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Quero is an agricultural city, producing primarily potatoes. With around 13,000 acres of crops and a agricultural yield of 20 tons per acres, it is one of the most productive regions of the country, but there have been several times when demand has been lower to supply and the resulting overproduction has led to low sale prices, thus affecting the economy of farmers, who have had to reduce their profit margin and in some cases have lost everything, without being able to cover the cost of production.
The raw material to produce “La Quereñita” beer is obtained from the supply of organic potatoes obtained from small producers in Quero city, thus generating full and productive employment with fair trade, increasing organic plantations, and reducing post-harvest losses.
Potatoes have a huge amount of starch, which is easily converted to sugar. To make this beer you need hops, malt, barley, and potato starch, where its main advantage is that it requires only one hour to hydrolyze the starch, while barley goes through a germination and drying process, which requires more than 5 days to obtain the essential sugars.
Don Vinicio Quispe, a native of Quero, visualized what is now "La Quereñita" when he realized that the potato production from his family and city were being wasted because there were no buyers and decided make it into a product with added value, exploring many options, including making potato chips, mashed potatoes, vodka, but none of those ideas were novel, finally deciding to turn potatoes into craft beer, an idea that did not exist in Ecuador nor any other part of the world.
He was seeking for a tribute for his father and 80% of his city with a representation of the main harvested product during their whole life: the potatoes.
"Yo buscaba una representación de mi ciudad y lo que mi padre cultivó por toda su vida y sacar provecho de las ventajas productivas para mi negocio."
"I was looking for a representation from my city and what my father harvested throughout his whole life and take productives advantage for my business."
Also in his business slogan, "Nuestras raíces" which mean; our origin in representation of the activities from his city.
Don Vinicio and his wife received some advice from friends from the University and an expert in beer to develop the new product. At first, they visited many craft beer companies to learn about the taste and qualities of a quality beer, then they began preparing their first beer where the main ingredient was potatoes and they kept testing and improving the taste and quality of their product.
Given that potato farmers generally earned little profit at the time from their sales, “La Quereñita” beer decided to partner with these producers, to generate a win-win relationship, which means while farmers plant and provide organic potatoes such as: Super chola and Cecilia, they will obtain a better sale price from "La Quereñita" Beer than from other buyers.
This close relationship the company has with the community has strengthened the pride and belonging about the job the farmers do, as well as the notion that their products can reach every corner of the country with a new conception yet new taste, further the profit they are having that are making their lives better economically.
The produce of organic potato decreases the use of 23 fungicides and 19 insecticides that may affect the organic composition of the soil because it would be acidified and could not absorb other nutrients. Nevertheless, the quality of the water is improved because it’s no longer polluted with artificial fertilizers that are put on the soil and could even reach sources of natural water.
“La Quereñita” beer has been improving their quality, their taste and diversifying their products. This is how the company currently has four varieties of handcrafted beer available for the public:
• “La Quereñita clásica”, blond beer with 5% of alcohol.
• “Puña Shiri”, caramel beer with 7% of alcohol.
• “Frutos Rojos”, red berries beer a little softer and 7% of alcohol.
• “La Cerveza Negra”, black beer with 9.5% of alcohol. It’s made from potato and toasted coffee.
The start-up has been working for two years, in which it has strengthened, promoting, and looking new customers. Currently they have a very good acceptance within de province of Tungurahua and they’re looking for expansion to other provinces such as Pastaza, Pichincha, Galápagos, Napo, Chimborazo, Imbabura, Azuay, Guayas, among others.
“La Quereñita Beer” has had an uninterrupted growth and now they have the infrastructure and equipment required so they can monthly produce about 5 thousand bottled beers, 650ml each.
“La Quereñita” beer, besides employing ten people in the factory where it’s produced as well as working on marketing and sales, generates a great impact in the community that provides primary resources giving worthy job and a fair salary to the potato producers.
That initiative has also motivated the entrepreneurs of the location and surroundings can create new startups and the municipal authorities of canton Quero have been training about business to their population, as well as consulting meetings so they can legally form their projects.
Mr. Vinicio has advised a lot of these entrepreneurs and many of them have partnered with him so they can complete the process of the potato beer.
In the years to come, the company is willing to create a “Beer Tour” within Quero canton where ecological tourism can be included inside the community. The main idea is that the tourism to the highlands, specifically to Tungurahua province, can also make a stop in this beautiful canton and know all the process of creation of handcrafted beer, from the seeding to the harvest of the potato, as well as reception, classification, transformation, and bottling, with the possibility the tourist can create their own personalized beer.
Vinicio Ivan Quispe Urco, Founder
"La Quereñita" Beer is a startup business that turns potatoes into beer, adding value to an ancestral product that is emblematic of the Ecuadorian highland’s region. "La Quereñita" takes its name in honor of the city of Quero, Tungurahua-Ecuador province, which is known as an area for harvesting and growing potatoes.