Fula, Taras Boulba & Tear Gas

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Casco Viejo, Ciudad de Panama, Panama

Back in Panama meeting my friends Jonathan, Stefano and Noel from Casa Bruja, a small craft brewery located in Panama City. We meet in Casco Viejo at La Rana Dorada, Panama’s oldest brewery, not counting of course the two big breweries. These two are not really Panamanian either, Cervecería Nacional de Panama was owned by SABMiller and is now ABI - who can keep up! – and Cervecería Barú is owned and operated by Heineken. I had already tasted the Rana Dorada Blanche the previous night, a light Belgian white, technically sound. Stefano suggests we try the new Gose, somehow I believe that goses were invented for these lands. The Rana Dorada gose turns out to be more of a Berliner Weiss spiked with some tropical juice, interesting and refreshing for sure.

We discuss the Casa Bruja beers. I did a random sampling in the market the previous days. The Casa Bruja IPA ChivoPerro is standing strong, a nice west coast example, good beer. Then there is Casa Bruja Tigres and Fula, an exciting mix of flavours. While we chat about Fula there is suddenly a lot of commotion, men in uniforms appear and we feel tear gas in the air. This is the first time I have been tear gassed while tasting cervezas artesanales, what becomes somewhat of a challenge! Time to get out of here.

No worries, Jonathan is Panamanian, knows the city and suggests we move on to a new location. They take me to LB Bieren, an unbelievable beer bar, a beer temple really, with an impressive Belgian beer list. It’s just like coming home. The store & bar is tucked away in a little mall in the San Fransisco neighbourhood of Panama City next to the Mona Lisa, a bar where you go for more then a beer. Different.

We kick it off with Taras Boulba from Brasserie de la Senne, although brewed almost on the other side of the world the beer is classic, one of the best beers from Belgium these days. Stefano has disappeared to get some extra ice, what does he have in mind? He comes back with a bucket full of Oude Kriek (Oud Beersel). It is 10.30 at night, perfect temperature and little breeze coming in from the ocean. Tonight is fast becoming one of my top five beer drinking experiences. The acidity and the cherries of the Kriek mixed with the light saltiness in the air. The tropical sweetness of tobacco leaves is everywhere, almost a touch musty, the perfect storm to drink an Oud Beersel Kriek.

More people fill the three parking spots in front of LB Bieren, inside more and more people sit next to each other, all tasting Belgian beers. I see Witkap, La Choufe, Achel, Brugse Zot, at a table every body is drinking Westmalle Tripel, always a favorite of mine. I see a Palm and a group of five guys all with Rodenbach Grand Cru what is on draft tonight.

De Donde usted? ¡Belgica! Yo estoy orgulloso esta noche.

- Floris

proost: [noun] “cheers!” in Flemish; usually said when drinking with friends and family.

Megan Maiolo-Heath