In our series about craft beer breweries in Bogotá, we look at Vistalegre.
They may not be as well-known and established as some of the other craft breweries we’ve covered so far, but Vistalegre, in the far north of Bogotá, is one of the best examples here of the grass roots aspect of the industry. If you’re after a brewer who’s had to start with the very basics and make do with what he has at hand, Daniel López is your man.
Daniel’s brewing story is a family one and goes all the way back to his father, Miguel, and his grandfather, Gonzaga, who had a rum distillery in the small Venezuelan town of Caicara del Orinoco. After having grown up with rum barrels and alcohol all around him, Miguel came up with the idea of continuing the family tradition of grog supply and trying a bit of homebrewing when Daniel was about 13. Miguel was working for the World Health Organisation at the time and had stumbled upon a couple of homebrewing books during his travels, so in the early 90s, he and Daniel started brewing in Caracas.
The Venezuelan capital at the time wasn’t exactly brimming with homebrew supplies though, so even when Daniel was able to pop over to the States to bring back supplies, it was still nigh on impossible to get hold of any other ingredients back home. In the early 00s, Daniel’s friend in Ireland managed to find a homebrewing shop over there, from which he was able to get hold of some Cascade hops and yeast. By this point it was finally possible to find malted barley in Venezuela and Daniel was able to get started on his dream.
Daniel’s quick to admit that the first few batches were nothing special, but as he researched the art more and small homebrew supply importers began popping up in Caracas, he improved his craft and started selling beers to his friends. He soon found himself making more money selling beer than he was pulling in at his university job, and founded Old Dan’s in 2011.
As the situation in Venezuela continued to deteriorate, Daniel finally made the decision to up sticks and was able to find some investors to help him set up Vistalegre here in 2016. It hasn’t been an easy ride, but towards the end of last year they finally found themselves getting to where they wanted to be, with a reasonably sized brewery, a cute little taproom upstairs and a growing reputation, only for Covid-19 to hit. Vistalegre has fortunately survived the pandemic, which sadly can’t be said for all Colombian craft breweries, and has had to adapt to a more domicilios-based approach to make up for lost taproom sales.
While Vistalegre’s beer recipes are constantly evolving, Daniel still makes the same three styles of beer he made 10 years ago in Venezuela – a blonde ale, an amber ale and a smoked porter – as well as a recently added saison. The La Ahumada Porter has deservedly won awards both inside and outside Colombia, including a gold medal in Venezuela and a bronze in Panama. It’s unique, it’s as smoky as it promises to be, and it’s by far my favourite of Vistalegre’s beers.
However, it’s now a seasonal beer at the brewery and won’t be back for a while, so I’d better talk about my second favourite of Daniel’s offerings instead: the Boreal American Amber Ale.
The Boreal is nicely distinct from most amber ales. The sweetness is still there, but the caramel malt provides more of a stout-style ‘burnt toast’ note, rather than the dry biscuity malt hit that most amber ales have. Daniel uses Simcoe hops (much more popular in IPAs and more hop-driven beers), which gives a big citrus and pine edge to the beer, again making it somewhat unique as an amber ale. It starts off surprisingly tart, but this soon subsides and it ends up being an eminently smooth easy-drinker.
Where to get ‘em:
You can currently find Vistalegre beers at Carnivoros and the 2600 Brauhaus, just a couple of blocks from Parque 93. I highly recommend checking out the brewery and taproom though, which you’ll need to organise ahead with Daniel (details below).
Outside of this, it’s all domicilios. Vistalegre currently sells the Saudade Saison, Boreal and Summer Blonde, all of which will set you back $40,000 COP (plus delivery) for a six pack (you can mix and match to your heart’s content), and $144,000 (free delivery) for a slab of 24. Deliveries go out on Thursday and Friday, and you can pay with either cash, Nequí or bank transfer.
To order, simply get in touch through Instagram or hit up Daniel himself on WhatsApp on 310 331 1904