If the awesome microbreweries in Bariloche proper fail to tickle your craft-beer fancy, there are a few great Argentinian microbrews outside Bariloche to be had. Not to worry, all locations are accessible by collectivo (local public bus).
As far as I could tell, Blest may be the oldest brewery in the Bariloche area, operating since 1989. Set against the backdrop of Nahuel Huapi National Park‘s mountains, it is a family, German-style restaurant. Coasters with customers’ drawings and writings cover its wood-paneled walls and fermenters are squeezed into a nook. When we visited, two staff at a nearby table were affixing labels to bottles. I immediately gave the place extra points for a random Brigitte Bardot picture on the menu and an awesome promo poster.
The sampler included all six available brews, plus a cider, in pint-shaped shot glasses, and it came with a pretzel with butter. The Pilsen was cloudy and started well but dissolved into a yeasty aftertaste. The Bock was a decent version of the style; its stronger flavor tilting toward darker brews probably helped it win the 2011 SouthBeer Cup. The Half and Half (Pilsen + Bock) diluted each brew into a drinkable but meh beer, creating a less than mildly interesting beer out of two mildly interesting ones. The raspberry Frambuesa reminded me of the McMenamin’s Ruby Red but with a stronger fruit flavor. Not a big fan of fruity beers, I imagined it paired well with a chocolate raspberry tart or, on a sunny day, with a leafy walnut-and-raspberry salad. The Roja was a Scottish ale with a creamy start that petered out into a flaccid finale. Finally, the Stout was a watery version of the style that brought to mind giving up on an ascent a third of the way up the mountain.
Whether they were developed to appease the visiting masses or simply became diluted since the brewery’s beginnings, beers at Blest tasted like watered down versions of their respective styles. Good thing Berlina was just up the road (see below), otherwise the trip out would have felt like a bummer.
If you go
- Location: Avenida Bustillo 11600. Take bus 3 de Mayo #20 from Avenida Moreno and ask the driver to stop at kilometro once punto cinco (Kilometer 11.5). Cross the road and walk for 100 meters to Km 11.6.
- Prices: AR$24–29 (USD3.00–3.65 / DolarBlue2.35–2.80) for a half-pint (0.25 liters), AR$31–34 (USD3.90–4.25 / DolarBlue3.00–3.30) for a chopp (0.330 l), AR$39–46 (USD4.90–5.75 / DolarBlue3.80–4.45) for a pinta (0.5 l), AR$115–135 (USD14.40–16.90 / DolarBlue11.15–13.10) for a pitcher (1.6 l) and AR$180–210 (USD22.50–26.25 / DolarBlue17.45–20.40) for a torre (2.5 l). The sampler is AR$55 (USD6.90 / DolarBlue5.35).
- Hours: Open every day from noon to midnight.
Berlina’s beers soar to the heights of the microbrewing craft. We started with the sampler of all six brews available at the time. The Patagonia Golden Ale (4.5% ABV, 23 IBU) had the color of an American lager with the corresponding light, clear flavor and a hoppy aftertaste. If it had been warmer and sunnier, it would have been perfect on the outdoor patio. Colonia Suiza (7% ABV, 21 IBU), named after a nearby settlement, was perhaps the most interesting beer I’d had in Argentina or anywhere, for that matter. The addition of juniper lent it a special character: mildly hoppy with special, non-sticky sweetness in the middle, the nose and appearance of a whiskey-like liqueur, and visions of cigar smoke hanging overhead.
The Old Ale (7.5% ABV, 19 IBU) would have been a classic English ale had it not been aged for 60 days. As a result, it was a bigger beer than I’d expected. The Foreign Stout (6% ABV, 38 IBU) was a real-deal big stout, with pronounced toasted malts, hints of coffee beans, chickory bitterness, and a smoky aura.
The Double IPA was the hoppiest brew I’d had in Argentina. It’s the kind of beer IPA fanatics love: a pleasure-pain punch to the taste buds that makes every sip a challenge the way reaching a mountain’s peak after a 5-hour hike does. The color of perfect amber, it was hoppy from start to finish, yet complex, with subtle hints of passion fruit and mango in the aftertaste. The Patagonia IPA turned out to be a milder alternative, hoppiest at the end.
Nina’s Pumpkin Ale assuaged my fear of the style with only a mild pumpkin-y spiciness. In fact, it tasted more like cinnamon than pumpkins, and though I’m no fan of cinnamon, I found it light enough to be enjoyable. Other (seasonal) beers on the menu that weren’t available included Patagonia Special Bitter, Pale Ale, 10/49 Summer Ale, Weizen Bier, Special Belgian, Rauch Bier, and Lupulution IPA; I can’t wait to try them on my next visit.
