10 September 2011

Monte: got a raw deal

I feel shortchanged by my beer experience in Uruguay. We arrived in the picturesque seaside town of Colonia, just an hour's boat ride across the Rio Plata from Buenos Aires. We just had the one night before moving on and started the evening watching the sun set from the terrace of La Torre, a café-bar on the waterfront. They had three from the Mastra range, and Mastra Negra was my introduction to Uruguayan beer. It's a gorgeous 6.2% ABV Baltic-porter-a-like, bottle conditioned to a smooth texture with lots of chocolate and  rosewater, turkish delight floral overtones plus a dry finish. I made a note to try the other Mastra beers -- a red one and a golden one -- when we got to the capital, and moved on to dinner.

That was the last I saw of Mastra. In the four subsequent days in Montevideo I never found any of it. Or much else of merit, to be honest. Patricia Porter looked promising: 5.8% ABV and a rich shade of dark brown. Plenty of brown sugar sweetness, edging on to molasses, but not really much else. Easy drinking and inoffensive. Plain old Patricia is a decent enough lager, lightly carbonated, leaning towards sweet, but with more hops than you might expect for a leading macro in a South American country.

Zillertal also gives the hops a decent outing, but they're a little musty for my tastes, and the anaemic wateriness of the lager doesn't help. A Germanic name will only carry you so far.

Probably the biggest national brand in Uruguay, at least if promotional pub furniture can be taken as any sort of measure, is Pilsen. Ironically, this is much more like a helles than a pils: smooth and sweet. Its dark gold colouring makes it look better than the others but it's really not up to much. And to further bewilder the incautious drinker there's Pilsen Stout: authentically black with red edging it's almost totally flat. Flavourwise there's not a whole lot going on: a vague sweetness, bordering on metallic saccharine plus some dry, burnt notes. It went fine with my cheese and charcuterie plate, though the roquefort drowned it somewhat.

And with that, three weeks were up and it was time to go home. Some beautiful beers in South America, and some stinkers. Just like Europe, then.

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