All the beer in Bariloche

Blest Brewery, Bariloche

Last weekend there was apparently a big craft beer festival in Bariloche, with more than 40 kinds of craft beer to be tasted. Or it could have been beer from 40 craft breweries – my Spanish is still hazy on fine points, and besides, I kept getting distracted by the girl with the squint and the guy who looks like the Australian Top Gear presenter on the poster:

Bariloche Beer Art Poster
Slightly odd poster for the beer festival. (Bomberos means fire station. Hmmm, lots of potential there, I think.)

I say ‘apparently’ because I didn’t need a beer festival to encourage me to try a large number (and quantity) of the multitude of artesanal (that’s Spanish for ‘craft’) beers brewed in Bariloche. Anyway, I am too disorganised to do anything on a pre-arranged date. So my personal beer festival started a few days ago when my friend and I were hitch-hiking on Circuito Chico.

We were picked up by a couple of Austrians, who had just had their rental car broken into for the second time in two days. The first time, their camera was stolen. The second time, their backpacks with all their clothes were taken out of the locked boot when they got out of the rental car for five minutes to take a couple of photos. It says a great deal about the kind of people they are that they did pick us up (unlike all the smug pelotudos in the other cars that zoomed past us) even after they’d been robbed. Twice.

After a Picnic in a Police Station (the nice policewoman got some nougat and an alfajore too), we arranged to meet up with the Austrians for dinner (once they’d gone shopping for some clothes to change into after four days of camping). Since it was obvious that what they needed to persuade them not to cancel the rest of their trip around South America was lots of good beer and an enormous pile of cheesy fries, we went to Antares.

Antares Brewery, Bariloche
At Antares, the beer is served straight out of the thingamebobs it’s brewed in. (Must work on beer terminology.)

Once the cheesy fries were on the way, everyone else ordered a pint of Scotch Ale, but I went off on a tangent and tried half a pint of Barley Wine. This beer is called wine because it’s almost as strong as wine. This appealed to me because I am a former Rhodes student and, as you may know, all Rhodents earn an automatic Masters degree in Maximum Alcohol Per Millilitre. Barley Wine also sounded like something out of The Hobbit, which obviously made it doubly attractive.

I tried Some Other Beer next. I can’t remember what it was, but it was Very Good Beer. (If you’re looking for great beer writing, I’m afraid you have come to the wrong place. Try this beer blog instead.)

Encouraged by this experience, the next day my friend and I cycled 14 kilometres to visit two neighbouring breweries at Kilometre 11: Berlina and Blest. Berlina was our first stop by virtue of being 100 metres before Blest.

Berlina Brewery, Bariloche
Berlina Brewery

I ordered Pumpkin Ale  first and then Some Other Other Beer (I seem to have a problem remembering anything after the first beer) and both were exceedingly drinkable (the 14km cycle may have made them even tastier). However, the waitress called us Chicos in a rather overfamiliar way and later decided that we weren’t cool enough to notice. More importantly, none of the beers at Berlina came in proper pints. Shockingly, they were only served in 330ml hobbit-portions. So we didn’t stay very long at Berlina.

Vintage car at Blest, Bariloche
Cheesy car in the flowerbed… could there be good beer here?

Blest didn’t look promising from the outside: it had a vintage car in a flowerbed in the parking lot, which seemed to promise a theme-park approach to brewing. But, inside, there were many signs that this was a place that took beer seriously. Decor consisted of beer mugs, beer glasses, beer signs and many thousands of beer mats written on by former clients saying witty things like ‘Blest is the Best’ and things in Spanish that were apparently more humourous and less polite. To crown it all, Silent Bob came out, put on some rubber gloves and started doing technical things with the beer brewing thingamebobs that are right there in the dining room. The cherry on top was when they agreed to take our orders at happy hour rate 15 minutes before happy hour officially started. Score!

Beer brewing at Blest
The view from your table at Blest Brewery.

So it was at Blest that we had our Personal Bariloche Beer Festival. I can remember most of what I drank there because it was better than Very Good. It was Exceptional. First I had a pint of the Frambuesa, or raspberry beer (according to the menu, the ‘champagne’ of beers, according to my friend, ‘girl’ beer). Then I had a pint of half-and-half (half bock, half pilsener) and then we shared pints of the Scotch Ale and Some Other Other Other Beers (oh alright, I can’t remember anything after the third beer – but that’s much better than usual, isn’t it?) A couple of days later, I went back and ordered a whole TOWER of beer. (There were three of us, but I think I drank most of it.)

A tower of beer at Blest
A tower of beer and it’s MINE! All MINE! Errr….
Beer bottles at Blest
While we were drinking the beer, the staff at Blest were sitting at another table labelling bottles by hand, led by Silent Bob himself.
The Beer Menu at Blest Brewery
The beer menu at Blest – just order one of everything. (The prices are in Argentinian Pesos – not US dollars. So it’s pricey but not insane :)

So, if you ever come to Bariloche, and you happen to enjoy the odd beer, I can give you two good recommendations:

1. If you’re hungry and you’ve just been robbed (or need cheering up for any other reason), go to Antares on Elflein in the town centre and get the cheesy chips and a pint of anything. (And then another pint of Something Else.)

2. If you just want to spend a few hours drinking awesome beer in a place with a great atmosphere and nice staff who don’t call you Chicos, go to Blest at 18h00 for the 2-hour-long happy hour. Order a tower and try the Frambuesa. Then write me a thank-you note on a beer mat and stick it on the wall.

Oh, whoops, I almost forgot. We also went to this brewery another day when we cycled the Circuito Chico, where we had Some Other Very Nice Beers. As a bonus, I ordered deer stew for lunch, just so I could say I had Deer With Beer. So theer.

P.S. I did drink lots more local beer than mentioned in this post but, firstly, I can’t remember what it was called, and secondly, this post is quite long enough already, don’t you think?

Glasses of Frambuesa beer at Blest
Illustration of comparative drinking speeds: Swiss, German and South African. Easy to guess which is which, I think.
Cassis Beer
My attempt to imitate the Frambuesa (raspberry) beer at Blest: take ordinary beer and add a dollop of homemade Cassis liqueur bought at one of the viewpoints on Circuito Chico. Yum!
Photo of an Irish pub
Blest celebrates all beer culture – all brands, breweries and drinking places. I loved their photo collection of Irish Pub Exteriors.
Stained glass window at Blest
Stained glass window. Because beweries are churches too, sort of.

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