A visit to the newly opened Andina Brewing Company is like walking into a friend’s house. The ambience is lively with music and conversation and you are welcomed with open arms, a passionfruit black IPA, and a snack of plantain and yucca chips. Sounds like a delightful way to spend an afternoon, doesn’t it?
Inside the big yellow building on Powell Street, owners Andrés and Nicolás Amaya have built a brewery that combines their passion for beer with their love of music, family and friends, their Colombian heritage, and Latin America’s rich and diverse culture.
The brothers came to Canada 19 years ago and were hooked when they tried beers from Quebec. They tried new beers every week, talked about them over cigars, and began to dream of opening a small brewery. That vision grew steadily, in ideas and in size, until they decided to turn the dream into reality. As many other BC brewers have done, they engaged a locally-based international brewery consultancy to assist with planning, as well as asked other breweries about their experiences. Even after learning about the challenges, their family stood behind them 100% and joined the brothers in the brewing industry.
Their brand was carefully crafted, starting with naming the brewery. The name Andina represents their history and culture: una Andina is a woman from the Andes, the mountains in Colombia. The Spanish words for beer (cerveza), malt (malta) and mountains (montañas) are all feminine, and “Andina is feminine, innovative, majestic, vibrant, and friendly,” the perfect name for the brewery.
Head brewer Andrew Powers collaborates with Nicolás on recipes that include fruit found only in South America, panela (brown sugar made from the juice of sugar cane) from Chile, and malt from Chile’s Patagonia Malt, cultivators and malters of barley since 1896.
Andrew is Siebel-educated and trained in Germany on the classic styles of beer. He plans to curate the perfect balance of new and classic styles, using high-quality ingredients from around the world. The goal is to make unique, flavourful beers rather than perfectly fitting into style guidelines. Case in point: using panela; to their knowledge, this sugar has never been used in beer before. After some experimentation, Andrew determined that pairing panela with certain malt enhances the malt’s natural flavour and shortens fermentation time. One of their flagship beers, Melcocha Andean Mild Ale, is brewed with panela.
Seasonal beers will be released every couple of months and will often focus on fruit from South America. The first seasonal is Maraca, a passionfruit black IPA. Next up, maybe a gose or ISA using lulo (green pulp with a citrus flavour). Trial batches are in progress and will continue until Andrew finds the perfect combination for this unique fruit. There are, of course, challenges to importing the fruit, but it is important to the Andina family to use ingredients from their homeland, so it is worth the trouble. What other fruit will be used for their beers has yet to be determined, but you can bet that flavourful beers will showcase each one.
The distinctive and tasteful Latin American theme is everywhere at Andina. Traditional Andean art, crafts, clay pots and woven baskets accent the tasting room. The tasting paddle for flights is shaped like a chicha, the traditional jug for carrying water. The names of the beers are inspired by elements from the family’s culture—be sure to flip over your beer coaster and learn a new Spanish phrase. The music in the tasting room is an important component of the experience, too. Right now it’s recorded Latin American tracks, but the owners plan to bring live performers in to entertain in the future.
The care and attention to ingredients does not end with brewing; the food is 100% organic and ocean-friendly. You will be treated to a perfect fusion of eight kinds of ceviche (seafood, vegetables and fruit “cooked” in citrus juice rather than with heat), based on traditional recipes from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia and created by Andrés. Other choices include fried green plantain and yucca chips served with a Colombian sauce that is an interpretation of salsa, and homemade arepa, which are corn patties and cheese served with hogao, a warmed Colombian sauce.
It will come as no surprise that the merchandise also embraces their culture. In addition to the usual growlers, shirts, toques, and hats, they will also offer a beautiful sombrero-style hat, bracelets, and a tote bag. The hats and bracelets are made from organic material, hand crafted especially for Andina.
The goal, for the Andina family, is to provide perfect customer service. As Claudia Liévano-Amaya, Andina’s communications & marketing director and Nicolás’ wife, says, “we want you to come as guests, stay as friends, and leave as members of our family.”