They say Argentina is a land of wine and they are right: the country is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world. But despair not, fellow beer lover. Craft beers have been around for decades and if you are willing to go an extra mile (sometimes literally), you can find some good ones, gems even.
In Buenos Aires, my first stop in Argentina, I set out to explore the local cervezas artesanales scene armed with Argentina Independent‘s list of the capital’s best microbrewery bars.
#6 craft beer in Buenos Aires: Cruzat
Happy hour is a lonely place at Cruzat Beer House. Lindsay and I* sat down to the 1980’s butt rock reverberating through the murky space. The 9-strong offering, two of which were actually by Antares (see below), prompted us to order different beers in order to sample as much as we could.
The opening solo of Cream Ale (5% ABV) quenched my thirst, if only for a while. The malty and fruity start balanced the hoppy finish that dissipated in the aftertaste to make room for the next sip. Halfway through the pint, however, the mild carbonation fizzled out, and I ended up drinking a flat beer. The same happened with the second verse, the IPA (5.8% ABV), which was slightly floral and so mildly hoppy it would best serve as an introduction to the style for skeptics. Having enjoyed two different Irish Reds prior to coming here (see Part 2), the Cruzat Irish Red (5.6% ABV) came as a flat let down of a third verse: it tasted like liquid grains with an aftertaste of bad pipes. The encore Imperial Stout (5.8% ABV) reminded me of weak coffee, with plain final notes.
Though I missed out on Cruzat’s Scotch (6% ABV), Pale Ale (5% ABV), and Barley Wine (11.5% ABV)—there’s only so much beer one can drink—I don’t think it would have altered my impression. I left Cruzat disappointed, feeling as though they either half-assed their production or did not care for its presentation or both. A good experience nonetheless, if only to provide the low-end benchmark to measure all other offerings in Buenos Aires.
If you go (even after reading this)
- Location: The brew pub/restaurant is on the second floor of a building tucked away from Sarmiento 1617, near the busy Callao boulevard; Subte D/Green Callao.
- Hours: Monday–Thursday 10:00 a.m.–2:00 a.m., Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m.–4:00 a.m.
- Prices: AR$30–33 (USD3.75–4.00/ DolarBlue**3.00–3.31) for 250 ml (half pint), AR$45 (USD5.60 / DolarBlue4.45 ) for 500 ml (pint), and AR$48–51 (USD6–6.40/ DolarBlue4.80–5.10) for 650 ml.
#5 craft beer in Buenos Aires: Cossab
Cerveceria Cossab’s cozy pub space filled up with twenty- and thirty-something alternative crowd within an hour of opening. Once again, Lindsay and I shared the drinking duties to cover as much of the big menu as possible. We managed four brews, splitting between the German and British styles.
The Oktoberfest was a solid malty dark-ish beer that reminded me why I like heavier German styles. A fatty, juicy meal would have gone well with it. The Doublebock was more amber in color than I recalled bocks to be and a little flat in flavor. The IPA was a nice ale but not what I expected of the style, what with its understated hoppiness and a dry finish. The Bitter was probably the closest to my concept of the purported style. Eminently drinkable and hoppier than most bitters, which came as a nice surprise because I generally find the style uninteresting on account of its blandness.
All the beers at Cossab came with the aftertaste I am used to in the beers I make at home (the Doublebock was the worst offender). They were all under-carbonated and a little flat at the end. Lindsay and I both agreed that the beers taste better with food, which was surprisingly good for a little pub like this and which more than compensated for the underwhelming liquid cuisine on offer.
If you go
- Location: Carlos Calvo 4199, corner of Carlos Calvo and Marmol, in a working-class neighborhood of Boedo, Subte E/Purple Avenida la Plata.
- Hours: 7:00 p.m.–1:00 am Wednesday and Thursday, 9:00 p.m.–3:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 8:00 p.m.–? Sunday.
- Prices: To be honest, I forgot to document these (it had been a long day). Expect to spend about the same as in other brewpubs. Make sure the server acknowledges the amount you put down—just sayin’.
#4 craft beer in Buenos Aires: Antares
The Antares brew bar was the closest to our studio apartment but we visited it on a Friday evening after walking all day around Recoleta and Palermo. It’s a stylish, hopping pub/restaurant that runs a waiting list past about 7 p.m. and that feels like a showroom for the major beer brand’s products (later I learned that Antares had started out as just another watery-beer company before switching to making craft beers at the end of the 1990’s; they have 19 brew pubs around Argentina).
The menu boasted 9 brews (only 8 were available). We ordered a sampler of four. The Kölsch (5% ABV, 18 IBU) looked and tasted more like a cheap American lager, with a tart bite of a lemon dishwasher liquid and an odd, overripe aftertaste. The best way to describe the IPA (6.6% ABV, 45 IBU) is basic and cookie-cutter IPA—tasty with solid hoppiness and some floral notes but not very interesting or complex in flavor or nose. The Cream Stout (7% ABV, 30 IBU) was, well, creamy, with light hoppy hints and faint burnt caramely notes. It ended up being the best of the lot.
My guess why honey beer is very popular around Argentina is the Argentines’ penchant for sweet pastries and, ergo, sweet foods in general. This was the first time I’d ever tried the style so I had no frame of reference. The Antares Honey Beer (7.5% ABV, 25 IBU) tasted like a sweeter/maltier and sharper pale ale, with hints of honey that brought to mind a night of fruitless flirtation at a bar like this one.
The rest of the menu included Scotch (6% ABV, 18 IBU), Porter (5.5% ABV, 21 IBU), Barley Wine (10% ABV, 50 IBU), and Imperial Stout (8.6% ABV, 36 IBU).
