Did you know that there’s a Beer Judge Certificate Program (BCJP) when it comes to beer tasting? I suppose I always assumed that something of this nature existed. But, beyond my amateur enjoyment of craft beer and the different varieties now available to the public in Colombia, I never before thought to read up and put the tasting criteria to the test. And as we are now all connoisseurs of ordering take outs, pick-ups and anything else via Instagram during this endless pandemic, I decided to test out two beers which have been on my radar for a while. It seemed correct to group them together, not due to the similar styles but because both brands, La Roja and La Trocha are brewed by former FARC guerrillas reintegrated into society.
My belief is that in these particularly challenging times, more than ever before, one has to help out small businesses in any way possible. This includes the small breweries. Those of you that listen to the Colombia Calling podcast will remember that we featured the Cerveceria Sudaca on Episode 361 and quite a while ago, Wally Broderick spoke to us about La Roja and his participation in the brewery project with the former FARC guerrilla members on Episode 285 in July 2019.
Just in case, what follows below is the briefest, most superficial and condensed history of the FARC.
A quick and superficial recap on the history of the FARC: The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) was a guerrilla group started in the early 1960s aimed at toppling the Colombian state and installing a Marxist-Leninist political system. Over time and various nefarious events such as thousands of kidnappings, bombings, assassinations, rapes, forced recruitment and further crimes against humanity, the group itself started losing its political direction as the 1970s ended and the 1980s began. International funding for their cause became scant as the Cold War drew to an end and in addition to kidnapping and hostage-taking, the guerrilla outfit moved into the cocaine business. First, they charged a protection fee, then they became actively involved in all levels of the industry. To keep this short and focus only on the FARC, the group engaged in peace dialogues with the Colombian government’s negotiating team in Cuba in 2012 and in 2016 an historic agreement was signed. Guerrillas began reintegrating into society from this point on and seeking to set up businesses and join Colombian society. There are dissident factions to the FARC now which remain involved in criminal activities but the majority of the former combatants that laid down their weapons in 2016 remain committed to the peace process.
Back to the beer:
What’s a Beer Flavor Profile?
There are five categories that the BJCP and others consider when evaluating beer:
This is my opportunity to write a totally outrageous and pretentious review of three beers and wax lyrical with you to discuss the nectar-like elixir delicately coating my trachea and lifting me up on to a higher plain as if transported to a parallel Elysian experience…but that’s not my style.
The three beers are decent, better than decent in fact. Out of the two options I tasted of La Roja (a red and a blonde), I preferred the blonde and feel that I would appreciate this beverage in more temperate weather, specifically not on a chilly Bogotá day. The red lacked in depth a little, but that will come with time as the style and brewing methods are tinkered with and improved. Overall though, I enjoyed La Trocha the most. I do enjoy a Porter style beer and find them lacking here. La Trocha is not yet comparable to a London Porter, but it’s not too far off and is definitely setting a benchmark for other dark beers in the region.
Before someone else leaps on the bandwagon, the irony is not lost on me that I’m supping these drinks from the comfort of my home amongst the Bogotano oligarchy in Estrato 5, with the most neoliberal and capitalist buildings such as the Bolsa de Valores in plain sight and these are beers born of those in a violent struggle against everything that my immediate environment represents.
The best recommendation I can give is that I’d buy all of these beers again unhesitatingly. These are not “blood beers” as one person has described them. Try them and support start-up businesses that need your help, now more than ever.
Tune in to the weekly Colombia Calling podcast for a more interesting look at Colombia. Find the podcast on all of your favourite platforms.