Feature image Colombian beer blind taste test

What Happens When the Labels Are Off?

Nothing’s better than a beer to cool off from a hot day in Colombia. But which is the best Colombian beer for doing so?

Are the two mainstay Colombian beers, Aguila and Pilsen, any good or is it worth it to “splurge” (i.e. drop an extra 20-40 cents) for a Club Colombia? Or is it maybe worth it to get a craft beer for twice the price?

We put an end to the uncertainty in the only way we know how…

…with a blind taste test!

Colombian Beer Blind Taste Test Lineup
The lineup of the beers and their disguises.

For the test, we rounded up five friends and nine different lager-style beers commonly found here in Medellin. Our non-beer-drinking friend (poor thing) served us two different beers at a time. Each beer was served in a plastic cup coded with a number and as we sipped, we took notes. Once we got through all ten (one beer was poured twice as control), we had the chance to re-taste any of the beers before finalizing our individual rankings.

Here are the consolidated results, from worst to best.

Best Colombian Beer Ranking:

9. Aguila

Aguila Beer Blind Taste Test

Not a good start for the Colombia macro-breweries! Colombia’s top-selling beer fell flat on the bottom of our rankings, and it wasn’t even close.

Supermarket 6-Pack Price: 11,500 COP / $4.15 USD

What the Brewer Says:

“A balance of bitterness, sweetness, alcohol, and originality. A beer to relax, liven up, and celebrate.”

What We Said:

  • “Flavor is flat.”
  • “Would be better with some lime.”
  • “Water. Flat. Flavorless. Refreshing.”
  • “Too light for me.”

8. Pilsen

Pilsen Beer Blind Taste Test

Ouch! First Aguila, now Pilsen. The #1 and #2 most popular beers in Medellin were by far the #1 and #2 least liked beers in the test. Maybe it’s our foreign taste buds?

Supermarket 6-Pack Price: 11,470 COP / $4.15 USD

What the Brewer Says:

“The classically Paisa-flavored beer that takes you everywhere.”

What We Said:

  • “Watery.”
  • “Another plain Jane. Nice though.”
  • “All lagers seem to taste the same?”
  • “Not great aftertaste. Smooth.”

6 (tie). Costeña

Costena Colombian Beer Blind Taste Test

Costeña is brewed by Bavaria Brewing, the same company that makes Aguila. Despite being the cheaper brand, it was roundly preferred by our tasters.

Supermarket 6-Pack Price: 9,920 COP / $3.57 USD

What the Brewer Says:

“Costeña was launched in 1934 with the promise of being a beer with a unique and characteristic dry and bitter taste.”

What We Said:

  • “Tastes like the previous five. Ok, I guess.”
  • “Tastes like nothing, for better or for worse.”
  • “Flat. Stella?”

6 (tie). Bogota Brewing Company Lager

Bogota Beer Company Colombian Beer Blind Taste Test

BBC is the most prevalent high-end beer around Colombia. At bars and restaurants, it typically costs around twice as much as the other beers. Their lager definitely wasn’t twice as appreciated by our tasters, though.

Supermarket 6-Pack Price: 21,700 COP / $7.80 USD

What the Brewer Says:

“A lager fermented at low temperatures, stored in the cold for months, not weeks, is a delicious, smooth, and frothy beverage.”

What We Said:

  • “Metallic. Bitter. Watery.”
  • “Lighter, but not that bad.”
  • “Very plain. Indistinct. Perfectly fine.”
  • “Corona? Light in color and taste.”
  • “Very light. Not much flavor.”

5. Prima

Prima Colombian Beer Blind Taste Test

Prima is brewed by Colombia’s biggest supermarket chain, Grupo Exito. It’s the cheapest beer we’ve come across in the country. For some reason,  it’s not available in any bars or restaurants, but based on our taste test it may be worth it for Exito to consider expanding the brand.

Supermarket 6-Pack Price: 9,000 COP / $3.25 USD

What the Brewer Says:

Nothing. Prima is apparently too budget to merit it’s own website, social media, or any marketing collateral at all.

What We Said:

  • “Kind of caramel-y. Similar to [Apostol].”
  • “Fragrant. Interesting flavors. Not good or bad.”
  • “Same as [Apostol] or [Club Colombia]. Not good.”
  • “Strong smell. Like rum taste. Strong aftertaste.”
  • “Sweet. Most unique. Caramel.”

