Cusqueña: The Popular Beer From Cusco, Peru

Cusquena beer truck
••• A Cusqueña beer delivery truck. Brent Winebrenner/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Cusqueña Details:

The History of Cusqueña

On October 1, 1908, a group of entrepreneurs led by Ernesto Günther founded the Cervecera Alemana (“German Brewery”) in the city of Cusco. A year later, the newfound brewery was bottling its cerveza premium del Perú (premium Peruvian beer).

Residents of Cusco (called cusqueños) were accustomed to drinking alcoholic beverages, particularly traditional chicha beers made from maize, and it didn't take them long to grow fond of the new -- and much lighter -- Cusqueña lager.

In 1939, the brewery changed its name to Compañía Cervecera del Sur (Cervesur), increased production, and expanded its distribution throughout southern Peru.

By 1995, Cusqueña had established itself as one of the most popular beers in Peru. In 2000, the Compañía Cervecera del Sur joined the Backus and Johnston brewery union, making Backus -- the largest brewery in Peru -- the owner of Cerveza Cusqueña. A year later, Backus and Johnston was acquired by Grupo Empresarial Bavaria, which itself became part of the SABMiller group -- the world’s second-largest brewer -- in 2005, giving the Cusqueña brand far more scope for expansion both at home and abroad.

Different Types of Cusqueña Beer

Cusqueña comes in four main varieties:

  • Cusqueña Dorada (Golden Lager) -- the standard and most popular Cusqueña beer, made with “100% pure barley and SAAZ hops." Dorada is available in 330 ml and 620 ml bottles, and in cans and on tap (chopp) in some bars.
  • Cusqueña Roja (Red Lager) -- a beer produced “for the most demanding palates, with an accentuated taste of malt and hops, giving it a reddish golden color.” Available in 330 ml and 620 ml bottles.
    • Cusqueña Trigo (Wheat Beer) -- the Cusqueña wheat beer, “It has a golden color and a natural opacity produced by a light filtering process that gives a more consistent body and fine aroma.” Available in 330 ml and 620 ml bottles.
    • Cusqueña Negra (Dark Lager) -- Cusqueña’s cerveza negra (sometimes known as malta), or black beer, made from malted barley. Available in 330 ml and 620 ml bottles.

    A Brief Review of Cusqueña Beer

    Cusqueña is a good but not exceptional beer. At five percent ABV, it’s easy to drink and perfectly refreshing on a hot day. The standard Cusqueña Dorada with its clear golden color carries slightly more flavor than Pilsen and Cristal, arguably making it more interesting than its closest rivals.

    The wheat beer doesn’t offer enough differences to warrant the typically higher price, but the red lager is worth an extra sol or two. As for the Cusqueña Negra, well, some people seem to enjoy it, but I prefer to use it for cooking.

    Overall, Cusqueña isn’t the kind of beer you need to go looking for – not that it’s hard to find. Thanks to the most welcome rise of craft beers in Peru in recent years (Sierra Andina, Nuevo Mundo, Zenith et al), beer aficionados can now find far more interesting pale ales, IPAs, porters etc.

    in stores, bars and brew pubs across the country, albeit at significantly increased prices.