Venezuela's craft beer craze

Craft brewers struggle to keep up with demand as wealthy Venezuelans enjoy their luxury products, despite the country's deepening economic crisis.

CARACAS (REUTERS) - In a country grappling with economic hardship, where food and basic items are hard to come by, Venezuela's craft brewers are creating a buzz. 

The Social Club in Caracas is producing a high-end craft beer, with a single bottle costing what a minimum wage worker earns in two days, and wealthy Venezuelans are going "bottoms up".

According to owner Victor Querales, Venezuelans like to keep up with what's in fashion. 

And these days, it is niche products like craft beer. 

There are now 30 craft brewers in the country, according to the Craft Beer Association of Venezuela, that supply to high-end liquor stores and restaurants. 
Owners of the Social Club say they regularly sell out their 3,000 litres produced each month.

"Even though this is a luxury product for the market and for Venezuelan standards, I can say with all sincerity that this is the cheapest craft beer in the world. By that I mean a bottle or glass of craft beer anywhere in the world easily costs more than two dollars and here we're selling a glass of craft beer for less than a dollar," said Mr Querelas. 

Craft brew still represents less than 1 per cent of the market, which is dominated by domestic brewing giant Polar and its smaller rival Regional. 

That is because apart from the exorbitant cost, Venezuelans are also not used to the strong flavours and high alcohol content. 

But craft brewers believe there is room to grow and they are preparing for an eventual economic rebound to toast to.