Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Beers in the Southern Hemisphere

What's the first thing I see in the beer section of a grocery store upon arriving in Santiago?

Well, that was unexpected.  I wonder if it's Duff, Duff Dry or Duff Light?

It was quite warm out, so to start I bought a couple of the big-name Argentinian macro lagers, and a Santiago-made craft beer.

If it's hot and you need a cheap beer, you could do worse than a 1 L Cristal beer.  I'm sure this is what the ganstas drink in Argentina.

Pouring out the Argentinian Cristal would have been a lot cheaper...

The other big brand is Escudo.  Initial sips were a bit better, but it goes downhill quickly upon exposure to the atmosphere, so it's Cristal by a nose.

Beer choice seems less important when travelling and faced with a sunny patio

Szot is craft beer made on the outskirts of Santiago - I bought an Amber.  Fives times the cost of Cristal.  It was bottle conditioned, but had far too much brown yeast at the bottom of the bottle.  Tasting confirmed that there were fermentation issues and/or premature bottling - unfortunately it was kind of a sour mess.

Good try Szot, but this bottle was not drinkable

We were thinking of visiting a brewery - despite having a nice-looking facility, Szot was a long/complicated mini-bus ride SW of the center of Santiago, and didn't seem worth the effort given the bottle we had purchased.  Handwerk Brewers (makers of Rothhammer craft beer) were beyond the reach of normal transit to the NW, and we weren't even sure if they were open to the public.  However, just down the street was a craft beer pub that featured Rothhammer beer!

Rothmann beers at Cerveceria Nacional

So of course we had to try all their draft offerings.


In sum, a couple were not good (why do many far-flung craft breweries pass off an unfinished, failed, yeasty, opaque, sour beer as a "special cloudy beer"?), a couple had promise, and - wonder of wonders - their IPA was very tasty!  A real (South) American style IPA.  (Pronounced "EE-pa" down here.)  Mugs of IPA all around!

The interior had all the trappings of a craft beer bar.  Except for the fact that everyone smoked relentlessly so it was a bit difficult to taste your food/beer.

And they served some pretty respectable thin-crust pizza.  The prices were roughly equivalent to what we'd pay back home.

Mrs. Hoplog loving pizza & IPA

We moved on to Valparaiso, Chile, and tried a couple of beers from the local Cervecera del Puerto.  The restaurant we were at had only "light and dark" - which in my limited travels is usually a huge warning flag that the local beer offered is going to be bad.

Fortunately, it wasn't bad.  The "light" wasn't great, but the "dark" was quite interesting.  The malt/hop bill was almost identical to a Belgian Dubbel, but it probably used a more standard (non-Belgian) fruity ale yeast.  Actually pretty good!

"Light" and "Dark" (not the real names, just what we were told) from Cervecera del Puerto

Standard serving practices in Chile seem to be icy (literally) beer, frozen glasses, and lots of overflow/excessive foam.  I'll hold off commenting for now.

Hey, why is the drip tray getting all the beer?

So far Chile does appear to have some craft beer, though it's a bit hard to find and the quality seems highly variable.

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