Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who Has The Best Beer Selection in Buenos Aires?

Who has the best beer selection in Buenos Aires? I claim that the best beer fridge in the city does not belong to a bar, a pub or even a specialty shop. It belongs to Martín Boan and Carolina Pérez, heads of the Centro de Cata de Cerveza in San Telmo (located at Piedras 1318/1320).

When entering the Centro de Cata (Tasting Centre) you will see an impressive collection of beer books, bottles, and other memorabilia on the shelves that border the room. Inevitably, your eye will be drawn to the contents protected by two glass doors on the far wall. The two fridges are a densely packed library of styles from across the continent and around the world.

Amassing and replenishing their constantly revolving collection is all in a day’s work. Carolina and Martín are leading figures in developing the South American craft beer industry and their fridge is a testament to wide travels, influence and admiration. They are Argentina’s foremost beer educators, drawing students from across South America and colleagues from around the world to their classroom. They also have a hand in the malting industry and in founding the South Beer Cup, a beer competition and festival inaugurated last May in Buenos Aires.

I was recently lucky enough to attend a low-key meeting between Martín, some of his students, and Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) president Gordon Strong. Mr. Strong happens to be the BJCP’s most experienced judge and had passed through Brazil before lecturing and judging at a brewing competition in Santa Fe.

The stylistic variety and origins of the beers we shared and discussed was surprising. From out of the fridge came a Baltic Porter brewed in Scotland, a Brazilian Black India Pale Ale, an Argentine Pale Ale in the American style, and Argentine versions of Bock and Imperial Stout to name only a few.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the beers was a Brazilian ale inspired by the Belgian brewing tradition. Fermented using Brettanomyces (a unique strain of yeast that creates a distinct sour taste), it offered tart and refreshing sips. It would be at home in a Belgian café and is an ideal restorative on a hot day.

Mr. Strong had this to say when asked to characterize Martín and Carolina’s influence on educating hopeful beer judges: “The BJCP would not have a presence in South America if it were not for Martín and Carolina. They helped organize and proctor the first exams, and also helped start up the program in Brazil. They are exactly the right type of people to lead the judging community”. More judges means more beer competitions and more chances for brewers to be shaped by competent criticism and praise from their peers. Better beer is the inevitable outcome.
The beers in the Centro de Cata de Cerveza are for educational purposes. The Centro offers regular topical workshops for those looking to indulge their curiosity about beer appreciation, as well as technical talks for homebrewers. For the more serious student, several long-term courses are offered through the Centro (including distance education) and each involves many hours of sensory evaluation. Beer’s raw materials, brewing science and other key technical subjects are also on the syllabus.

In any case, signing up for a class means drinking beer will quite literally be your homework.


  1. Hey Aaron - great article. At the center - is everything in Spanish? Yet another reason I need to go conjugate some verbs...

  2. I'm pretty sure it is 100% spanish as far as I know.