It is impossible to discuss beer in Ecuador without mentioning the country’s most ubiquitous domestic offerings, Pilsener and Club. While these two beers appear at first glance to have a Pepsi/Coke type rivalry, the truth is, they are actually manufactured by the same brewery, Cervecería Nacional in Guayaquil, the largest in Ecuador (acquired in 2005 by SABMiller, the second largest brewer in the world).
Pilsener is classified as a Czech Pilsener type of beer and contains 4.20% alcohol by volume. It is also available in a Light version.
Of the two beers, Pilsener is certainly a bit more popular, however, this may speak more to its being the cheaper beer than the better tasting one. Pilsener scored a rather meager 26% on RateBeer.com with user comments ranging from:
“Your standard S. American lager. Fine, inoffensive. Nothing complex here, but nothing to complain about either. Happily would enjoy this on a hot day hiking the mountains or jungles”
to less generous reviews such as this one:
“Smells like cheap beer and sadness… The worst beer I’ve ever had.”
Personally, I am not a huge fan of Pilsener. To me it tastes light and one-dimensional… the kind of beer that you drink solely for the sake of drinking a beer. That said, a beer like this has its place. In the exact way that a Dominos pizza will never be called gourmet but, in the right scenario, can be absolutely delicious, Pilsener is perfectly drinkable when enjoyed ice-cold on a hot day, maybe while taking in a football game or sitting on the beach.
Club is classified as an American Adjunct Lager type of beer and contains 4.40% alcohol by volume. Aside from regular Club (sometimes referred to as Club Verde) they also offer Club Roja and Club Negra, though these two variants are not always as easy to find as the original.
Club scored a 48% on Ratebeer.com. One commenter said:
“Quite a pleasant beer for Ecuadorian standards. Nice hops note. The best commercial pick here.”
Though Club received more generally favorable reviews than Pilsener, several complained about a “skunky” aroma and weak head.
Personally, I find Club to be a very drinkable lighter beer with a crisp finish. Although I prefer Club over Pilsener, it is still what most would consider to be a very average, mass-produced beer. The same, though, might not be said of the Roja and Negra variants.
Club Roja is an amber colored beer with a nice malty taste that is much deeper and more complex than regular Club or Pilsener.
Club Negra, the newest variant of the beer is, as the name suggests, even darker than Roja, with a sweet malty taste and aroma. Club Negra is, in my own personal opinion, the best mass-produced domestic beer in Ecuador… though be warned, it can, at times, be hard to find and once you get used to drinking Negra, it will be hard to go back to Verde.
Verdict: We believe that Club (especially the Roja and Negra versions) is a superior beer to Pilsener, though, based on their RateBeer scores, neither is likely to satisfy a true beer aficionado.
In future posts we will discuss the budding microbrewery scene here in Ecuador and review some of their more unique offerings.