head but is bursting with a strong musty, malty aroma – fitting for the style. More rough than sweet. Undertone is some mild fruit, like bananas.
You will notice a bit of alcohol on this one yet it drinks smooth, with a very nice bitter finish. Not hoppy, just solid flavours and smells here. Overall this beer tastes good, a solid upgrade from the usual beer suspects in Ecuador.
Tastes slightly metallic and tinny. Somewhat disappointing. Took some time to get from the keg without a glass of head, ah well it’s been around for a while I assume. But wait, there is hops in this beer. Or something. Flavour exists. Let’s look at this blonde beer closer…
Wet on the lips at first but indeed there is a strong bitterness factor. It’s a moderate orange colour, slightly lighter than the Roja. Aroma has hints of papaya or something exotic once you get past the tininess. That papaya is prominent on the taste as well. Clingy, sticky head on the glass shows this beer still has character.
Getting through the beer more it is less tin and more beer flavour. Lots of potential here…need to find a fresh pint of this next time as it has gone stale and lost its zip.
Oh – but even with the tinned taint, I’d drink this beer stale over a Club or Pilsener any time.
Roche Belgian Tripel
Required a double pour from tap as the keg was head heavy. Glass arrived 90% full, but it’s a 7%+ beer so can’t complain about that.
How about that – a strong Ecuadorian beer! It is reddish in colour though, a bit odd, as many Triple style beers are a light blonde, yellow colour.
It smells yeastier than the other beers, with a bit of a spicy mix to it. No huge floral bouquet like the great Belgians but can you really expect that? Alcohol is fairly evident but not overpowering.
A definite stronger beer that has been spiced up. Drinks more like a strong Belgian ale than a tripel as it has good complexity. Perhaps the best South American brew I’ve had – it really changes it’s profile from start to finish. I can’t quite put a finger on the spices. Not your typical coriander and citrus twist. It’s deeper, thicker than that. Let’s say some ginger, some very mild raisins. I’m probably over-analyzing it.
Unique among brews I’ve had in South America. First beer in Ecuador I’ve had that has a lingering finish with a flavourful profile right to the end. Good effort, would love to see a fresher, livelier version. So many flowers, herbs, fruits and options around locally in Ecuador…take advantage of it!
This was sold as the ‘artesenal de la casa’ beer at Brau Plata in Quito, but pretty sure it was from Roche Brewing.
Big chocolate flavour, whoa a stout with substance! This was a dark brown beer with a reddish hue that had a small clingy head and a chocolate, sweet smell. Oddly this stout was served in a wheat beer glass, a bit puzzling but all good.
The taste is what pleases most though. It’s a medium-bodied stout with a bit of chocolate, coffee and toffee all mixed together. Heaviest on chocolate, the overall taste is sweet with a enjoyable coffee bean finish.
Well balanced, better than some stouts I’ve had at home from Canada or the US! Almost as enjoyable as the tripel.
Enjoyed at Cherusker Cervecería Alemana in Quito, a nice bar with their own microbrews. This is a good smelling brew, not overt, not subtle, just a nice balance. Roja seems to be a relative term in Ecuador, as this is more orange than anything.
Taste is decent, simple, not as good as I expected. No stand out flavours for good or bad, just a safe beer with some flavour. Cherusker was a very friendly place, with a great vibe. I would have liked to have had time to enjoy more of their beers, but will have to return.
When I was in Ecuador in late 2012 Cerveza Umiña was only selling their beer online, available for delivery to your home, hotel or business. I was also unable to locate any beers from Montañita Brewing Company in Quito. If you’re out in Quito, Ecuador I can recommend all of the places mentioned in this post, as well as Turtle’s Head Pub & Microbrewery as places to find a good selection of beer.