Monday, April 4, 2011

How the Rest of the World Drinks: Panama.

National beers. That's what the menus say, and it's a correct name for something omnipresent nationwide. They're also cheaper than imports--best defined as someone else's national beers. In Panama, as in Costa Rica, the most common imports are Corona, Heineken, Bud and Miller. Same old story, right?

In Costa Rica, there is one big quasi-monopoly on national beer. It's worth noting that the Cervecería Costa Rica is not yet controlled by a transnational, although Heineken owns a stake. In Panama, there are two big beer companies--one's run by Heineken, the other by SABMiller. Their products are more or less indistinguishable, adjuct-laden pale lagers. Again: same old story. They're drinkable, refreshing, and that's about the most you can say. If they're so cold you can't taste them, so much the better.

In Panama City there are a few haunts with something more, beer-wise. I'll tell you more about them later. But for now, how about drinking with the locals?

When the gringos built the Panama Canal, they dredged up literally tons of rocks and lined them along the sides. On the Pacific side, they built a road on those and connected a couple of islands. It's called the Causeway--the Amador. The Americans built fortifications there, but these day's it's a thriving shopping-and-restaurant district, built around the city's poshest marina.

Amid the names of chain restaurants that would be familiar to anyone in the U.S., a friend brings us to a smaller place called K-YU-CO, on the last island. It's a play on cayuco, or dugout canoe. It's packed. We're the only tourists. The locals are here to enjoy the warm night while watching the yachts come and go. They eat ceviche, whole fried fish and patacones, drizzled in lime juice and Caribbean-style hot sauce. And they suck down iced buckets of national beers with friends.

The sports bar in my hotel, which looks just like any hotel sports bar in America, has a couple of decent Belgian and German imports. Tonight, I'll take the national beers, pescado frito, and atmosphere.

Panama for a buck-and-a-half a bottle, by the way. Mine for the night.

No comments:

Post a Comment