4. Apóstol Helles

Apostol Colombian Beer Blind Taste Test

Apóstol, with a beer-brandishing monk on its label, is a Colombia-based European-style brewery. Maybe it’s because of their European roots that their lager stood out for not being as light and refreshing as the others in the blind taste test.

Supermarket 6-Pack Price: 28,500 COP = $10.25 USD

What the Brewer Says:

“Helles is a golden lager-style beer with a balanced malty smell and taste. It has smoky notes, is moderately bitter, easy to drink, and refreshing.”

What We Said:

  • “A little darker. Like a pale ale.”
  • “Chocolatey. Not in a good way. Worst.”
  • “Kinda funky. Not a typical lager in my opinion. Grassy.”
  • “Fruity. Bitter aftertaste. Stronger.”

3. Heineken

Heineken Colombian Beer Blind Taste Test

My perception has always been, and will remain, that Heineken is all about branding and not at all about beer. But maybe I’m wrong, because even when the brand was concealed, most tasters enjoyed the taste (just not me).

Supermarket 6-Pack Price: 20,300 COP / $7.31 USD

What the Brewer Says:

“Heineken is a premium beer—open, cosmopolitan, and modern—that was brewed following the highest quality standards. This drink is the result of the true art of brewing: it’s creation is a 100% natural process, full of mysticism and focused on quality.”

What We Said:

  • “Sweet. Cheap.”
  • “Like [Apostol]. Decent flavor.”
  • “Whoa, powerful. Tastes kinda shitty. Not a fan. Almost smoky.”
  • “Probably my fave. Not too bitter or sweet.”

2. Club Colombia Dorada

Club Colombia Colombian Beer Blind Taste Test

Club Colombia is the premium line of the same company that makes Aguila and Costeña. I used to think people who paid extra for Club Colombia’s lager mostly did so to separate themselves from the common folk who drink Aguila. But maybe some people buy it because it truly tastes better!

Supermarket 6-Pack Price: 15,000 COP / $5.40

What the Brewer Says:

“It has a golden color, characteristic of beers brewed with malted barley and caramel malt, which gives it a shine and taste of its own, making it the perfect choice to exalt in any moment.”

What We Said:

  • “Flavorful like [Apostol] but not as overwhelming. Really like it. Almost a bit fruity.”
  • “A little more hops in this one. Good.”
  • “Smooth. Not bitter.”
  • “Balanced.”

1. Corona

Corona Colombian Beer Blind Taste Test Winner

This is embarrassing.

Corona is a cliche warm weather beer, not anything a true connoisseur would ever be caught dead drinking. Mexicans themselves don’t even like it! And we liked it the most. Well congrats Corona, you won the crown you’re named after.

Supermarket 6-Pack Price: 22,650 COP / $8.15 USD

What the Brewer Says:

“Refreshing and flavorful golden liquid.”

What We Said:

  • “Crisp. Tastes like a cheap beer.”
  • “Sweet. Good, flavor. Refreshing.”
  • “Smooth. Light.”
  • “Clear. Watery.”

Final Thoughts on the Best Colombian Beer

Aside from a few not-so-good tasting beers and a couple favorites, we had a hard time distinguishing between the Colombian beers we tested. We ended up concluding that the lagers commonly available in Colombia are pretty much all the same (especially after you’ve had a few).

Our recommendation? Do your own Colombian beer taste test and let us know how it turns out.

And meanwhile, when in doubt, go for the cheapest beer.


Medell
For the inside scoop on where to get this view and more exclusive tips, go to our Medellin travel guide.

And When You’re Not Drinking…

If you’re planning on doing more than just drink beer in Colombia, you can find exclusive tips and recommendations in our Medellin travel guide.

You might also be interested in  the results of other Colombian taste tests we’ve done to find the best Colombian coffee, cheese, and aguardiente.

4 comments

  1. Hey Chris, love the article. I always do blind beer taste tests with my buddies back home and the results are almost always surprising. So when I saw this article I knew it would be right up my alley.

    Like the photography too. Great article.

    1. Thanks John! I’m curious: which beers have previously won / surprisingly lost in your blind beer tests?
      If you’re ever in Medellin, give us a shout and we’ll do another blind beer taste test. As you obviously know, you can never do too many!

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