We had some time to kill while we were waiting to sail the Carribean … the national beers were cheap and colourful, so we decided to have a sampling.
Panama has two big breweries each offering two products. The largest, holding most of the market share is Cerveceria Nacional which is actually owned by a Colombian company Grupo Bavaria which is a subsidiary of international beer giant SABMiller. SABMiller almost had the smaller brewery Cervacerias Baru too but the deal was blocked when they couldn’t show that the cost savings made from the transaction would be transferred on to the consumer, Cervacerias Baru has since been taken over by Heineken International.
To keep things fair and to remain impervious to whatever branding we had been exposed to we decided to have a blind tasting. Our only consensus was that the bottled beer tasted better.
ATLAS - from Cervaceria National
Ringing in at 3.8 % this lighter, flowery larger mainly drew comments concerning its lack of flavour. Atlas has a slightly sweeter taste that doesn’t last long, good fizz levels, not bad on a hot day after cutting the grass.
BEST COMMENT: Tastes a little like makeup.
BALBOA - from Cervaceria National
A fairly solid 4.8 % Balboa is the darkest of a light lot, not much scent but a little more depth. Pours well and pretty easy to drink – an all round contender but not very distinguished, good for a laugh.
BEST COMMENT: Fat bottomed beers you make the rocking world go round
PANAMA – from Cervacerias Baru
Surprisingly tasty and at 4.8 % not a complete lightweight but a little brackish on the backend. Makes up for its lack of depth with an evasive effervescence. Panama is that British friend who’s loyal but a bit of a prat.
BEST COMMENT: Skanky
SOBERANA - from Cervacerias Baru
A yeasty 3.8 % Soberana wasn’t our favourite. A pale, weak brew that needs a little more time mature.
BEST COMMENT: Ragwater and yeast burps
All said, the Panamanian beers leave a little to be desired but at around 40 cents each who´s complaining?