Berlina’s pub and restaurant (the beer is brewed in Colonia Suiza some 20 kilometers away) brims with the atmosphere of a small mountain town: stone-and-wood interior, views of Nahuel Huapi National Park peaks, lots of regulars, soccer games on TV, and Argentinian rock and reggae on stereo.
For all these reasons, Berlina is Where Is Your Toothbrush?‘s best craft brewery outside of Bariloche proper!
If you go
- Location: Avenida Bustillo 11750. Take bus 3 de Mayo #20 from Avenida Moreno and ask the driver to stop at kilometro once punto cinco (Kilometer 11.5). Walk on the left side of the road for 250 meters to Km 11.75 (you’ll pass Blest on the way).
- Prices: AR$26-32 (USD3.25–4.00 / DolarBlue2.52–3.10) for a pinta (pint). The bill comes with a free sticker.
- Hours: Open every day from noon to 1:00 a.m. Happy hour is from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
By now, almost at the end of our 2-week stay in Bariloche, we’d figured out the best way to get as much out of a single visit as possible was to order a sampler and then half-pints of the brews we liked best.
The Scottish Ale was clear and light, with the style’s characteristic malty aftertaste, plus it boasted pleasant hints of maple. The lightly-carbonated Pale Ale kicked off with strong floral notes, continued on hoppy ones, and finished with a dry jab. The Victoria Red was just as interesting as the one at Manush, but though the unusual floral hops overwhelmed the experience with excessive perfume, it paired well with the base flavors of a pizza. The IPA was a hoppy beauty with all the bits in the right places and hints of nectarines and apricots. The Porter put a smile on my face with its toasted grains flavor and overall drinkability—a perfect ending to the day’s long hike. The Espresso Stout was a big, strong stout served only in a small glass and with good reason: its dark-coffee flavor would make it a great alternative to a post-dinner cuppa.
La Cruz’s brews came a very close second to Berlina’s. Call me a fuddy duddy, but La Cruz lagged mostly because of the distracting, loud, and chilly environment in which the beer was served.
If you go
- Location: Nilpi 789. Take bus 3 de Mayo #50 or #51 to Calle Nilpi (Km 6), walk down the hill and find the building tucked in on the left. If you hike straight down from Cerro Otto under the teleferico, turn left on Avenida de los Pioneros; Nilpi will be about 1.3 kilometers away.
- Prices: I was too tired to remember to take notes and La Cruz’s website doesn’t have a menu. But the prices were what you’d expect elsewhere, including a two-for-one deal during Happy Hour.
- Hours: Open every day from 6:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Happy Hour is from open to 7:00 p.m.
Bonus: Wesley (?)
We found the biggest craft-beer surprise on the aforementioned hike to Cerro Otto. We expected to have a halfway tea at Refugio Berghof, a mountain chalet recently rebuilt after a fire had destroyed it in 2011. It turned out they also had beers on tap. The server had to ask a colleague for the name of the brewery, coming up with “Wesley”, located “outside of Bariloche”—I have yet to find it online. In any case, the Rubia tasted like a strong lager or a mild golden ale, and the Roja was more amber in color and tasted like a pale ale. Both came out a little flat, which may be understandable given the amount of visitor traffic in the refugio, but the surprise factor, the view, and the awesome fireplace provided for a pleasant tasting experience.
If you go
- Location: Refugio Berghof, about two-thirds up the hike (or bike ride) to Cerro Otto.
- Prices: AR$35 (USD4.40 / DolarBlue3.40) for a pint.
- Hours: Not sure. We were told by different people that 1) the place had burned down and hadn’t been rebuilt, 2) it was closed post-season, and 3) “I have no clue.” Alas, I saw no hours posted except for a sign on the main road that said “Abierto”, and I didn’t ask. It will be just as much a surprise for you as it was for us.
Lists of microbreweries outside of Bariloche proper include Diuka, Gilbert, Nonick, Prosit, El Trebol, and Valais. I’m leaving them for the next visit…
Have you been to any of these craft breweries? What did you think?
- Lindsay and I made beer tasting into an activity, and all beer descriptions incorporate Lindsay’s observations. Any errors or omissions are mine.
- Dolar Blue is the unofficial exchange rate for the U.S. dollar, approx. 20% better than the official rate, up to 40% better than the ATM rate, and available only from street vendors. Learn more here. The Dolar Blue rate I use in this blog post series is as of April 28, 2014 (AR$10.30 per USD1.00), per DolarBlue.net. The official rate listed is also as of April 28, 2014, per Google (AR$8.00 per USD1.00). All dollar figures are rounded to the nearest 5 cents.