March 6, 2013

First Ever Micro Brew Fest Rocks Panama

Brewdog in Panama
Scotland's BrewDog was one of the
international craft breweries
served at the festival.
Photo credit: James Bloomfield
This weekend, the Republic of Panama enjoyed its first annual Panama Micro Brew Fest. 

Casa Bruja, one of Panama's newest craft breweries, was instrumental in organizing the craft beer festival. Richo Fernandez, Casa Bruja's Creative Director, reports that 900 tickets were sold for the event.

I asked a friend, James Bloomfield, to share a few words and some photos from the festival.

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Panama isn't exactly known for its good beer festivals.

At least, not til now.

So what happened? Well, the first Panama Micro Brew Fest happened, throwing open its taps to serve Panama a decent pinta. With more than twenty different styles of craft beer, the brew fest hosted some of Panama’s best up and coming breweries. Alongside international craft breweries such as Scotland's Brewdog and Oregon's Rogue, local legends Istmo Brew Pub and La Rana Dorada served their best, while craft beer newcomers Casa Bruja and Cervecería Legítima introduced themselves to the Panamanian crowd.

Brad Kraus Panama Brewmaster
Brad Kraus, La Rana Dorada Brewmaster,
and Pub Manager Yadir Reyes
pour some brews.
Photo credit: Oliver Wolfe
Perfectly timed to take place between the music festivals Festival Verde and Festival Abierto, Panama Micro Brew Fest made for a relaxed and entertaining Saturday. A young crowd enjoyed samples of 5am Saint from Brewdog, La Rana Dorada's Porter, and Red Ale by Casa Bruja, and proved equal to the task of downing barrels of the well-brewed suds. As the sun slipped away over nearby Ancon Hill, the festival was already five hours young. Dozens of colored lights illuminated festival-goers' faces, as they laughed, mingled, and swapped jokes and brews in the unique setting.

And what a setting! Mi Pueblito is a collection of Panamanian architecture, thrown together around a cozy “town square”. The perfect setting for a mid-sized event, the organizers did an amazing job of lighting and focusing the event; the fun was always centralized around the main attraction – the beer!

Panama Micro Brew Fest en Mi Pueblito
Panama's Mi Pueblito was the site of the event.
Photo credit: James Bloomfield

So what were my top 4 picks from the Panama Micro Brew Fest? These were my personal favorites!

1.  Dead Pony Club by Brewdog

While not a Panamanian brew, Brewdog has crafted something special out of what should be a very light beer (3.8% ABV). Relatively sweet and fruity, its dry taste gives it a bit of depth. This pale ale was refreshing and surprisingly substantial – a winning combination for a hot Panamanian day.

2.  La Rana Porter by La Rana Dorada

Swarthy and interesting, this concoction is the most characterful of the extended Cervecería La Rana Dorada brand. A chocolatey, roasted scent is left undisturbed by pretensions of sweetness at 5% ABV.

3.  Sir Francis Imperial IPA by Casa Bruja

This Imperial India Pale Ale was malty and surprisingly dense, a testament to its strength of 9.5%. More than just a number though, there was a dry, piney freshness to the aftertaste which left me begging for another sip.

4.  Brown Ale by Cervecería Legítima

A surprisingly refreshing beer, this brown ale was malty and relatively light at 4.8% ABV. While it has a relatively shallow character, the freshness was reminiscent of a pale ale, but with a slight punch. A dry, end-of-summer day helped make this one worth a second try.



This event truly bodes well for the future of the Panamanian craft brew scene. While larger international beer festivals have a more extensive range of beers, ales, and stouts, Micro Brew Fest showed real promise thanks to tight organization and some tasty picks. Some fun sponsorship was also added by DIESEL, who added some dangerously addictive flip cup action to the night. (What happens at the table stays at the table!)

Panama hasn’t seen the last of this beer fest. I, for one, will be eagerly waiting for next summer to roll around!

James Bloomfield blogs about Panamanian culture and events at Penniless from Panama.

cervezas de panama micro brew fest
Panama Micro Brew Fest beer list