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German beer in Peru

Bierglas (vor 1936) von Backus & Johnston, LimaAlthough the first beer made in what was then the territory of Peru, was brewed, according to unconfirmed reports, by the Franciscan Flemish Friar Joos de Ricke in the recently founded city of Quito sometime near 1536, and that the only brewery left at the country now after consecutive merges is Backus and Johnston started by two U.S. citizens in 1880, the Germans have had a definite influence in the history of beer in Peru.

As in other Spanish American countries, beer was not part of the diet and though the very few Germans and Flemish citizens allowed to pass to this part of the world by the Spaniards undoubtedly made from time to time their home brews, the fact is that beer was not consumed in the area until well started the republics, when, after the end of the Spanish regime the migrations policies where changed.

In Peru, after 1821 when the capital city of Lima was liberated by Jose de San Martin, relations were established with Great Britain and soon after when the Spaniards were definitely defeated after the Battle of Ayacucho on 9th December 1824, merchants, diplomats and people of all ways of life started coming from Europe to study the possibilities offered by this new country.

Beer nonetheles took its time to be established among the nationals. Ricardo Palma a XIX century Peruvian writer mentions beer in some of his short stories related to the first part of his century and with the exception of one in which the President visits naval units where he is feasted with beer, -proving the early English influence in our navy – his words for beer are always negative. In one occasion he says that Peruvian drink wine, chicha, and Pisco but not beer because “if we want bitterness we have our own”.

Things were changing by mid century and in the first day of March of 1852 the main journal of Lima, El Comercio” had an add on its first page by which we learn that a young German national “with good recommendations” wanted to get a job. Among his assets he indicates that “he knew how to make beer”.

Twelve years later the domicialiary guide of Lima of 1864 listed eight beer producers. Of this eight half of them have German names, and since at the time there were still no German descends we have to conclude were all migrants from Germany. Their names were: Jacob Harster; Fredrick Richmuller; who produced only beer and Heinrich Schielin and Santiago Harster who made beer and sodas.

In 1869 of the 6 producers of both beer and sodas two were Germans. Santiago Harster and Gustav Werner. By 1876 there were three breweries in Callao and one in Lima. The three in Callao belonged to Germans. They were: “Cervecería Alemana”, “Internacional” and “Compañía Internacional de Cerveza del Callao”. The first one owned by Gustav Sprinckmoller, the second one by “Schmitt & Company” probably Carlos Schmitt, and the last one by Alois Kieffer. The only brewery in Lima listed at the time “Piedra Lisa” belonged to Eduardo Harster. Three years later 1n 1879 a list of tax payers mentions as first and second class brewers three Germans out of a total of four. Gustav Werner, Aloise Kieffer and Eduardo Harster.

In the same mentioned year a war between Peru and Chile that lasted five years destroyed most of the industries in the country and left Peru in bankruptcy. The situation did not stopped the desire to develop the country again, and many foreigns put all their effort to help reconstruct Peru. So in 1887 besides the “Backus & Johnson” all the other breweries were in German hands. The names are some we have already mentioned: Harster, Schmidt, Kieffer and Werner and some new: G. Heinsen, Nicolas Stiegler and Esteban Benichc of unclear origen.

One of the problems the local brewers had to face were the imports from Europe, specially from Great Britain which competed openly in the market. For that reason Mr. Gustav Springmoller owner of “Cervecería Alemana”, placed an add in El Comercio on 19th january 1872 in which he explained that he had the elements, knowledge and care to produce beer as good as the best imported from England.

A German brewer already mentioned but who, because of a happy coincidence will probably be specially remember is Eduardo Harster. During some historical archaeological works in the are a on the Battle on San Juan where peruvian troops made all the efforts to stop the chilean invasion on january of 1980, a broken beer bottle with part of its label was found. It belonged to Eduardo Harter’s “Cervecería Nacional de Piedra Lisa and besides the address of the brewery, “Cajamarca 200”, it specifies that it was “Jager Bier”. During a conversation with an old peruvian brewer he told me he had seen Mr. Harster as an old man in the decade on 1920 and that he had a beer called “Pavo Real” (Peacock) that had green peacock in the label.

The most important breweries begun and owned by germans are the “Compañía Nacional de Cerveza” later known as “ Pilsen Callao” and the “Cervecería Alemana” which changed its name to “Cervesur”. The first las established officially in the city port of Callao in 1863 though it seems was producing before that date by the German Citizen Fredrich Bindels who in 1869 sold it to the Alsacian Alois Kieffer. In the following years this beer won prices in Lima (1872 and 1876) and Paris (1878).. After Kieffers dead in May 1888 his wife and children tried to keep the company working but finally in 1902 it was sold to a group of Peruvian and Italian investors. “Pilsen Callao” was a simbol of Peruvian good brewery untill in 1994 when all it shares were sold to Backus and Johnston.

The second German created Brewery in importance was the “Cervecería Alemana” established by Ernst Gunther in Arequipa in 1898 with a industrial partmer Mr. Frans Rehder. At the time there were in Arequipa five breweries three of which belonged to Germans: “Cerveceria Germania” of Conrad. C. Ertel; “Cerveceria Teutonia” of Heinrich Koehnke and a third one that belonged to Mr. Heldy and Mr. Springmuler.

