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It’s rare that I find a city that has the same level of passion about craft-beer that I’m used to in the Pacific Northwest. Some call us snobs (and we probably are), but access to a stunning variety of consistent, delicious craft beer in a friendly pub atmosphere will forever be engrained in my mind. While traveling through Peru, it was quite the shock to find a pub strewn with Northwest regalia like ‘Keep Portland Weird’ – or the more appropriate ‘Keep Portland Beer’d’ – stickers and Portland Timbers Scarves. While I was inherently drawn to the northwest decor, it was this unique craft-beer culture juxtaposed in the middle of the colonial-era city of Arequipa, Peru that fascinated me.
Chelawasi Public House is Arequipa’s first craft-beer bar and remains a landmark destination for the traveling craft-beer aficionado passing through Peru. Wittily named Chelawasi (Chela meaning beer and wasi meaning house in Quechua, the local language), the pub currently rotates 40 beers alongside a menu of favorite local recipes (the mango chicken wings are delicious). The owner, Casey Workman, is a Portland native who says that while there is a very vibrant Peruvian brewing scene, there were no craft-beer pubs that truly embodied the Portland brew pub culture.
Chelawasi is a reflection of the beer scene in the Pacific Northwest – not only in sheer variety of beers but in the way the employees interact with their customers. “Our strength is connecting to people,” says Workman. “You’re going to come here and you’re going to feel our love.” Workman tells me that Chelawasi’s typical clientele are local Peruvians, travelers staying in the many nearby hostels and expats.
He channels his infectious passion to each customer he interacts with, whether he’s talking travel tips to hostel-goers or helping a regular decide which IPA to try next. “We try to be nice and respect people and make everyone feel welcome no matter what their class, color or beliefs are as long as they are being respectful and cool,” Workman says. ”People leave happy and often more informed in varying ways and that’s what we like.”
While Chelawasi is very reflective of the craft beer culture in Portland, it is not merely a carbon copy ‘Portland Brew Pub.’ Workman has spent a decade traveling between Costa Rica, Peru and the United States so naturally the brew pub is an aggregate of those different cultures.
Workman was always passionate about beer, but it wasn’t until he returned to Portland in 2014 after living in Costa Rica that he began to truly explore the brewing world. He joined the Oregon Brew Crew – essentially a home brewer incubator for Portland brewers – and began to meet local brewers like Rod Widmer and Alan Springs of Hair of the Dog Brewing, Christian Ettinger of Hopworks Urban Brewing, Jason Webb of Unicorn Brewing, Rik Hall and Ben Parsons of Baerlic Brewing.
Initially, Workman offered his skills as an electrician to various Portland breweries to further embed himself in the brewing scene. “I was just trying to get exposure however I could,” Workman says. “I was trying to practice ‘give good and get good.’” After a season of brewing guidance and collaborations in Portland, Workman and his wife Katterin decided to relocate to Arequipa in late 2014 and open their own brew pub. They brought down fellow Oregon-brewer Warren Holmes as their first brewer and also created a collaboration with Charlie Papazian while he was in Peru.
Two years later, Chelawasi continues to gain steam in the local scene with no plans of stopping. “Chelawasi is an opportunity to serve delicious beer and food… to an incredible parade of humans from all over the world,” Workman says. “A parade of free thinking travelers looking for solutions.”
If you find yourself thirsty in Arequipa, make sure to stop by Chelawasi.
Photos and word by: Tommy Pittenger
Chelawasi – 102 Campo Redondo, San Lazaro, Arequipa Hours: Chelawasi is open from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday.