Barbarian microbrewery starts craftbeer revolution in Lima

by Diego M. Ortiz

Three friends from Lima turned their hobby of brewing into a full-fledged beer company. Now these “Barbarians” are set to start a craft beer revolution in Peru.

Barbarian microbrewery starts craftbeer revolution in Lima

Juan Diego Vasquez, Diego Rodríguez and Ignacio Schwalb at Cañas y Tapas. (photo: Facebook)

Out in the Molina District there are three friends who grew tired of drinking the same hackneyed industrial beers every weekend. They wanted something more, so they started up their own brewery. Now they’re the owners of Cervecería Barbarian, a craft brewery business that’s growing faster than the three friends could have ever imagined.

The group of friends, Diego Rodriguez, Juan Diego Vasquez, and Ignacio Schwalb, are self-desrcibed “beer geeks.” After finishing university they started brewing on the weekends as a hobby. Their first batch was only 3 liters and now they’re making around 1,00 liters per month, with the goal of making 5,000 liters per month once they move to their new plant. 

That’s pretty impressive for a group of guys in their mid-twenties who started brewing out of their parents\’ garage a few years ago.

“This all started after I came back from studying in the U.S. and seeing how popular the craft beers were up there,” Rodriguez said. “We figured it’s cheaper for us to make the beer we like  ourselves than buying it in the store. We all said, ‘let’s do it.’” 

Around the same time they met a Chilean friend who helped them get the necessary ingredients: malt, hops, and yeast. All which are hard to find in Lima.

The first batch they made changed the way the saw things. They decided to get serious about their recipe and little by little they kept improving their technique, correcting their mistakes along the way and increasing the size of their batches. As the equipment improved so did the beer. 

With Vasquez and Schwalb’s background as industrial engineers they started building their own brewing equipment. They traded in Vasquez’s mom’s pots for stainless steel barrel used for fermenting their malt.

The three owners of Barbarian at their current plant in la Molina. (photo: facebook)

By the end of 2011, after months of refining the recipe, the guys were ready to reveal their first craft beer to the world: Barbarian Red Ale.

Using Rodriguez’s experience in business and financing, they managed to register their business and convinced the owners of Cañas y Tapas Bar, in Miraflores, to sell their beer. The Red Ale sold out on the first night it was on tap.

Banking on the success of Barbarian Red Ale, the group has added two more beers to their selection: Porter Chaski and 174 IPA.

It all started with the Red Ale, which the guys describe as the easiest to drink. It goes down smooth and doesn’t have a very bitter taste. 

“We think this is the best option for the Peruvian consumer to be introduced to the craft beer market,” Rodriguez said. “It’s less bitter than our other selection and it’s perfect for the consumer to adapt.”

At 6.5 percent alcohol by volume, Red Ale has a distinctive red amber glow that comes from the caramelized malts they use. They blend four different kinds of hops, which give the Red Ale a rich aroma. 

“Since we started making beer, we decided that we would never be content with making an OK product,” the Barbarian team says. “We like what’s original and extreme, that’s what this beer and Barbarian is about.”

The next beer on tap for the Barbarian boys was the Chaski Porter. Like a good strong porter it’s got a full dark color, and Chaski has a taste of coffee and dark chocolate.

They call it Chaski, like the ancient Incan running messengers, because they think it would’ve been the ideal beer for those tired runners to drink to get their energy up on their long journeys around the empire. 

“This is the perfect beer to drink after a stressful day at work,” the Barbarian team says. “We made it to help you recharge.”

Like Red Ale, it also has 6.5 percent alcohol by volume, but its unique in that it’s soaked in powerful toasted malts and combines the classic English style of chocolate with “Barbarian strength.”

The third beer on the Barbarian craft beer menu is the most powerful to date. I’m talking about their 174 IPA.

It packs a punch with 8 percent alcohol by volume and so much malts and hops that your taste buds will start to overload.

“This is our best beer,” Rodriguez said. “It’s got a rich and full after taste that isn’t found in any other beer in Peru.”

The three friends who started Barbarian, Rodriguez, Vasques, and Schwalb, are working to make Barbarian the standard-bearer of Peruvian craft beers. Earlier this year they purchased a patch of land where they’re currently building a 500 square-meter brewery and bottling house. 

They plan to move in by the middle of this year. They hope to start producing 5,000 liters per month by the end of the year, and soon they’ll start bottling their own product. Eventually, they’ll open a chain of brewpubs where they’ll showcase their beer selection.

“This has never been about the money; it’s a passion,” Rodriguez says. “We’re beer geeks— this is what we do.”

You can try Barbarian Craft Beers for yourself at: Cañas y Tapas Bar, Restaurant Chez Phillipe, Astrid y Gastón Restaurant, Heinsley Café Bar, Lima Rugby Restobar, and American Embassy Café.