Let’s all agree on something right away: as far as beer goes – Quilmes is terrible. Quilmes is THE Argentine beer by definition, and sure it’s easy to find everywhere and hell… it’s cheap. Sad as it is, Quilmes’ golden years have faded and its current state leaves quite a bit to be desired.
This sad state of affairs is only made worse by the high price points associated with the few imported brands. As a result smaller breweries have begun to emerge all over the country and are quickly making their way to Buenos Aires. Leaving two important questions. Who are these producers and what do their beers actually taste like?
The guys from Buenos Aires Art Tours have taken on the challenge of answering both of those questions for you. The San Telmo Beer Walk is one of the first tours of its kind in the city, offering an urban exploration of the craft beer scene. When we first heard of the tour, we had a moment of hesitation. “Beer” and “tour” in one sentence could only mean one thing: Pub Crawl. Well, let us reassure you: we were totally wrong. This particular tour has nothing to do with similarly named
frat-bro tourist attractions.
So what is the tour about then? Let us quote Leo, the beer guide, on this one: “What we intended by setting up this tour, was to teach the customer to start demanding good quality beer.” The Bubble got the chance to experience the tour and we can already tell you one thing: we can never go back to asking for Quilmes.
We took the tour on a rainy Thursday evening, one of those when you’ve only got two clear choices: stay home, get a blanket and turn Netflix on; or find refuge in a Pub. We went not for one, but for 4 different Pubs, looking to beat the – November – cold with some fermented malt. This is a recap of the places we visited, the beers we tried, and our thoughts on the Beer Walk.
Antares – Bolivar 4091:
Probably one of the most popular brands on the craft beer scene. Antares brewery was also one of the very first to emerge back in the early 2000’s in Mar del Plata. “What’s impressive about this place” – says Leo – “is that over the years and the growth of the brand, Antares has managed to preserve the quality of its product.”
The beer: We got to try 5 different beers, while listening to the managers’ explanations. Our favorite was the Honey Beer. The honey touch has managed to soften the bitterness of this Ale, making it easy to drink for those who struggle with bitter flavors. Beware though, as the alcohol concentration is not as sweet as its name! If those bitter notes are exactly what you are looking for, then you should definitely go for an IPA – also one of the house’s most demanded beers.
Barba Roja – Defensa 550:
What started as a family venture about 14 years ago has grown into one of the country’s most emblematic craft beers. The beer was born in Escobar, in the Buenos Aires province, but it made its way to San Telmo only last year. The tenuous light, the brick walls and the disguised-waiters make the place feel more like a pirate boat than a Pub. But once you get to try the beers, you don’t even think twice about the setting.
The beer: The Trigueña is everything a Quilmes dreams of being but cannot be. It has a strong body but it’s easy to drink as it has some sort of herbal back flavor. We also tried the non-alcoholic “beer”, but we couldn’t really see the point. You can feel the malt, but the fruity sugary not-subtle notes do not compensate for the fermented feeling you’re looking on a beer.
Bier Life – Humberto Primo 670 :
Bier Life is located in a big old-styled San Telmo house where nearly every room connects through patios. The ideal place to spend those summery days we’ve all been waiting for. The owners of the place used to run a Puerta Cerrada a few blocks away, The Beer House Experience, were the entire menu was based on beer and served with the house craft. Today, they have taken that cooking philosophy and the Pub serves different beer-based specialties. We got to try different sorts of pizza, all of which were built on a Scottish Ale dough. Weird as it might sound, it was absolutely delicious! Oh, and the chocolate filled with Stout? Yes, please! You’ll want two.
The beer: Bier Life counts with over 30 different kinds of draft beer. Most are produced by the house brewery, but some of the others come from different producers around the country. If you’re into heavy bodied beers, like Guinness, you should directly order any of the nitrogenated options. Creamy with the right amount of bitter is we would describe them. If you’re looking for a lighter option, the Golden should be your beer. We also tried the Wine Beer, despite consistently doubting of it. It’s different, special and definitely worth trying.
Pulperia Quilapan – Defensa 1344:
The Beer Walk, ends up on a high note: La Pulperia Quilapan. There are many reasons to pay a visit to this Bar, Bistro and Club Social, and they’re all equally good. The terrace, the live music, the old school ambiance dripping with cool and nostalgia, and of course the food. Well, now you have a brand new excuse to visit: the beer. While the Pulperia does not produce any craft beer itself, they have added a considerably large (and admirable we should add) amount of breweries to their menu. You can also buy your favorite ones to take home.
The beer: On this last stop, our guide Leo offered two completely kinds of beer for us to taste. The first one is a lively sample of Belgian savoir-faire: Keusters. Definitely one of the most complex beers we had along the way, and our guide’s favorite. Brewed by a couple of Belgian friends in very small quantities, this beer has a special magic, a unique taste we didn’t experienced on the previous pubs. The second was La Serrana Celta, produced by a very small brewery in the San Luis province. We got the chance to try two varieties: one was smoked, the gingered. The first had a particular taste: you could see some faces frowning around the table. But for us, this is the ideal beer for an Asado. The ginger beer was without a doubt something unique. Forget about ginger tea for beating a cold, ginger beer is officially our new medicine. Definitely what we’ll be drinking this summer.
Who is this tour made for?
- Craft beer lovers who are sick of drinking Quilmes and would like to discover some new trends
- Beer haters – since maybe this would be the chance to start loving actual beer
- Palermo regulars in a geographic rut – this is your chance to spend an evening out of your comfort zone
- San Telmo newbies looking to discover some of the neighborhoods’ cooler and more interesting pubs & bistros