Thirsty? I know I am. Especially when confronted with acute altitude sickness and the suffocating dry cold of an unforgiving Ecuadorian night. And what better way to feel less out-of-shape in need of a People Mover, than BEER? Lots and lots of beer scattered throughout the beautiful country of Ecuador like oasis of… llamas. If you’re on the gringo trail, legitimately perfected, then do yourself a favor and invest calories in these microbreweries stirring up the scene in South America. Just click on the map of Ecuador and align your travel plans with the appropriate libation:
Otherwise known as the brewery that turned me into a beer lover, rather than a beer tolerator, this brewery sells their six signature beers worldwide, championships to boot. With apt names like Dark Soul and Red Evil, and more bubbly names like Orange Cream Ale, they challenge you to free your senses despite your choice of sin. Their factory store in Quito is the centerpiece of a beer-like garden, complete with hipster food trucks— BURGERS— and year-round Christmas lights. The bartenders are more than willing to let you sample everything on tap, granted you bat your eyes and ask for heroic man advice.
Try: Coco-Ginger IPA for a real kick of aromatic flavors. Or beg for one of their specials… I died a little inside from delighting in their Apple Pineapple Pie Belgian Strong Ale.
Bandito has been a Quito staple since 2013, legendary for their American style brewery and gastropub. Think the exotic flavors of California making sweet love to the Ecuadorian rainforest, and equally fun experiments. Their Spanish colonial, complete with indoor chapel, sits pretty at the corner of a few shady streets, a stone throws away from proper Old City. Always packed, always a bit rowdy, the food and beer here delight (artisanal pizza, I think yes). The staff— stating the obvious— speaks a bit of English so congregate here if you feel lost in the bus fumes of Quito.
Try: Pumpkin Ale. Quell that inner basic bitch.
One of the more recognized craft beers in Ecuador, Brewmaster Nelson Calle founded Abysmo in 2014 after studying in Munich and Chicago. Each beer style is named after a Greek god, paying tribute to Hades, the bartender concocting spiritual drinks for those up at Olympus. You’re bound to bump into their bottles out and about in Ecuador, but they also have their own lofty brewpub in the backpacker’s district, a bit more commercialized than their rivals elsewhere in Quito. Live music certainly helps, just make sure to avoid the onion rings to save yourself from inevitable diarrhea.
Try: Aphrodita, a Braggot
Stray Dog Brewpub
Baños, renowned for its extreme sports and therefore, extreme gringo infestation, somehow remains a likable little town. It doesn’t hurt that there exists a beacon of booze on one of the traditional plazas. Founded by two expats from Chicago, Stray Dog used to go by La Cascada. Call it puppy love, but the two-story brewpub is adorned with artistic depictions of these dogs. The beer here borders on too expensive, but what else do you expect from a town that charges $3.50 for a postcard stamp? If you’re not a beer aficionado, go sit like a bum in the adjacent plaza or risk blowing your budget on a whisky ginger (Tam fail).
Try: Oro Negro, a dark Ale
Inca Bar and Lounge
Located right on the Tomebamba riverside that seems mega-European, even for Cuenca, is weathered Inca, unpretentious and almost unsure of itself. Though it doesn’t bill itself as a brewery— note the name— the Alaskan owner here are luring expats with their homemade brews. And the expats come in droves, so I reckon it’s your likely bet to meet potential suitors up there on the outdoor patio. Even if your favorite beer isn’t on tap, the Tex-mex creations are a welcome substitute. Bury your face in one of their chimichangas and forget which country you’re in for a mere moment. Open mic nights and American sports games round off the foreign vibe handsomely.
Try: Whatever is available
Little Loja is known as the Music and Cultural Capital of Ecuador. And what goes better with music and culture than BEER. Zara bills itself as Loja’s first cerveceria, created by a transplanted Texan and spinning gold in the El Valle neighborhood. If the saloon style bar doesn’t scream Texan, then maybe their indulgent wings shall. Make sure to join in during one of their live music events or stop by to watch the game. Yeehaw.
Try: Centinela Stout