First it was the World Cup, now it’s the Olympics; all eyes are on Brazil. But Colombia is competing for space in the spotlight too – not least in terms of its delicious native beers.
Colombia is a nation of contrasts, from its culture – a fusion of European and indigenous influences – to its diverse geography of sandy Pacific and Caribbean beaches, cloud-piercing Andean peaks, and lush rainforests. Even its climates are strikingly different. Colombians traditionally divide the country into climatic zones, from the low-lying tierra caliente to the tierra templada where most of the people live and the mountainous tierra fría.
But, whether shivering at altitude or reclining on a sun-washed beach, Colombians from every region and culture are united by the enjoyment of a good beer. Becoming more adventurous, Colombia is even beginning to see the emergence of some craft beers.
Light, easy drinking lagers are most popular in Colombia, and that’s the exact profile of Aguila, the jewel in the crown of Bavaria Brewery, part of SABMiller since 2005. This lager, with more than 100 years of history, has the perfect balance of bitter flavours and sweetness. Its variant, Aguila Light, is particularly popular on the coast.
You may also notice the Aquila name if you find yourself participating in one of the traditional Colombian games often played at the same time as enjoying a refreshing beer. Americans shoot pool and the British play darts, but Colombians have a couple of their own unique pastimes.
For those who like to live dangerously there’s Colombian tejo, a game originating more than 450 years ago among indigenous warriors. The modern version involves throwing a steel disc, or tejo, into a box of clay surrounding a metal tube. The box – thanks to Spanish influences – contains paper triangles of gunpowder that ignite on impact. Players throw from a distance of about 20 metres. The highest score is achieved by throwing the disc into the tube, but exploding the gunpowder also wins points.
For the more faint-hearted there’s la rana, meaning ‘the frog’. Players take it in turns to throw 10 disks from a distance of 3.5 metres at a rana table. The aim is to successfully throw as many discs as possible into one of the table’s holes. Each hole carries a different number of points and the player with the highest score at the end is the winner.
And for those who want to enjoy Aguila’s crisp flavour without alcohol, the Bavaria Brewery team recently developed Aguila Cero, the first non-alcoholic SABMiller beer in South America, which is proving increasingly popular.
In that same spirit of catering to all tastes, Bavaria brews a number of other refreshments besides Aguila across its six brewery sites and five bottling plants. There’s Poker, a pale lager much-favoured in Bogotá; Pilsen, for that classic Czech flavour; Costeña, for those who enjoy a dry lager; or Pony Malta, a malt-based soft drink that has been re-popularised again in recent years. And finally, there are three varieties of premium Club Colombia on offer – Dorada (golden), Roja (red), and Negra (black) – all slow-brewed and extra matured with a full malt taste.
So there are plenty of different beer styles for Colombians to enjoy while cheering on the country’s sporting champions at the Rio Olympics – or while perfecting their explosive tejo skills.