The nearest we get to artisan beer in Venezuela is Tovar. It’s not artisan in the Seattle, bathtub-in-the-garage sense of the word artisan but it’s certainly a step up from what the urinary tract breweries normally pump out here.
Tovar beer comes from Colonía Tovar, a Bavarian town up in the hills about 2 hours from where we live — the same town where, in 1843, someone brewed Venzuela’s first beer. It’s nice to know that descendants of German immigrants have brewing beer up in the hills for quite a while, but it’s unfortunate that their expertise hadn’t trickled down the mountain to the masses below until 1999 when the company Cervecería Tovar opened its tap, so to speak.
Last Saturday the folks at Topotepuy Gardens (worthy of its own post) teamed up with the brewmaster at Tovar to offer a garden tour and beer tasting to the first 100 people to sign up. So I organized a group of guys to go according to the birthday wishes of Mike Simpson, a third grade teacher from New Zealand. (It’s is important to mention his nationality so you can imagine in your mind the type of drivel he might have been spouting in the pictures below.)
The first hour of the event was spent on a lovely tour of the gardens that most of us had done at least once before. The gardens are really spectacular, and I’m really into vegetation, but when the tour guide gets a question about the beer bottle plant, you know people are thinking of other things. After the tour we sat down to an hour long talk about the history of Cervezería Tovar and the beer making process. It was interesting enough (basically, they follow the Reinheitsgebot, or Bavarian Purity Law), but I did feel bad for those in our group that don’t understand Spanish. It must have made for a long, thirst-inducing hour.
At the end of the talk the brewmaster showed us how to properly pour, smell, and taste a Tovar beer. It was a magical moment; we could hear the Disney soundtrack in the background…you know, when Ariel transforms back into a mermaid. Our beer tasting event was transforming back into a beer tasting.
Though the word “tasting” generally implies more than one beer to taste, Tovar currently only makes one type of beer. So after we each perfected the pour-smell-taste method we gathered around the tables in the garden to transform the beer tasting event yet again, this time into one of beer drinking. The sun came out and the caterers began bringing around finger food and the bartenders never denied our requests for more bottles. Mike Simpson couldn’t imagine “a better way to spend a Saturday.”
On our way out we chatted with the brewmaster who informed us of his plans to start selling an unfiltered, slightly darker variety. Apparently it has been in the works for a few years (i.e. mired in bureaucratic regulatory processes), and he offered to send a case to our school when it is soon available. According to Mike Simpson, that makes this brewmaster a “dead-set legend.”
Enjoy the photos below. Most are courtesy of Nadjib.