German style biergarten Hopulus is the latest in our line of craft beer reviews.
It’s not very often we come across Purity Rule puritans making traditional German-style beer in the craft beer world, but that’s at least how one might superficially describe Hopulus. Part photography gallery, part German bakery, part brewpub, and part biergarten, Galería Hopulus is a swanky little establishment nestled in Bogotá’s leafy La Cabrera neighbourhood. It’s hard to know exactly where to start with this multifaceted little gem, so let’s just start by saying it’s yet another family-owned craft brewery, run by CEO Felipe Santander and his German frau Julia Santander (CFO).
It’s worth popping in to Hopulus just to talk beer with Felipe, to be honest. The guy’s an absolute wealth of knowledge when it comes to German beer, whether it be historical brewing methods or why all Cologne breweries seem to have red branding. Felipe got into brewing at the age of 25, when he was working for Siemens in Nuremberg. That part of Germany, Franconia, famously has the largest density of breweries in the world, making Felipe fell in love with the idea of micro-brewing, soon getting round to doing it himself. He did some courses at the prestigious Doemens Academy in Munich, where he crossed paths with a 22-year-old Venezolana called Emily.
Back in Colombia, Felipe started on the same 30L equipment all us homebrewers are familiar with, toiling through seven batches a night in order to fill up his massive fermenters. He was about to start Hopulus as a solo-brewer when two weeks before production he was emailed a CV by Emily’s mentor, Alexis Bolívar. Alexis had been working for Venezuela’s biggest brewer, Polar, for 18 years (they’d even sent him to hone his craft in Germany 10 years prior), and was now looking for a job across the border. Now Santander and Bolívar make German-style craft beer in Bogotá.
As I mentioned in the intro, Hopulus is also an art gallery, funded by the beer, specialising in photography. Felipe invites photographers from all around the world to exhibit their work at the brewery. He has a Hopulus-branded 4WD for camping in the Colombian wilderness on week-long photography trips, and hopes to get the company’s name on as much adventure photography as possible, in the same way that Red Bull does with extreme sports. In fact, Felipe took the Hopulus-mobile out into the Llanos Orientales with the Colombian winner of the 2020 World Wildlife Photo Award, Gabriel Eisenband, only a couple of weeks ago. Gabriel’s work is set to go on display at Galería Hopulus later this month.
Hopulus currently makes two lagers (Helles and Keller) and two ales (Koelsch and Hefeweizen). The Keller is a dark lager, traditionally from Nuremberg, and Felipe roasts the malt himself on a tiny little coffee roaster in one kilogram batches, the day before brewing. Rare as that is though, I thought I’d talk a little more about the Hefeweizen, as craft brewers tend not to bother with this style nearly as much as one would expect, considering their popularity and ubiquity in Germany. For me, this is by far the most German type of beer, and was my first taste of a foreign ale-style back when I was a young buck in Australia – ‘hang on, this beer tastes like bananas!’ Yes, it’s supposed to, and Hopulus’ Hefeweizen properly delivers on it too. This flavour comes from the yeast and is intensified through ‘yeast management’. Felipe reckons it’s so nutritional that the Germans have it for breakfast. There’s a nice little tartness, as one would expect from a wheat-driven beer, and while I’m no German beer connoisseur, I’d say this beer stands up well against its German cousins.
How to get ‘em
The best way to get hold of any of these beers is to pop into Galería Hopulus in person, take a look at the stunning photography on display, then hope there’s a free table in the beer garden out the front. Just like everything the man does, Felipe’s designed the spot to replicate a traditional German biergarten, down to the stress-reducing gravel floor, which, like sand at the beach, ‘stops you from going fast’, he says. He also says, ‘the moment you walk into our beer garden, your feet sink into the ground and you’re forced to slow down, relax.’ Can’t argue with that I guess, stress like this must be combated. I highly recommend putting this to the test with a plate of their pork knuckle, which I can vouch for first-hand.
You can find Galería Hopulus at Calle 81 #8-60. It’s open from 12pm to 8pm Tuesdays to Thursdays, noon to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 10am to 6pm on Sundays.
If you’d rather stay at home though, message Felipe on 321 241 5504. Delivery costs $5mil and they go out Tuesdays and Fridays. They sell all their beers in cool-looking, easy-to-hold tubes, and these’ll set you back between $30mil and $35mil, depending on the beer. They also do loads of traditional Germanic food, such as apple strudel and pork knuckle.