Gunter was a young profesional who arrived in Bolivia in 1885y and begun working with a german merchant who soon after put him in charge of one of his branch offices. Gunther learned the languaje,, married a local lady and in the 31st day of August of 1898 stablished his brewery with the partnership of the technician Franz Rehder. At the time there were five small breweries in Arequipa three of which belonged to German citizens: “Cerveceria Germania” of Konrad C. Ertel; “Cervecer{ia Teutonia” of Heinrich Koehnke and the third one belonged to two gentlemen, Heldy and Springmuller. Gunther bought the “Cervecería Alemana” that belonged to a Peruvian, Gustavo Ariansen and that was the basis of what in time would become the most important brewery of southern Peru. One year later, in 1899 Gunther bought the brewery of Heldy and Springmuller. At the time the new “Cervecería Alemana” was producing “Pilsener”, “Marzen” and “Malta”.

Drei Junge Brauer der Cerveceria Alemana in Cuzco (1929)Calculating the capacity of the market, Gunther traveled to Germany in 1900 where he bought new equipment to modernize and enlarge its operations. Before the end of the first decade, in 1908 Gunther had stablish his second brewery, this time in the city of Cuzco. Though there are references that at the end of the XIX century there were up to ten small breweries in cuzco and near by cities, by the time Gunther’s factory was stablished there was only one owned by a Frenchman, Mr. Leoncio Vignes and a German Gustav Mangelsdorff who had merged their “Cervecería Francesa” and “Cerveceria Alemana” not long before. A third brewery stablished by Gunther’s company was in Trujillo, 550 kilometers north of Lima where in 1935 they bought the “Sociedad Cervecera J. Dalmau” and begun a branch office called “Sociedad Cervecera de Trujillo S.A.” which was resold to Pilsen Callao sometime arround 1960.

Bierglas der Cerveceria Alemana, CuzcoThe “Cervecería Alemana” was later renamed “Cervesur” and for decades was the owner of the beer market in the south of Peru with its “Cerveza Arequipeña” and “Cerveza Cusqueña”., an exelent brew which because of the lack of aditives, according to the German purity law of 1513 and the quality of the water from the high Andean graciers was admired by those who drank it. After the purchase of Pilsen Callao by Backus & Johnston in 1994, “Cervesur” decided to attack the national marked introducing itself with an agresive campaign in Lima. They developed new products like “Ice” and “Light” and had a good beguining but the challenge was too big. The introduction of the product in Lima was a success but what they had not counted on was that broken the fires B&J would also enter into their market in the south and they did not have the economic capacity to meet that challenge. Finally in march 2000 Backus & Johnston bouth the totality of the “Cervesur” shares transforming the whole industry in a monopoly.

A very interesting history involving a German Brewer in the Peruvian Andes is that of the breweries stablished in Cerro de Pasco and Huancayo Fredirch Herold, from Heilbronn, Germany. Herold migrated to Bolivia early in the XX century and worked for some time at the “Compania Nacional de Cervezas” of La Paz. After some time during which undountly he studied the market, he left the company and moved to Puno, Peru, at the side of the Titicaca lake where he purchased a small brewery that belonged to Mr.Tomas Palao. Soon after Herold sold the brewery to Gunther who probably was willing to pay a good price to avoid having a good brewer as a competitor where he considered was his natural market.

With the money made, Herold returned to Germany where he got married and bought the equipment to open a new brewery, this time in the mining city of Cerro de Pasco in the central Peruvian Andes. “Cervecería Herold” was a success but Friedrich soon realized that the good market was some miles to the south in the commercial city of Huancayo. He called his brother Emil who arrived in 1911 to take care as a partner of the Cerro de Pasco brewery. The new plant was located near the Shulcas ravine, near the city of Huancayo. Herold bought new equipment but unfortunatelly when is was getting ready to be shiped the First World War started and he lost his machines and his money. Not letting the situation to weaken his spirit Mr. Fredrich build the machines and equipment locally and kept on growing. The brands of beer they sold were “Pilsen”. “Extracto de Malta”, “Salvator” and a very strong beer called “Andina”.

Later on, after the dead of Mr. Fredrich Herold, his elder son Heinrich, who had studied the trade in Germany continued with the factory. During the Second World War the brewery was placed under police supervison but Heinrich continue to work in it. Due to the growth of the Lima breweries, B&J and Pilsen Callo, the factory was sold in 1956 and the new owners just closed it and never opened it again which clearly indicates that the operation was done to get rid of the competitor at the time when good roads made it easy to place the limenian products in the area.

The last German experience to produce beer in Peru was “Cervecería San Miguel” in the city of Piura, near the Ecuatorian border in 1960. The largest shareholder and director of the plant was the german citizen Klaus Arens.

The name “San Miguel” was given in honor of the patron saint of Piura, and the results were very good at the beguining. Sometime later, non the less, there were all kinds of comments about the bad taste of the beer due to the quality of the water. Finally this bad press, which has involved also the comments that there was a sabotage in the tubes with which they pumped the water, who were suposedly perforated with rifle shots to let the untasty surphase water to enter the factory, resulted in the closing of the plant. During a long conversation with mR. Arens two years ago he expalined that it was all a desprestige campaign moved by the competitor. About the bad taste of the water he said. “Mr. Dargent, the filters we had were good enough to purify and clean any water no mater how bad it could have been”. I believe him.

Eduardo Dargent

Thank you very much to Mr. Eduardo Dargent, who gave me the permission to publish this text. Copyright by Eduardo Dargent! - www.bierdeckelsammler.net