Less than two years ago if you walked into a bar in Buenos Aires you rarely had more than three choices of beer: Quilmes, a mediocre international brand like Heineken and another brand that was probably owned by Quilmes (Imperial). Quilmes isn’t exactly known for its full-bodied taste but rather for its cheap price. Times were tough fellow beer drinkers. But then one day, in the blink of an eye, craft beer bars started popping up everywhere in Palermo, San Telmo and their surrounding areas and the craft beer scene in Buenos Aires was born. Now you can’t walk more than two blocks without seeing construction on a new craft beer bar. This is cause for beer enthusiasts to rejoice. But not all craft brews are created equally. Let’s take a closer look at some of the beers and where to drink them.
Although the craft beer scene appears to be flourishing in Buenos Aires, it’s still very much in its infancy (craft beer accounts for just 2% of the overall beer market in Argentina). Most craft beer bars offer four or five different types and there isn’t much variety from one bar to the next. The most common is one of the oldest and most respected craft beers in Argentina: Antares. Named after the brightest start in the Scorpio constellation, the company was started as a brewpub by three friends in Mar del Plata and has grown to multiple locations across Argentina. Antares beers include a range of flavors including Scotch, Honey and even Barley Wine (which is 10% alcohol by volume!). In addition to their standard flavors, they also offer special brews by season. Check out the Antares Palermo location, which is always crowded from open till close.
One of the largest breweries in Bariloche, you can now find a location in Palermo. The company was started by three bothers in Bariloche in 2005. Head brew master Bruno Ferrari says that the beer revolution in Argentina is not a trend but a culture. Being brewed in Patagonia, everything about the region influences their beer from the scenes of nature to the extra pure water to the youthful energy of the people who produce it. Berlina produces over 20 flavors of artisan beer and can be found at selected bars around Buenos Aires.
NOLA began as a puerta cerrada, which served Cajun food with their own craft beer and has exploded into one of the most popular gastro pubs in Buenos Aires. NOLA was one of the first (if not the first) bar to offer a happy hour from 5-7pm, a rarity in a city where you usually can’t find any drinking establishments open at 5pm. Their beers include delicious IPAs, blondes and golden ales. The fried chicken is some of the best you’ll find in Buenos Aires. NOLA is busy almost every minute it’s open so go early and, if there are no tables available, you can just sit on the curb like the other hipster locals eating chicken and drinking beer.
Boasting over 20 craft beers at each of the six locations in Buenos Aires, On Tap is a beer lover’s dream. They opened their first bar in 2015 and have grown quickly, always with an emphasis on local microbreweries. The Argentine owner comes from a family of wine producers but he developed his taste for craft beers after spending considerable time in Lake Tahoe in the US. He originally started selling his beer at NOLA and eventually opened Broeders and then On Tap. Now at On Tap you can find anything from IPA’s to dark Belgiums to stouts.
The winner of the 2016 South Beer Cup in the category of wood and barrel aged, Juguetes Perdidos is an up-and-coming brewer based in Caseros (in the Buenos Aires province) however you can find their delicious brews at various beer bars around the city (including On Tap). The company views brewing beer as an art form and because of that each beer is brewed in small quantities and recipes are not repeated. The company brews its beer like whiskey makers age their whiskey, with wood barrels. Much like brewers did 200 years ago, Juguetes Perdidos ferments and transports its beers in aged wood. The result is distinct flavors and alcohol content (up to 14%!). For example, the company will use barrels that had whiskey in them for 20 years and will brew beer in those for a distinct whiskey-esque beer. Recommended beers include: Dark Honey Whiskey Barrel, Imperial Stout, Bourbon Barley Wine and Doppelbock.
Been to any other new craft beer places in Buenos Aires that you’d recommend? Tell us about them in the comments below!