domingo, 13 de abril de 2008

Tubinger: the new brewery on the block

One of Chile’s newest—if not its newest—craft beers is Tubinger, owned, operated and conceived by Christoph Flaskamp, a German man very passionate about beer. He’s so passionate that he used to brew his own homemade ale in the backyard of his house during a time when beer-making ingredients such as hops were very hard to come by in Chile.

Passion drove Christoph into the beer industry. He was born in Germany, grew up in Chile, and studied in England. After his studies, he returned to Chile, where he worked as an English professor. He had always loved beer, and after he started brewing his own, he decided to make his passion his profession.

For Christoph, who learned his craft under the guidance of a German brew master, the tradition of beer became of utmost importance. “Beer has a very long and intricate tradition. It’s important to create beers that respect and honor the traditions originated by microbreweries before pasteurization and big-business brewing took over the market,” he said.

With ruddy cheeks, an extensive vocabulary to describe beers and an intricate knowledge of beer’s history, to me he seems to be the man who can and will forge the path toward getting Chileans not only to drink good craft beers—like Tubinger’s—but also to appreciate beer at the same level they appreciate a fine wine. I believe this because he did call me out on a few issues regarding my knowledge of beer and Chile. I’ll get to that later.

I asked Christoph for his thoughts on Compañía Cervecerías Unidas (CCU), Chile’s largest commercial brewery. CCU owns 86 percent of country’s beer market, including not only the major Chilean beers—such as the country’s two biggest beer brands, watery Cristal and Escudo—but also Royal Guard, Austral and Kunstmann. In addition, CCU has the license to produce beer brands like Heineken and Paulnar.

Since I have started this column, my mild distaste for CCU’s products has grown into hatred. It’s almost as if I have found a life calling in sharing with everyone just how bad CCU products and business practices are. Christoph agreed. “CCU is tricking all of Chile into thinking that they have diversified their products when in fact all the beers, regardless of their name and color, pretty much taste the same: like alcoholic water with a bit of coloring.” I added that Kunstmann was a sad excuse for a microbrewery.

This is where I was corrected. Christoph explained to me that Kunstmann actually forged the path for other microbreweries by reviving the tradition of quality beer production in Chile. “Before Kunstmann, Chile went through a long period where the only beer available was Cristal,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Kunstmann, none of us microbreweries would have any business.” He added, “When you drink a Kunstmann in Valdivia, the beer actually maintains the quality it had before the company owner sold out to CCU because the beer is brewed in a separate factory from CCU’s, while the Kunstmann you buy in Santiago is produced in CCU factories.”

So far, Tubinger has three beers on the market: a brown ale, a red ale and a pale ale. I tried the brown and pale ales, and they are both great. The brown ale is nice because it’s lighter than a stout but still has the earthy flavors that a stout carries. The Tubinger brown ale is a rarity because most brown ales taste like watered-down mild ale—even in England! Christoph told me he tried to “restore brown ale’s historic value as a dark ale with a large portion of roasted malt.” The taste has a strong hint of chocolate with a rounded, bitter aftertaste: wonderful beer!

As for the Tubinger pale ale, it’s refreshing and fruity without being too sweet. “Our pale ale is not like others that sometime add sweeteners that just result in too sugary a beverage,” Christoph said. “The fruitiness of our beer comes from top fermentation with brewers yeast fermented at high temperatures and, of course, a good dose of German Hallertaur hops.”

You can enjoy a Tubinger on tap at the Purammente Bar in Providencia on the corner of Bilbao and Miguel Claro. The bar is also where the biggest group of Santiago city cyclers meet in the early evening almost daily; they love their Tubinger! You can also find Tubinger at Jumbo supermarkets and select restaurants throughout Santiago

Publication: Santiago Times
Provider: Chip News
Date: April 12, 2008