May 26, 2012

Panama: Istmo Brew Pub

Last night I visited Panama City's very first craft brewery: Istmo Brew Pub.  Established in 2005, they've got four cervezas de la casa, each named for a province in Panama: Colón, Coclé, Chiriquí, Veraguas.  I'll translate the best I can from the Istmo website:

  • Colón: Golden color with an excellent malt flavor, agreeable aroma, and a big hop flavor; traditional, but with body
  • Coclé: Dark color provided by caramel and black malts; thick body with a light coffee flavor, and balanced bitterness
  • Chiriquí: Deep golden color, refreshing, with a touch of caramel malt and a light smoky flavor
  • Veraguas: Copper in color, with a great body.  Its refined caramel and well-balanced flavor is obtained through a variety of malts and the use of fine hops.

I'll admit, I wasn't expecting much.  I've heard some pretty scathing reports about Istmo, but the beers were actually pretty decent.  I didn't find a whole lot a variety between them, but I think it's important to remember that this was the first place in Panama to serve their own beers.  Istmo has had to deliver something that the market will accept.  It just can't be judged side by side with the brew pubs in the US.  But to compete with the few craft breweries that have arrived in Panama and those yet to come, they may want to think about tweaking their recipes a bit to fit into the styles acknowledged by the world-wide craft beer community.

I went for a Colón, basically a golden ale, which the waitress brought out in a massive pint.  It was down right busy last night.  It's not a big place, but it has a great neighborhood atmosphere.  There's a pool table, good music, and plenty of outdoor seating.  The staff was nice enough, happy to bring out complimentary samples.  Istmo also has a good selection of imported beers, with nice prices on the Paulaner Salvator and Gulden Draak.  If you're into hookah, they've got that too.  Certainly a good place to pass the times with some friends and throw a few back.