If you go
- Location: Armenia 1447, in the heart of the trendy Palermo district. Subte B/Green Scalabrini Ortiz.
- Prices: AR$23–26 (USD2.85–3.25 / DolarBlue2.30–2.6) for a half-pint, AR$39–45 for a pint (USD4.85–5.60 / DolarBlue3.90–4.50), AR$53 (USD6.60 / DolarBlue 5.30) for a sampler of 4×175 ml glasses. Two for the price of one during happy hour.
- Hours: Opens at 6:00 p.m. every day. Happy hour is from opening until 8:00 p.m.
#3 craft beer in Buenos Aires: Breoghan
It took two tries for us to find Breoghan Brew Bar open but the experience nicely capped our Sunday at the San Telmo fair. Though new (since August 2012) at this location, the place is a good-old brew pub with brick walls, dark-wood furniture, and displays of coasters, many from our very own Oregon. A scent of beer brewing oozed from the back of the building and 1980’s pop hits from the stereo.
The menu board featured 6 brews but only three were on tap. Stronger than I’d expected, Breo Pride Golden Ale (5.3% ABV, 17 IBU) started with fruity notes that would have made it taste like a non-alcoholic beverage were it not for a brush of hops and a refreshing malty aftertaste. San Telmo Fire IPA was full-bodied and round, with a citrusy start and a big hoppy finish. The day’s special, Satan Patricio Irish Red Ale, too, was a big ale, featuring a beautiful dark-red color, full flavor, and rich hoppy finish and aftertaste.
The only weakness these beers had in common was insufficient carbonation, which left them flat in each pint’s last quarter.
If you go
- Location: Bolívar 860 in San Telmo, one block from the Defensa street where the Sunday market takes place; Subte C/Blue Independencia.
- Prices: AR$25 (USD3.10 / DolarBlue2.50) for half-pint, AR$40 (USD5.00 / DolarBlue4.00) for a pint, AR$42 (USD5.25 / DolarBlue4.20) for the special.
- Hours: Opens at 6 p.m.
#2 craft beer in Buenos Aires: Buller
Sampling the beers, you can tell Buller has been at it for a while and used the time to perfect their brews. The IPA (6% ABV, 43 IBU) boasted a beautiful amber color and a citrusy start that rolled into and persisted beneath a gentle hoppy middle and finish. The flavor lingered on the palate asking to be replenished with another sip of the nicely carbonated brew. The color of the Hefeweizen (5% ABV, 13 IBU) reminded me of the sun on the Argentinian flag and its flavor of Hoegaarden minus the Belgian brew’s yeasty distinctiveness. It would have been better with a lemon and on a summer day.
The Stout (5.8% ABV, 39 IBU) came with a thick creamy head, a full creamy body, and hints of hops beneath the dark caramel coffee notes. It was the best stout I’d had for a while, big without being overwhelming, easy and balanced without losing its special character.
The beer list also included Pilsner (4.5% ABV, 16 IBU), Honey Beer (8.5% ABV, 16 IBU), and Oktoberfest (5.5% ABV, 18 IBU), which wasn’t available at the time.
If you go
- Location: Roberto M. Ortiz 1827, next to the La Recoleta Cemetery; Subte C/Green Callao plus a brisk 20 minute walk.
- Prices: AR$34–36 (USD4.25–4.50 / DolarBlue3.40–3.60) for a half-pint and for a pint during “Fanatic Time”, AR$49–52 (USD6.10–6.50 / DolarBlue4.90–5.20) for a pint.
- Hours: Opens at 12 p.m., Fanatic Time from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
#1 craft beer in Buenos Aires: Bröeders Artesanal
Drumroll, please! Introducing the hands-down best microbrew and best craft beer company in Buenos Aires: Basil IPA by Bröeders Artesanal.
The winner was served as the second of three beers paired with a three-course Southern-style dinner at NOLA Buenos Aires, a puerta cerrada (literally, closed-door, or secret) restaurant. While the preceding Irish Red Ale and the final Stout were in and of themselves amazing and better than many of the brews on this page, the first sip of the Basil IPA left me speechless. I’d never thought basil could so beautifully complement hops. The beer’s complexity and near-perfect balance made every sip an adventure, a challenge in discovering its secret, a joy.
The icing on the cake (or should I say, the head on the beer): Bröeders Artesanal‘s brewers themselves, brothers Marcelo and Francisco Terren, were on hand to pour the pints, answer questions, and provide a tour of the tiny rooftop space where the brewing magic happens. I could tell they’re passionate about making beer, which certainly translates into their products. They feel optimistic about their company’s prospects: not only do they now have a larger, 500-liter capacity brewing space, they believe that since the craft beer market in Argentina is tiny, they have a great chance to capture a good part of it. The beers they’ve made so far make for a solid foundation and I wish them the best on their path to domination.
If you go
- Location: As of March 2014 Bröeders Artesanal’s brews are available only at NOLA Buenos Aires (email them for reservation and location; brews rotate) and, strangely enough, at Fukuro Noodle Bar, Costa Rica 5514, Palermo (IPA and Golden), Subte D/Green Palermo. In the summer 2014 NOLA will open a storefront in the Palermo neighborhood.
- Hours: NOLA is open for dinner most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, reservation only. Check their website website for more information and availability. Fukuro is open Tuesday thru Thursday from 8:00 p.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
- Prices: Three pint pairings are included in the AR$200 (USD25.00 / DolarBlue20.00) flat-rate charge for the NOLA dinner. At Fukuro, a pint costs AR$40 (USD5.00 / DolarBlue4.00)
- 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 10, 2014, per DolarBlue.net. The official rate listed is also as of April 10, 2014, per Google. All dollar figures are rounded to the nearest 5 cents.