Where to Drink in Lima, Peru

Destinations by | Apr 2016 | Issue #111
Illustrations by Sam Brewster

Despite cultivating one of the most dynamic culinary scenes in the Americas for the past decade, Lima has always lagged behind in terms of beer. Until recently, local beer came in the form of Cristal or Pilsen—industrial lagers brewed by SABMiller-owned behemoth Backus—and imports were limited to Heineken and Corona. Today, however, better beer enthusiasts will no longer be disappointed. Peru’s brewing revolution is firmly underway in Lima.

While local breweries have been appearing in neighboring countries like Chile or Brazil for at least a decade, Peru’s first significant microbreweries sprung up only in the last five years. Yet now there are dozens of small breweries in Lima, from the rapidly expanding Barbarian to the small but reliable Magdalena [facebook.com/CervezaMagdalena]. Several others operate in the interior of the country, such as Cervecería del Valle in the Sacred Valley near Cuzco, and Sierra Andina in the mountain town of Huaraz. Following in their footsteps are beer-focused bars, delivery services and homebrew classes.

Cumbres [cervezacumbres.pe], in the district of Ate, was one of the first craft breweries to open in Lima, with its beers showing up at restaurants like Nanka even before it started bottling. Peruvian ingredients drive its recipes, resulting in unique combinations like a Kölsch brewed with quinoa, a Barleywine with Peruvian coffee, an Imperial Stout with Peruvian cacao, and ales with purple corn or aguaymanto (gooseberry) and passion fruit.

In 2011 a trio of hobby brewers opened Cervecería Barbarian, which began appearing on tap at a few bars. Today, it produces 13,000 liters per month (roughly 3,400 gallons) from a 5,000-square-foot facility in Huachipa. Known for flagships like La Nena, a hoppy wheat, and L.I.M.A., an IPA with Chinook and Simcoe hops; it also brews extreme beers like Crazy Llama Barleywine, a collaboration with Evil Twin.

A string of new breweries with limited production have opened around Lima in the past few years. Saqra offers three Belgian-style ales, while Maddok brews its Capsicum IPA with rocoto chile peppers and its KamaCitra session IPA with cocona, a local tree tomato. Nuevo Mundo, in Surquillo, has six flagship brews and has become a center of the homebrewing community by selling malts and hops to the public and offering monthly homebrewing classes. The brewery is also a founding member of the Uníon de Cervecerías Artesanales del Perú (CAP), an artisanal brewing guild dedicated to promoting local beer culture, which includes Barbarian and Cumbres. In February, CAP held the second annual award program Copa Latinoamericana de Cervezas Artesanales, which judged more than 300 beers from eight countries. CAPFest, the group’s third annual beer festival, will be held this fall.

The surge of creativity by small brewers has pushed even Backus to think outside the box, creating a surprisingly drinkable, 7 percent ABV small-batch ale called Abraxas and a version of its popular Cuzqueña lager brewed with pearl quinoa, both of which are sold in 750-milliliter bottles.

111Destinations2Some of the best places to try craft beer in Lima are in bars operated directly by the breweries, a relatively new phenomenon. Nuevo Mundo Draft Bar looks over Parque Kennedy from a second-level location in the commercial heart of the Miraflores neighborhood. Choose from two house drafts and seven rotating guest taps of Peruvian beers, including from hard-to-find local brewers like Tío Luque and Planeta Bierra, plus bottles by a dozen others. Flavorful bar food like fries, chicken wings and quesadillas keep hunger at bay, while art by Samuel Gutierrez, who designs Nuevo Mundo’s labels, appears on the walls. A few blocks away, Barbarian similarly opened a bar and restaurant this spring, appropriately called BarBarian, with more than 20 drafts, both local and international.

Elsewhere in Miraflores, Cañas y Tapas has been at the forefront of the local beer movement since opening in 2011, often supporting upstart Peruvian breweries. The two-story pub has wooden fixtures and the only real selection of Belgian and German ales in town—plus it’s one of the only bars with style-appropriate glassware.

Day drinking in Lima usually means stopping at a cevicheria for the country’s unofficial national dish. Previously, the only beers you could order at famed chef Gastón Acurio’s restaurant La Mar [lamarcebicheria.com] in San Isidro were Pilsen and Cuzqueña. But times have changed, and Magdalena’s Tres Tigres, an American Wheat, and golden ales from several other Peruvian craft brewers fare better with tuna, octopus or salmon ceviche.

When Barranco Beer Company launched in October of 2013 it was the first brewpub in Barranco, a bohemian district where Republican-era mansions are being transformed into art galleries and boutique hotels. A cross between a sports bar and a beer garden, the large brewery and restaurant has a menu of international pub grub, like quinoa pretzels, purple corn pizza, or ground beef empanadas. Try Del Valle a Barranco, a seasonal Imperial Brown Ale brewed with Cervecería del Valle Sagrado that used high-altitude cacao nibs and honey, or Media Tarde Coffee Stout with beans from nearby roaster Café Bisetti.

Pops of color and hanging lights made of overturned buckets define the modern, eclectic interior of Síbaris, an intimate restobar from young chef Francesco de Sanctis that opened in 2013. The menu blends Peruvian and Mediterranean influences, with standouts like beef tartar and osso buco cooked with Magdalena Porter. The bar program offers up a varied selection of Peruvian bottles, plus pisco cocktails utilizing macerated native fruits.

Manchester-born William Wicks and his Peruvian wife opened the hipster hangout Wicks in 2014. The brewpub serves bangers and mash and sticky toffee pudding alongside a handful of beers—including Lima’s only English Bitter—brewed in the back with English malts and hops. Other Barranco spots include the century-old Piselli, with its long, hand-carved wooden bar, and 1874 Taproom, a cluttered dive bar serving up local beer brands like Invictus and Oveja Negra while DJs play late into the night.

Deeper into the suburbs in La Molina, cult butcher shop and restaurant Osso is famous for its meat tasting menu. Bottles from a handful of local brewers are available at the restaurant or for carryout, including Osso’s own collaboration with Barbarian, a smoked ale with bacon.

Chez Philippe shut down its San Isidro location a few years ago only to reappear in a Surco strip mall in early 2016. French dishes and pizza from a wood-burning oven help soak up one of Lima’s largest beer lists, with more than 90 different bottles (most of them Belgian, Spanish or German) along with Cumbres and Barbarian on draft.

Several bottle shops, non-existent a few years ago, have joined the scene around town, too. La Gastrónoma, a gourmet boutique and deli, focuses on all things local, including a handful of beers. Pop the cap off a bottle of Tío Luque’s Citra Pale Ale and pair it with organic goat cheese or other cheeses from the Cajamarca region. There’s also La Sanahoria [lasanahoria.com], an upscale minimarket with local and imported beer, however, the largest selection of Peruvian beers is from Barra Grau [barragrau.pe], a delivery service that stocks a majority of the locally brewed beers available in bottles.