Calle 45 is home to a plethora of real ale bars and pubs as the craft beer scene in Bogotá is on the rise.
Can I shock you? I like beer. I like it a lot and with Christmas coming up, there’s a great excuse to exploit one of the common themes between Colombian and British culture – the need to get absolutely sideways on a big pub crawl. But Bogotá is a big city and getting around is a real pain – so you need to know you’re in the right place.
Like most big cities, Bogotá is divided into neat zones where one can find various things. From the Zona Lechona to the better-known Zona T, these zones provide an easy way to find what you’re looking for. Everyone knows that the Zona Rosa is full to the brim with drinking holes full of drunken revellers dressed like an Australian nightmare, but where can one reliably find a decent pint?
The answer lies in a part of East Teusaquillo/South Chapinero, in an area known as the eje cervecero. It’s yet to really turn up in guidebooks and is rarely mentioned in local tourist literature, so it could be considered a bit of a local secret for now. A collective of beer aficionados, some craft brewers and others bar owners, have banded together to create their own craft beer zone.
It puts the Calle 45/Parkway area at the heart of the craft beer revolution. Unlike many subcultures in the capital, the brewers often work together and avoid the petty infighting and squabbling that holds many scenes back. So, the eje cervecero isn’t named after any of the bars or brewers in particular, nor does it favour one over any other. This really is the key to the success of the project – by working together, everyone benefits. Not least of all, us punters.
Many foreigners in Colombia are dismissive of local beer, but they’re bang wrong. It’s true that artisan beer was in its infancy even until quite recently, but the scene has really taken off in the past four years or so. From a few isolated outposts only selling their own beer, there are now more and more places stocking guest beers, which makes everyone better off.
Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of IPAs buzzing around, generally very highly hopped, as well as novelty beers featuring everything from chili to chia. For those of you that aren’t looking for a cocktail disguised as a beer, the chilly Bogotá nights are perfect for rich, full dark beers. The dark side of the moon is undoubtedly a rolo speciality, with plenty of strong ales, stouts and porters for your delectation.
A word of warning, though. As in the US, craft beer is often fall-over juice. You’ll regularly see ABVs of 6% and even higher, and especially with some of the stouts and porters, touching 8% is fairly common. Naughty. There aren’t many session ales to be found, so your trip might have to be about quality not quantity.
Nothing wrong with that of course, and there’s help at hand as well. Every bar will offer almost exactly the same options in sizing – jarras running around 1.5L; “pints” (running at 500ml); and vasos running at 330ml. Depending on ABV and other factors, it’s around COP$11,000-$14,000 for a pint. No idea about vasos, because I last had a half in 2000 and immediately regretted it. If you’re not so self-conscious about wimping out, the vasos help you avoid getting stoated too fast.
There are a few places outside the official project too. There are a few BBCs dotted about, both regular versions and bodegas, although the pick of these is in the park of Calle 42 on Carrera 13. In the next park along, on the 42 just down from the Séptima, Dos Carreras have an outpost. There’s also a particularly good BBC on Parkway with Calle 39B (same block as Pubway).
Octane on the corner of 19 and 45 has a bizarre grease monkey theme and incredibly loud music to go with their own beer. Soul 45 is next to Manigua and Fábrica and features a nice overlook from its second floor semi-balcony. They have rotating guests. Herredura is to be found across the way from Cervecistas and down a bit – it’s blue and sells its own beer.
The area’s not just craft beer either – there are plenty of bars selling nacionales as well as interlopers like Corona (shudder) or Tecate (double shudder). You can find hole-in-the-wall salsa bars, a horror-themed goth bar above Bárbaros, the hipster 89-92 and more student reggaeton bars than anyone could ever want.
No shortage of options then, so where the bloody hell are ya? The 45 might just be the most interesting part of Bogotá right now, and it’s only set to grow, with new places springing up into Palermo, Galerias, Sucre and further still. Craft beer might be the focus for now, but there’s much more too – vegetarian restaurants abound, for example. For now, it retains a local feel and character, so far mostly avoiding chains and the wrong side of gentrification.
1. Slow Beer
Stock their own beers, each named after a region of Colombia. The location is good, if somewhat away from the 45 itself. Attracts a middle-management type of crowd in chinos and white shirts.
Diagonal 40a #7-40
The first bar you come to on the 45 proper, Bárbaros features an ever-changing lineup of guests and their own brews. It’s cosy, so it never feels empty and often has a cracking selection of Spanish-language punk playing in the background. Probably the most hipster bar among the lot.
Calle 45 #16-09
Stock their own brews only a few metres away from the 45 on Carrera 19. This is the closest thing to a tienda among these bars and has a down-to-earth feel, with unpretentious seating and a steady stream of locals swinging by to chat to the barfolk. A bit like being in a popular aunt’s kitchen.
