Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Buenos Aires Beer Tastings

Argentinians tend to be an entrepreneurial bunch and the expats in Buenos Aires are no exception. Everyone is freelancing, wheeling and dealing and running some kind of business. I haven't met them yet but there are even two guys selling hot sauce.

I didn't start doing these beer tastings to pay the bills but I did hope to make a couple bucks, show people some of the awesome beers I have found here so far and meet people. So far it has worked out pretty well. Here are some photos and descriptions of the two events so far.

Beer Tasting I

El Bolson - Rubia (blonde)
Served with Pizza with Ham & Pineapple

I have had mixed experiences with El Bolson. I had to pour away their Negra and Negra Ahumada (smoked stout) for being un-drinkable metallic and oxidized. I had a great bottle of their Rubia (blonde) before and decided to use it for this pairing. It had a very cool sort of wood flavour to it that I thought would go well with the pizza (especially the ham and pineapple).

I knew in the back of my mind I was taking a bit of a risk using this brewery but I thought I would be safe with the blonde. Turns out the same tangy metal flavour was in this batch of bottles as well. The crowd liked the beer though, so not all was lost. If you are liking the beer I am not about to tell you to stop liking it.

Respect to El Bolson for being one of the oldest craft brewers in Argentina, but they really need to do something about their quality. I really liked their blonde when it was spot-on, but I have now had bad experiences with three different beers of theirs and would advise you to steer clear unless you are visiting the brewery. This is probably the first negative thing ever published about a specific brewer on this blog.

The pineapple ended up taking the edge off quite a bit and we merrily marched on to the next beer.

El Buho - IPA
Served with Indian French Fries

I have loved El Buho since I first had their IPA at Prologo Bar. I was really excited to serve this beer, especially with this food pairing. For me, this was the match of the night and I am excited to do this again. Big round of applause to GiGi, the chef at Magdalena's Party, because these fries were seriously good: curry and other Indian spices with a bit of brown sugar. El Buho's IPA is more on the malty side and has a straight up bitterness without going crazy on the fmavour and aroma hops like the IPAs you'd typically see in North America. The brown sugar went really well with that and the spices had a great aroma to match the hops that you do find in El Buho.

I love El Buho. I just wanted to say that again.

Berlina - Foreign Stout
Served with Chocolate

Berlina is also a very nice brewery. I have already talked about them before in an article I wrote about Stout Day. One thing I love about them is the German heritage meets the willingness to brew other styles of beer. Something about a Stout brewed under the Bavarian purity law makes me smile.

Guinness is forever the yardstick for those exploring stouts. I find it incredibly useful to have a reference beer that everyone is familiar with for the style even if the point you have to make is about contrasts. Discussing the differences is fun and it is always encouraging when people are surprised at how much they like a beer with more body and flavour. This beer was a big hit and the chocolate was enjoyed by all.

One of the tasters bought a bottle of Guinness for comparison and shared with the table. It was good to have them side by side to make the differences clear. Working from memory can be tricky when dealing with tastes and textures. I think I will do this again in future tastings to make things more tangible.

Overall - this was a lot of fun but rain dampened the turnout. I was happy to be invited back. I think the crowd liked the Berlina best but the best pairing was for sure the IPA and sweet curry fries.

Beer Tasting II

Finn - Wheat Ale
Served with Pizza

This is a super interesting brewery run by a very nice guy named Andi who just won homebrewer of the year award. I am not sure exactly what sort of setup he is using or how big, but apparently he brews about 600L a month which is incredibly tiny. Whatever system/size he is using he knows what he is doing. He makes a damn good beer. I am a big fan of the American Pale Ale he makes, but the Wheat Ale was available in larger quantities so I chose that for this tasting.

This isn't remotely like a Wit or a Weiss. You won't find any haze, spices or fruit peels. This beer drinks more like a blonde ale with a bit more body, darker colour and a great wheat cracker aroma. It is perfectly clear. I really like the aroma of this beer and so did the table.

Grosa - Barrel-aged Tripel
Served with Gruyere, Honey and Almond snack plate

This beer had mixed results. Everyone said they liked it but not every glass was finished. I didn't expect everyone would enjoy this beer without reservation but I think the pairing helped people through. Everyone loved the cheese and the honey and almonds were a nice counterpoint for the dryness of the beer.

I am curious to try this beer's older brother (Re-grosa) that has been aged in barrels longer. This beer is pretty good and the only Tripel in regular production that I am currently aware of in Argentina. I think it could use some more time to smooth out, but doesn't necessarily need more time in the wood.

I would love to try an aged bottle of Grosa alongside Regrosa to test this theory out.

Beagle - Stout
Served with Ice Cream & Chocolate

Beagle is named after Darwin's boat and is also the name of the channel that Ushauaia (home city of the brewery) sits on. The boat features nicely on the label.

This is a very potent beer that had mixed reactions. Half the table thought it was the best beer of the night and the other half the worst. There were several bottles that got opened but went untouched after trying a sip of their neighbour's glass. This was not such a bad thing in the end as it was a great excuse to drink six stouts. This beer is at its absolute best at cellar temperature, even room temperature. There is a great dry cherry/chocolate note that pops out and all the dark malt bite settles right down.

I make a point of showing the effects of beer temperature in the presentation, but even I was surprised at how much I loved the last beers of the night that had been sitting out for almost an hour. Temperature effects are something I will make a better point of demonstrating in future talks, making it as tangible as possible.

Funny story - after the tasting, a girl who had not sat through it tried some of the leftover Beagle from the bottle. I told her it was better from the glass and she tried a sip. She thought they were two different beers. Funny how glassware works, eh?


  1. looks like an Awesome time Aaron, next time hope to be there!

  2. Hope to see you as well! Next event will be in January :)

  3. I agree with you about the El Bolson quality problems. Last September, during my holidays, I visited the camping/brewery, asked for a sampler and 5 out of the 6 little glasses they brought me were undrinkable. Too bad, I had very good memories of their beer from years ago, it was one of the first craft beer I've ever tried and enjoyed.

  4. Hi Santiagus,

    I am not sure what is going on over there, but I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed. For a while I thought it was just bad luck or just me. They do deserve credit for being a pioneer in the industry.

    where are you based these days? Glad to hear from you!

    1. Sorry about the delay! Right now I'm based in Castelar, it's one of Buenos Aires suburbs; but when I was a kid and a teen I lived in Puerto Madryn, in Patagonia, so trips to El Bolsón were something frequent, despite it's about 800 km away.

      Cheers and hope you enjoy the Argentinean beers!