Cervezas de Sudamérica

Well, I was off traveling in South America for a while, and in addition to seeing all sorts of amazing things, I also managed to sample a few cervezas. The microbrews there can be a little hard to find sometimes, but they’re around, and I’m happy to say I discovered quite a few. I’ve been putting off writing my little summary of South American microbrews, however, because it’s going to be a long post. So, I guess I’d better get started. I’ll kick it off with a picture of the logo beer glasses I acquired on my way down through Patagonia:


A sampler of Patagonian beer glasses

Now, I don’t normally travel around with glassware in my backpack, but it did make for a somewhat entertaining story at the hostels. I could actually manage to carry four of them in my daypack without too much trouble, but five was just too many, and that was when I shipped them home. I took the picture before packing them up in case they got all smashed to bits en route. Surprisingly, four of them made it intact. The Baguales glass (the tallest one) suffered a broken base, but I was able to superglue it back together. It’s not pretty, but it stands and holds beer, and I can live with that. Next time I’ll let my friends buy the glasses in other countries and bring them back to me as souvenirs.

Entonces, la cerveza. A few things first, though. South America seems to like their dark beers on the sweet side, which I don’t. There were a few exceptions, but for the most part I was sadly disappointed with the dark beer selection. As a corollary to the sweet rule, bitterness was very hard to find — so, no IPAs.

Some terminology:

  • Rubia = blonde. This applied to any light beer, pretty much.
  • Trigo = wheat. Self-explanatory.
  • Roja = red. Mostly self-explanatory, but applied to pale ales and ambers as well as reds.
  • Negra = black. Stouts and porters.

In general, the rojas were the best.

Antares – Mar del Plata, Argentina
The brewery is in Mar del Plata, but they have alehouses in Mendoza and Bariloche, as well as a few other spots. This was my first decent microbrew after six weeks of mass-produced lagers, and that may have contributed to my liking it so much. At first I felt a little guilty about drinking beer in Mendoza, but I did drink my fair share of wine there, too, thus assuaging that pesky guilt. Of course, the very first place I mention violates the “no IPA” rule, but only occasionally. They have a seasonal IPA which wasn’t being produced when I was there, but they did have a good seasonal Trigo. Their cream stout was also good, and I think I also liked their porter. Their Scotch Ale was a wee bit watery, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, I didn’t take notes on the Antares beers I drank, for some reason. But in general, they brew a good beer, and after so long away from my beloved pacific northwest beers it was a big ol’ draft of nostalgia.

Otto Tipp Brewpub – El Bolsón, Argentina
I was all set to like this place, but was a bit disappointed. The Trigo was oddly sweet, with a bit of a lemony taste. Not so good. The Roja was better, but it was warm — they had just run out of the cold stuff. I think I tried a sip of the Rubia, but it didn’t make much of an impression. Never got to try their Negra.

D’Olbek – Coyhaique, Chile
I stumbled upon this local beer by accident in an Italian restaurant in Coyhaique. As far as I can tell, they only have the one brew, Rubiaike, and it’s very good, very tasty. If you find yourself in Coyhaique, it’s definitely worth your time to try this beer. The restaurant served it in a D’Olbek glass, and that’s when my collector’s OCD kicked in — I bought the glass from them for 3000 Chilean pesos (about $5) para mi colección. It was all downhill from there.

El Chaltén Brewpub – El Chaltén, Argentina
This was one of my favorite spots in El Chaltén, even though it was a bit too crowded. Good beer and tasty food. They brew a bock and a rubia, but when I was there, they were out of the bock. And, in fact, on my last night in town they were out of both. It was sad to see big bottles of Quilmes being served. Anyway, the rubia is good. Wish I could’ve tried the bock. Apparently the owner/brewer was away on vacation for a month and didn’t quite brew enough to span the gap. At least I was able to try the rubia. It was going to be two weeks before their beer would be back on tap.

Gülmen – Viedma, Argentina
I never made it to Gülmen’s home town of Viedma, but I did try three of their beers. The rubia and roja (Dorada Patagónica and Roja Pale Ale, respectively) I found to be, for lack of a better word, meh. Nothing interesting, not bad, not good — meh. The Negra Porter was okay. All in all, I wasn’t too impressed with their beers.

Supay – El Chaltén, Argentina
The tiny town of El Chaltén apparently has two cervecerias, the second being Supay. I tried their negra at a wine and beer store the night the El Chaltén Brewpub was serving Quilmes, and, well, it was better than the Gülmen, but not great. The only place I saw Supay on offer (in bottles) was this store (I’ve forgotten the name), located on the street Lago del Desierto, near Avenida MM De Güemes. The shop has a fine selection of Argentine beers.

Jerome – Potrerillos, Argentina
This little brewery is located near Mendoza, but I tried their Roja in the El Chaltén beer and wine store mentioned above. It was pretty good, not overly sweet like some other breweries. Nice little kick at 6% alcohol, too. I saw Jerome (pronounced as in English, not Spanish) on offer in El Calafate. Surprised I didn’t see it in Mendoza. Next time I’m there I’ll have to look harder, but, then again, they’ve got the Antares alehouse.

Otro Mundo – San Carlos Sud, Argentina
I have the feeling beer in Argentina doesn’t travel particularly well. The Otro Mundo brewery is in Santa Fe, north of Buenos Aires, and I tried two of their beers way down south in El Calafate. The Nut Brown Ale was almost good, but it had that same annoying sweetness that so many South American dark beers have. It was a sad moment, indeed, because it had been a long time since my last nut brown ale, and the Otro Mundo bottle looked good, and I was looking forward to it. Alas. But then I had a bottle of their Strong Red Ale (7.5% alcohol — Roja Fuerte!), and, I have to say, it was the WORST craft beer I’ve ever had. It had an incredibly strong aroma, taste, and aftertase, of green olives. Horrible. Green olive beer? Even thinking back on it is making me nauseous. But. I have to give the Strong Red a little slack because, as I stated earlier, I have the feeling beer in Argentina doesn’t travel particularly well. I met an Irish couple later on who loved Otro Mundo’s Strong Red, and they’d tried it in Buenos Aires. So, that old adage comes to mind: Think globally, drink locally. If you try the Otro Mundo, better to try it close to Santa Fe. Not in El Calafate.

Whew! Eight down, seven to go. This is taking a long time — I’m going to have to split this up into two posts. Stay tuned.

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