Carrera 19 #44-16
The oldest of these pubs on the 45, having gone through a few changes over the years. It’s a nice big space perfect for turning up mob-handed. All the beers are named after folkloric figures and they also have an extensive collection of bottled beer. If you’re brave, take on El Mohan – it’s a dangerously drinkable strong ale.
Calle 45 #19-28
5. La Fábrica
Probably the capital’s only Latvian bar, you can get hold of various guests here, as well as bottled beer from Fomeque and Chelarte. It’s more of a café-restaurant vibe in here and definitely the most reliable place for good stomach lining. A cheeky pint to go with a hearty lunchtime sandwich? Perfect!
Calle 45 #19-36
The jefes. Run by Tres Cárites, these guys started the eje cervecero project and specialise in specialty beers. There’s always good cervezas de temporada to supplement the standard beers, which include a ginger and a chili beer. If you have an adventurous palate, this should be your first stop. They often give out free popcorn too.
Calle 45 #20-24
Run by an American migrant, this bar has a stylish industrial look to it. With beers from La Quince (Cranky being a highlight) and Gigante, the pints are just as stylish. It’s a great place to sit at the bar, although here are booths as well. The most authentically American-style place in the zone, for good or for bad.
Calle 45 #19-58
8. Statua Rota
A legend among connoisseurs of cerveza artesanal, but a relatively new arrival on the 45/Parkway scene. There’s a wide range of beers, a nice outside area and plenty of room in a wonderful old house just off Parkway.
Calle 40 #21-34
Steampunk time on Parkway itself. Not to be confused with Subway downstairs, this second floor bar is airy and good for groups. Serves Moonshine beer in big jugs. Great place for watching football or meeting Americans.
Carrera 24 #39b-56
10. Van Der
Easily the best range of beers, with a massive selection of ever-rotating guests. Hard to incorporate into a crawl, but a real destination venue. It’s deceptively large and probably the bar that manages to feel most British or Irish, if you’re missing that sort of pub.
Carrera 16 #35-8
11. Caza Pola
Hunting beer? Moonshine is the biggest game to shoot down here, although you can also set your sights on Colón. It’s nice and warm thanks to their elegant sliding glass doors. Not dog-friendly, so you decide what that says about their personality.
Calle 45 #16-95
On the fringes of the zone, but worth visiting as it stocks La Roja, the beer made by ex-guerrilleros in Tolima. Easy going vibe. Old style house. As the name suggests, easily the most leftie of the bars, so perfect for an intellectual salón debate after leaving the Universidad Nacional.
Calle 39 #25-13
13. Puerto Cervecero
There are only three beers on tap here, but it’s the range of bottles that sets this place from the rest. Most of the Bogotá brewers are represented, as well as various regional brewmasters. If you’re looking for something you can’t get hold of anywhere else, this is the place to be.
Diagonal 40a #7-40
Around the edges (One pint symbol)
Start off at the corner of Parque Nacional by ironically visiting Slow Beer for a swift couple of IPAs. Then set sail across the cloister of the plaza to Puerto Cervecero and enjoy a couple of exotic bottles before wandering up the Séptima to Dos Carreras, the BBC or cut down onto the 45 to Bárbaros. Or play it wild and head south to Van Der.
Grand houses of Parkway (two pint symbol)
Start at the Statua Rota for a sundowner in their garden. Once it’s dark and being outside isn’t so fun, roll on to the steampunk second floor at PubWay. Once that’s done its job, over Parkway and on to Lubianka for an intense argument about politics.
Loaded and Lazy (three pint symbols)
Can’t be asked to walk, or worried that the potent brews will have you on your arse? Here’s a nice easy walk. Start at Rola for some relaxed friendly beers. Then your big 200m walk to Manigua, where there’s plenty of seating. After that, it’s about 5m to Fábrica and something to eat, before a half-block to Cervecistas to finish off. Sorted!
Stretch your legs (four pint symbols)
If you fancy burning off some of those calories, try this lungbuster. Start at Puerto Cervecero for a nice light bottle or two. From there, head south to Van Der and get some draft down your throat. Then hit the 19 and walk to Rola. After a short rest, up sticks again and smash it to Statua Rota just before Parkway, before Lubianka just the other side. Then smash it back up the 45 to return to somewhere like Cervecistas or Manigua. You can justify the alcohol by pointing to the calories burnt by walking.
45 Pure (five pint symbols (or more)
Start at the home of the movement at Cervecistas. Get loaded on their ginger and their chili beer, before cheerily breezing up to Hops to hang out at the bar and chat with the barfolk. From there head towards the mountains a block and fall into Fábrica for some stomach lining and a pint. From there you can stay on the same WiFi and shift next door to Manigua to tease yourself with a Mohan or two. That’ll give you the confidence to justify a nightcap at Bárbaros “because you’re walking it off” and maybe a cheeky pint at Caza Pola on the way. If you’re celtic or double hard, add any of Octane, Herredura, Soul 45 or the BBC to that list.