Monday, November 19, 2012

New Brewery at the End Of The World

I recently spent a couple of days in Punta Arenas, Chile - one of the most southerly cities in the world, home to high winds and bad weather, penguin colonies, and the famous Straits of Magellan (the original westerly entrance to the Pacific).

It's also home to Austral beer, which has been around in one form or another for over 100 years.  However, since Austral is more or less a widely distributed macro light lager, I wasn't falling over myself to tour their facilities.  Especially when a new brewery had opened up downtown barely a month ago!  Enter Cerveceria Hernando de Magallanes ("Magellan Brewery"), located less than 100m from the Straits of the same name.

Wow, what an incredibly swank building in an otherwise run down old port neighbourhood!  Somebody is investing in future tourist dollars.  Not a bad bet, since Punta Arenas is on the main tourist route between Tierra Del Fuego and Chile's popular Torres Del Paine National Park.  And you can take a penguin tour while you're here.

El Penguino de Magallanes

One of the co-owners was on hand to pour us a couple of samples.  She was was very generous with her time, and using a combination of broken Spanish, French and English, I gathered that she and her husband had developed this brewery after her husband had homebrewed for a couple of years. They've certainly put a lot of effort and capital into the venture, as the small brewery is beautiful and spotless.  They've started shipping to some restaurants and a couple of grocery stores in town, mostly in bottles.

As usual, the beers on offer were the colour-coded blonde/red/black triumvirate that first-timer craft breweries feel the need to provide in South America.  We sampled the red and black - and again, as expected, the red was bottled prematurely and had fermentation issues (huge crust of brown yeast on the bottom of the bottle; yeasty, sour and strong vegetal flavours), while the stout was mostly passable.  However, given that they've only been at it for a few weeks, good on them - and hopefully they'll work out these issues in the near future.  They certainly have the technology to make good beer.

Lovely, shining though small equipment.  If they gain any popularity, this will quickly become undersized.  Everything is piped in stainless steel (no hoses), the walls sport modern electronic controls and clean cable conduit runs - it looks like little expense was spared.

You can see the Straits of Magellan across the street as you have a taste.

Sexy brewery equipment is showcased through the interior windows.

The best part of the beers/brewery so far is the labelling and historical imagery.  Let's hope this kind of quality will soon extend to the beers.

Arrgh, it be a treasure chest of sweet malty booty!

So while I wouldn't recommend Hernando De Magallanes beer quite yet (though the stout could work in a pinch), it was great to have an early-stage view into one of the newest and most remote craft breweries in the world.  I've now had craft beer at 64 degrees N (Iceland) and 53 degrees South (Punta Arenas) - it's blanketing the world!  Craft beer drinkers rejoice and keep supporting your local craft brewers who truly care.

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