As I mentioned yesterday, Buenos Aires is a big and sprawly city and involved quite a bit of walking. Fortunately there are a few decent pubs spacing out all those monuments commemorating arse-kickings delivered to, and received from, the Brits (final score 2-2 after extra time). I was particularly glad of Territorio down in the Bohemian neighbourhood of San Telmo. It's a stylish street-corner café with a few decent beers which, crucially for the meandering tourist, opens in the afternoon.
Aside from the better ones from Antares, they also had Dorada Patagónica, a cloudy, slightly weissbier-like, blonde ale from Cervecería Gülmen. It's rather more forward with its hops than your typical weiss, however, displaying some gorgeous succulent mandarins alongside an almost Belgian yeasty spice. Highlight of the menu for me, though, was Yapai Negra Especial. I've seen this stylised as a porter elsewhere but it tasted much more like a dark lager to me: red-brown, quite thin with lots of fine sparkle. There's a hint of light caramel, some mild roast and then a wave of sherbetising hops. As a bonus there's even a slight smoky finish. Yapi do a fully smoked version but sadly I never saw it on sale anywhere. Negra Especial is sublimely refreshing, and one of the few beers I met that manages to get all of its complexities out even when served at the low low temperatures preferred by the Argentinians.
There were two from El Búho on the Territorio menu but they weren't in stock. I caught up with another of their range at Cruzat, the bar with the most diverse selection of beers I found. Though, once again, the menu bore little resemblance to what was actually available, but they have the good sense to put the beer fridge out on the main floor on a semi-self-service basis.
El Búho Imperial Stout wasn't really worth the wait. The aroma starts with some promising, but worryingly understated, roast grain but follows it with sweet porridgey wort. And it's the porridge that dominates the taste, missing all the big-hop, big-roast marks that make imperial stouts great. A failure of the style and a failure of a beer, unfortunately. It probably didn't help its case that it was served next to possibly the single best beer I tasted in Argentina: Montechristo Imperial Stout. You only have to look at the photo to see the difference in densities. Montechristo is 11% ABV, supremely dense and silkily smooth. Both aroma and flavour lay on the coffee and molasses at the centre of the palate, adding gentle chocolate and lavender high notes to make it approachable, drinkable and, most importantly, fun.
All down hill from here, then. Berlina India Pale Ale is another one of those dark-red toffee-laden Argentine IPAs. This one at least has a teeny bit of mild hop flavour, reminding me a little of some US brown ales I've tried. There are no off flavours and it's overall an enjoyable though unexciting beer. Siete y ½ Cream Stout was what I was given on ordering the smoked stout, before I figured out that it's easier to just help oneself from the Cruzat fridge. Anyway I'm not sure I missed much: the sour infected smell from this suggests a brewery with a general hygiene problem. Whatever got in here chomped through the sugar very efficiently so instead of a creamy cream stout it's something as thin and gassy as a schwarzbier, and not a good one. A little bit of gunpowder spice arrived towards the end as it warmed, but really I just wanted rid of it and on to something else.
My weird beer curiosity got the better of me when I spotted El Bolsón Con Ají, a blonde ale with chilli in. I suspect, however, that the small shred of chilli pepper floating in the bottle neck represented the sum total of chillification. The beer itself is grossly sweet, full to the rafters with cloying butterscotch. The chilli gives just a slight catch in the back of the throat which in no way makes up for the rest of this atrocity.
Moving away from the pubs, the commonest Argentinian craft beer (-ish. Made by A-B InBev, see comments. Thanks Max!) I found in shops was the Patagonia range, in their imposing 74cl bottles. With two lagers and a weissbier it's not the most curiosity-inspiring of line-ups and I never made the time to try the latter. But the lagers were decent enough. Patagonia Bohemian Pilsener (shudder ye at the broad-brush American style designation) is as clear and as golden as you'd want it to be. The hops are genuine Patagonian ones, we're told, and there's a lovely green aroma from them as it pours, though not so much by way of flavour. It's smooth and crisp, with mild mineral notes but not much by way of malt except for a tiny bit of golden syrup on the end as it warms. Perfectly drinkable and quenching, though.
Patagonia Amber Lager is also very plain fare. Pouring a much paler golden amber than I was expecting, this has never been within a llama's spitting distance of a hop. The body is very light and the carbonation is gentle enough to make it an inoffensive easy-drinker that would work well by the neck if it wasn't in such of a monster of a bottle.
More on monster bottles when we come to the macros, but tomorrow it's back to the pub again.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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