Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cusqueña Premium

UPDATE: Additional information was found once I called the importer and found out it was MillerCoors.

About 6 months ago, I noticed that a new restaurant was going to open in a strip mall on Moana Ln. near Kietzke. It was called "El Tumi," and they specialized in Peruvian food. I thought, How exotic, I'll need to try them when they open up. And for the next half a year, I was always so disappointed driving by and continually seeing the "Coming Soon" banner still waving in front of the restaurant. I was worried that they would never open in this economy.

Well, as luck would have it, about a week ago, I noticed that they were finally opened for business. So I took my wife out to Peruvian food tonight to see how the cuisine was comparable to other Latin American food I've had while in Reno. I have to comment that the food was excellent for the price. My wife got a half rotisserie chicken for $6, and I got a delicious chicken, pork, and potato dish called carapulera for $8.95. The fried plantains were also fantastic.

But enough about the food: While I was there, I had to try one of their Peruvian beers. Of the two that were offered (Cristal and Cusqueña), I had to go with Cusqueña for no other reason that it sounded more Spanish (it's the "ñ"). Now, just from looking at their Peruvian website, I imagine that Cusqueña as a company is similar to Budweiser, mostly because it appears they sponsor all sorts of sporting events, concerts, and movies without giving a detailed history of the company of their beers.

So I called the 800 number of the US Importer, "Latam Imports," supposedly based in Fort Worth, Texas. Turns out that Latam Imports is another name for MillerCoors International Brands (which imports Cristal, as well as Pilsner Urquell and others). He directed me to MillerCoors' "Great Beers" website (click Imports and scroll down) and Cusqueña's English website (which for some reason I was unable to find) for the information I didn't get from the Spanish website. So here goes the history; hopefully it's accurate and not just a legend.

In 1908, two German brewers came to Cusco, Peru, and found that the water there was incredibly pure. So they decided to brew a European-style lager in Cusco that adhered to the Reinheitsgebot, or the 1516 German Purity Law, using this water. Enter Cusqueña (Spanish for "from Cusco"), which was first brewed in 1911 and is still apparently brewed using that same water source found 18,000 feet in the Andes. The teardrop bottle shape caught my eye when it was served to me. The bottle also contains an engraving of an Inca wall, including the famous "12 angle stone," a one-ton stone crafted to have 12 unique sides that still sits on a main street in Cusco today. (Like I said, it all sounds pretty legendary, but hopefully true as well.) (Various pages on Cusqueña's English site)

Here come the stats.

Cusqueña Premium
BREWERY: Union de Cervecerias Peruanas Backus Y Johnston S.S.A., Lima, Peru
US IMPORTER: Latam Imports, Fort Worth, TX
ALSO KNOWN AS: MillerCoors International Brands, Milwaukee, WI
STYLE: Pilsner
CALORIES/SERVING: 130 per 11.2 oz. bottle (I've also seen 140 and 143 for 12 oz.)
ABV: 4.8% (I've also seen 5%)
ORIGINAL GRAVITY: (proprietary)
MALTS: Meltcalfe, Scarlett, Caramel, and Barke
HOPS: Nuggest, Styrian, Saaz
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 36°F (2°C) (the Spanish site advocates serving it between 28 and 35°F, or between -2 and 2°C)
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Peruvian foods, I assume; also couscous tabouleh, spicy prawn stew, steamed scallops, and others

The brewery and importer came from the bottle; style, and the first three malts came from Cusqueña's Ingredients page, translated from Spanish; first brewed, calories, IBUs, the last malt, hops, and serving temperature came from Cusqueña's Facts page; and additional food pairings came from Cusqueña's Food Pairings page.

This beer was served to me in an 11.2 oz. bottle accompanied by a frosted mug, which made it look all the more delicious after I poured it. It had a foamy white head with a translucent golden color. At this point, it reminded me of Corona, but with a stronger grainy nose. The real difference between Cusqueña and other Latin-American lagers I've had is that this one had no metallic taste, which I usually chalk up to bad water when brewing. In fact, now that I think about it, Cusqueña may have been one of the best pilsners I've had, mostly because it didn't taste like it was brewed using pocket change. It wasn't skunky, and tasted malty with a little bit of a hoppy bite, but nothing even approaching an IPA. The finish was faint, with a little bit of malt and fruity notes before vanishing.

While it's not my favorite beer in the world, it's a pretty good beer considering it's from a part of the world that brews mostly forgettable lagers. It paired very well with my carapulera, and I imagine other Peruvian dishes would go well too. Since it's the height of summer, it'd even make a good thirst-quencher after a long day's work (or relaxation) in the sun. In Reno, you can pick one up at El Tumi (although they're kind of expensive) and possibly Machu Picchu, the other Peruvian restaurant in town; otherwise, your local Peruvian restaurant or store may have it. Or, use this Find Cusqueña tool I found (it may be out of date, as it only listed locations in Las Vegas for Nevada).

¡Salud y amor y tiempo para disfrutarlo!


Anonymous said...

Thanks! I am translating some text about Machu Picchu and there was this beer there... and I had to browse it:)

Anonymous said...

What happened to Cusquena Negra? It's unavailable through MillerCoors. A great beer!

Anonymous said...

I still looking for Cusquena Negra. It was available about 10 years ago, but not now???

Bob Ellis said...

My wife and I went to Cusco, Peru for our anniversary 12 years ago and fell in love with the dark Cusquena (Malta). I found your site looking for an importer, which we have not found since we came back from Peru twelve years ago. Where can one get the dark Cusquena?