por Janet Carvajal
Con un crecimiento significativo de producción, Valdivia se convierte en sinónimo de cerveza. Con el emblema de los Cisnes de Cuello Negro nace, en Punucapa, la cerveza mejor evaluada de Chile. Esta cervecería valdiviana, acreedora del “Oro” en “Copa Cervezas de América CCA 2011” tiene como principio “la calidad”.
“Cuello Negro” nace en el 2004 con el sueño de dos socios por trabajar en su pasión: la cerveza. Luego se separan y comienzan su negocio paralelo en el mismo rubro.(versión completa en edición impresa)

Due to its significant growth in production, the city of Valdivia has become synonymous to beer. Bearing the symbol of a black necked swan, the highest rated beer in Chile was born in Punucapa. This brewery native to Valdivia, and the receiver of the Gold medal in the “CCA American Beer Cup 2011”, mainly strives for quality.
“Cuello Negro” was born in 2004 with the dream of two partners working in what they loved: beer. Then, they separated and begun their business in parallel, in the same area.
The beginnings
For the creators from Punucapa the beginnings of this business were difficult, because right after finding the “ideal” name for their beer, the Nature Reserve was vastly contaminated by a cellulose/pulp industry. This ecological disaster brought the terrible death to black necked swans who lived in the reserve, so in honor if this tragic event, they postponed the debut of their product. That first stage of economic loss enriched them in knowledge and only in 2007 they got out to the local market in barrel and bottle format.
The “Cuello Negro” beer plant is located in Punucapa, Valdivia, a place chosen for its pure waters and because it was a place of origin for owners. The tradition of this Valdivian beer started in 1850 with Carlos Adwandter, who installed the first Chilean brewery; this story gave them a start with tradition.
Cristián Olivares, a forestry engineer and the man behind the “Cuello Negro” beer, tells us that those years served as a seedbed, occupying all its strengths and expertise in hydraulics, “as we tested new machines, invented things, like new recipes, and started to grow, we realized it was a whole new world for us. We learned from having nothing, noticing that we could produce a new product, to drink and enjoy”.
These entrepreneurs started to make home brew in a 20 liter basin. After the initial steps and their separation, “Cuello Negro” currently produces over 420 liters per month, and as Olivares explained, they also have a storage capacity for 2400 liters. However, these numbers continue to grow and he tells us that they can achieve a maximum production of 3600 liters per month (production that they apparently hadn’t encouraged so far). Still, this condition changed after winning the gold medal: they project to reach a 6000 liter production, with two new basins that will start operating soon.
Non-negotiable Quality
The development of “Cuello Negro” has been gradual, because according to Olivares, rapid growths, sometimes go along with the loss of quality: “It is very important that growth take place harmonically, maintaining the quality of the product. “Cuello Negro” grows, but the process has not changed at all, it is only repeated in larger volumes. The amount of malt and hop is the same as it is for 20 liters, maintaining proportions that cannot be discarded. The recipe is untouchable so that the process remains profitable, without altering the quality”, explains Olivares.
For Cristián, the owner and brewmaster, good beer is obtained by conserving quality: “The stout that won was a trial and error evolution, learning along the way and taking courses”, he adds.
There are two varieties from Punucapa: black Stout, intense, with bitter notes, toasty tones and sharp body (8th) and the Golden Ale (5th,8th), softer and savory for the majority; two great food companions.
When speaking of craft beer, Olivares is clear: “craftsmen are those who follow their product till the end”, meaning that he manufactures it, sells and accompanies the product till it gets to the consumer. That is how he supports the beer and increases loyalty among his clients.
Their intensions are to maintain the original quality of their beer and for that, in addition to the recipe, they must remain true to the raw materials used and be socially responsible, without misleading the consumer.
“Cuello Negro” has unlimited goals, following the logical flow of things, but always producing a good product. For Olivares, the first thing is to strengthen the business in Valdivia, increase draft beer machines, attack other markets, primarily ones nearby and then, if conditions are favorable, export.
Caring for the Industry
The persuit of quality is their main principle, “the brewer has to be self-critic, receive criticism, evaluate and improve. I receive everything that helps me improve the beer, but not everyone has that principle. If there is a bad beer, it contaminates the rest, if they try a bad beer in Valdivia, they could say that they are all bad. Those beers are bad for the market. Some brewers don’t accept criticism, they take it personal and that doesn’t help the industry”, analyzes Olivares.
October is the month of beer, and as that, it is celebrated in that area where the Valdivia Bierfest has established and is supported by Sercotec, which has actively helped strengthen the industry. The first festival gathered over 5,000 visitors, while the second brought 18,000 and, according projections, this year the amount of visitors will increase significantly. “Cuello Negro”, “Selva Fría”, “Tierra de León” are some of the participants in this fair.
Cristian Olivares was the one who initiated this activity, and although he no longer in the organization, he participates as an exhibitor. This event, according to Cristián, is great for craft brewers to improve their products as well as exhibit and compete. Olivares thinks that the award their beer won in the American Beer Cup also helped all Valdivian brewers, because it places them on a different platform from other brewers of the country.
The American Beer Cup
Without a doubt, the gold medal obtained at the event held in Chile has generated great encouragement and support: “The competition is vital to increase worldwide quality and impartiality is very important”, says Olivares, always emphasizing that the quality of the judges and their BJCP certifications are critical for the success of the event.
For micro brewers, certification is important: “The competition is what the beer business needs. Based on the quality of the judges that were invited, they can say where we are heading and if there are deficiencies and improvements to be made. With the support they have, they can analyze the scenario in an objective way and from their knowledge. Everyone must participate, both big and small, and never abandon quality to pursue profit”, says the winner of the golden prize.
The craft beer industry in Chile is still very young, which is why it is a learning path: “More instances of training and information exchange among brewers should occur. We should understand that we should not compete because we are all small in the industry. The bad beers shall simply improve or die”, states Olivares.
For 2012, “Cuello Negro” may surprise us with a third label, which would be green, blonde and very hoppy. The market points towards larger amounts of hops, more informed customers and, as they say, believing that the “Customer is always right”.

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