03.01.2014 - 04.01.2014 21 °C
We don't exactly know how we ended up in Valdivia, honesty. It was a spear of the moment thing right after new year's while we were looking for our next stop. Valdivia seemed like a nice little university town by the water. Short bus ride and vacancy at the permacultura hostel made it a viable stop option for us. And, yes there is supposed to be a great local brewery in town...
Once in town, we hit one of those well organized and extremely professional government run tourist offices for local info to find out that, in and around Valdivia there are about 20 micro breweries, there is a comprehensive brochure on local breweries with addresses etc. Unfortunately, we don't have the time to visit all, but we figure we could at least stop by a few.
So we set out to Niebla, a small town 20 mins outside Valdivia. Local bus drops us off at Kunstmann Brewery, which is apparently the largest and most popular amongst all local beer makers. Kunstmann's got marketing sorted out. On the premises they have a bar where you can eat and drink; a beer museum where they show a decent collection of beer paraphernalia and Kunstmann history; a beer garden where they hold their own annual Octoberfest-cum beer drinking contests; and a fairly large brewery.
We sit down at the bar for a sampler set of 6 specialty beers they have on tap. Then we take the brewery tour and go thru the museum and we get walked thru the old brewery to end the tour with tasting the unfiltered Gran Torobayo (The Great Red Bull), by far the best beer they brew, not available outside the brewery.
We then get back on the bus to downtown Niebla. At the local market food court we take antichucos (equivalent of non-helal local sish kebab) and spot a booth selling Cuello Negro beer. Two bottles of smooth unpasteurized slightly hoppy refreshing Cuello Negro Ambar wash down the sausage, meat and vegetable mix of antichucos. Satisfied, full and now slightly buzzed, we start walking around town and end up the beach for a breezy stroll.
We then take the bus over to El Duende Cerveceria, another local joint highly appraised by our hostel owner. We walk in to the brewery shop and pick up a bottle of Ambar and a Negra, both recently bottled within the last week or so, thus both slightly cloudy and yeasty. Ambar is very bitter compared to Cuello Negro but the award winning stout Negra is smooth, with plenty of caramel and pleasant finish.
While sitting outside the shop sipping our beers, a young tall fella in work overalls drops in and we start asking questions about El Duende. This young fella is Gaston, the brewmaster of El Duende, who later takes us in to the brewery for an informal tour. The place is a small house with an extension room for storage and a cooler room. He walks us thru the process, which is basically the same as a homebrewing set up, with larger tanks of course. The room is filled with delicious wort smell, as a new batch of Ambar is cooking as we speak.
We thank him and wish him good luck and get back on the bus to Valdivia.
In Valdivia, we make one last brewery stop, this time not at an operational brewery but an old one that got turned in to a contemporary art museum run by the local government. The building used to be home to the first pre-Kunstmann era brewery and suffered a fire first and later, an earthquake that rendered it in operational. It was recently rehabilitated and got turned in to a museum. There are 4 halls with 4 different exhibits in this two story museum on the river. The front part with ample light and double height glazing where they used to make beer is the painting galleries now. The catacomb like back part is dark, damp, cooler and is home to video art, this is where they used to store the beer back in the days. Slightly run down now and in dire need of refurbishment, the museum will be rebuilt in the near future and become a monument that celebrates the beer culture and contemporary art in the region of Los Rios, the rivers region of Chile.
Who would have guessed that such a small town like Valdivia would offer such great variety of beer and its culture?
The answer is twofold. It goes back to the German immigrants who along with their families also brought their beer culture with them and introduced beer to the locals. And with the addition of clear and filtered waters of the Los Rios region the first beer turned out great, and proved to be a great success, still..