From Salento, we had a nice three-hour ride to Buga. Buga was founded by (guess who!) the Spaniards, and it is one of the oldest settled cities in Colombia. Our original purpose for visiting this pueblo was to sample the beer and pizza created by one crafty German who has settled in Buga. However, it turned out that the city had much more to offer besides the above indulgences, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying both the beer and pizza numerous times over.
Stefan, the hostel owner and brewmaster, operates a small but efficient brewery in the back of the hostel. He happily offered us a tour, and we were impressed by his facility, especially given the difficulty in obtaining equipment and ingredients to produce such quality beer.
At the time of our visit, he was brewing three different types of beers: Mango, Rojo, and Especial (which was infused with ginger). Of course, we tasted all three (a few different times), and found them all to be quite enjoyable. The three beers were reminiscent of a hefeweisen style mixed and with local flavors to create something truly unique.
Now I know I already gave 3 Cordilleras the highly coveted award for best beer in Colombia, but now I feel the need to create a new category for “Best Artisanal Beer.” Not facing any other contenders in Colombia, Holy Water Ale Brewery easily swept this newly created category.
The other big draw to this hostel, the pizza, tempted our noses at all hours, and not only because our room was ten feet away from the oven. At Holy Water Ale Cafe, Stefan and his crew make homemade sourdough bread daily. We were wowed by the savory bread, which made for some amazing sandwiches and great dough for pizzas. In both the sandwiches and pizzas, he blended different local foods to create meals that were great. The mixture of delicious pizza and tasty beer made this an excellent stop. It was definitely the best pizza we ate in all of Colombia.
We enjoyed more than just the food and beer in Buga. While Buga is another colonial town, it is set apart from the others because it has a large Basilica which houses a Black Christ (El Senor de los Milagros). This Basilica is visited by many people throughout the year and it is said that the prayers of the sick and needy are answered here.
Next to the Basilica they have a small museum which told the story of The Black Christ. It also housed many different religious relics and offerings for prayers which had been answered at the Basilica.
After visiting the Basilica and exploring this city, we headed into the hills for a overlook of Buga and the valley. We headed out of the town, past the Colombian military base, and turned on a random dirt road heading uphill (seems like we only ever walk uphill in Colombia). After a half an hour of climbing, we reached the top where a headless Mary statue greeted us. It seems like the statue was damaged at some point and is now just waiting for the opportunity to be repaired. We enjoyed a nice cup of fresh squeezed orange juice while taking in the view.
Buga turned out to be a great surprise and not only for the beer and pizza. The town had great character and the people again proved to be helpful, chatty, friendly, and curious about us.
We would especially like to thank the large Colombian man we met half-way up on the hike who let us know we were almost there, and encouraged us to keep going. Gracias!
If you’re ever in the area and craving great beer and pizza, stop by!
Well-fed, we are off to Popayan, our last stop in Colombia.