Xela’s Cerveceria Nacional

by Diana Pastor

Many (many) years ago, Quetzaltenango was seen as a good place for foreign investment and many Europeans and North Americans established or expanded  businesses here.

At the start of the 20th century, owing to the influx of such investors, Xela’s textiles, banking, service and food industries all experienced significant growth.

Europeans – mostly from Spain, Italy and Germany began branching out and looking for new products to offer the burgeoning population. One such German was Gustavo Kiene, who had been hired to work in the now-defunct Haussler’s Brothers brewery and who then went on to found the Cervecería Nacional (National Brewery) here in Quetzaltenango.

His first product was the Cerveza Doble. A little later he released a malt-based drink called Dinamaltina Kiene before producing such beers as Sol, Pilsner, Coyote, Quetzalteca, Utz Pin Pin (which means very, very good in quiche) and Bock.

Few of the original German names survived – in the 40’s Guatemala introduced a law prohibiting the sale of products with foreign names.

Another of Kiene’s early inventions – Cabro – remains a favorite amongst foreigners and locals and has become Xela’s emblematic beer. Rightly so – it’s hard to find it outside of Huehuetenango, Sololá and Quiché and it’s even considered an exclusive beer in Antigua and the capital. Some people claim that there are only three bars in the whole of Guatemala City selling Cabro.

We have no such problems here – all the bars in the Pasaje Enriquez sell it, as do many bars and restaurants in the downtown area.

These days the brewery belongs to the Castillo brothers, part of one of Guatemala’s richest families and owners of many other well-known national companies.

If you’re not familiar with the brewery, it’s easily seen on top of the hill behind the El Calvario park – you’ll see the Cabro sign jutting into the sky, illuminated at night. And if you’re at all a beer drinker, we recommend you take a break from the Gallo and order at least one liter of Xela’s pride and joy, Cerveza Cabro.

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