A Guide to Cusqueña: Peru's Most Popular Beer

Cusquena beer delivery truck
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Cerveza Cusqueña has been one of Peru's most popular beers for decades. The origin of the name can be traced to the demonym for the people of Cusco, Peru, where the beer was founded. 

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. One 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 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.

One 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 beer comes in four main varieties that are sold throughout Peru.

  • 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.” This brew is sold 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.” Trigo is also 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, and sold in 330 ml and 620 ml bottles.

A Brief Review

Cusqueña is a good but not exceptional beer. At five percent Alcohol by Volume (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 unique enough to spend an extra sol or two. As for the Cusqueña Negra, some people seem to enjoy it, but many find it to be too sweet. Overall, Cusqueña isn’t overly special. It's fairly inexpensive, easy to find, and also easy to drink, making it a good choice for when you want to take a break from Peru's growing craft beer scene, and just enjoy an average brew.