The Patagonian craft beer scene has only recently emerged on the international stage, but it’s been a long time coming. While the influences of German settlers responsible for breweries such as Austral in southern Chile have long been felt, it’s taken a while for others to catch on.
The last decade has been the turning point: Patagonian micro-cervecerías have begun to populate even the remotest of towns, leading to what has been described as a beer “revolution”.
In a region rich in the finest ingredients, brewers have learned how to combine hops from El Bolsón with meltwater from the huge glaciers that cover the region. Numerous towns and cities are now worthy stops on the craft beer trail, and visitors will encounter everything from brewery tours to gastropubs along the way.
The Aisén Region of Chile has some of the freshest water in Patagonia – a factor local breweries are capitalizing upon. Tropera is the most acclaimed; a brewpub on the outskirts of Coyhaique, it serves delicious burgers and eight types of beer on tap, including porter, IPA, Krystal, American brown ale and strong.
Although Puerto Natales is a town normally only visited as a gateway to nearby Torres del Paine National Park, it now also warrants a stop to visit Cervecería Bagules. Established by two friends from the US, it lays claim to being the first brewpub in Chilean Patagonia. Offerings include the limited addition Mate 101, where the Argentine drink mate adds a bitterness to the otherwise golden ale. Their standard brews include an award-winning pale ale and the intense dark ale, both of which are unfiltered. With their restaurant and brewery open to visitors, it’s easy to spend an afternoon getting a new flavour of Puerto Natales.
If you’re unable to travel as far south as Patagonia, Beervana in Santiago is Chile’s best compromise. Run by US duo Ben and Perry, Beervana stocks up to 250 carefully selected labels, including Chilean and imported beers. The staff’s encyclopedic knowledge of the best local brews and a board displaying the owners’ favourites act as an excellent overview of Patagonian craft beer.
Bariloche is the best-known beer producing region of Patagonia, with over fifteen breweries. While visitors hardly go thirsty throughout the year, it’s also host to the annual Fiesta de la Cerveza Artesanal (the Artisanal Beer Festival) every December.
One of the trendier gastropubs on Bariloche’s “Ale Trail”, Manush has over 13 beers on tap – all of which are brewed by the owner’s brother. The milk stout won silver in the South Beer Cup 2016, while a wide range of porters, lagers and ales are available.
Nearby Blest holds the title for the first brewpub in Argentina. Delicious picadas can be tried alongside their Pilsen, bock, frambuesa (raspberry) ale, cream stout and Scotch ale; all of which are made from local mountain water. Visitors can tour the micro-brewery and dine in the restaurant.
Berlina, one of the largest breweries in Bariloche, also has one of the more extensive selections of brews. Their 22 seasonal beers and golden ale, IPA and stout can be tasted in the brewery in nearby Colonial Suiza or at one of the two restaurants in town.
Nestled in the mountains close to the border with Chile and 80km south of Bariloche, El Bolsón is both bohemian tourist destination and craft beer hub. German immigrant Otto Tipp is credited with introducing hops to the town, which has since become the largest producing region in Argentina. There’s even an annual Festival Cosecha de Lúpulo (Festival of the Hop Harvest) each February to celebrate its most famous produce.
For sampling the area’s tipples, head to the Feria Artesanal (Pagano Square; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 10am–5pm), a craft fair where a range of local breweries sell their wares. Otto Tipp’s famous strawberry-infused ale is a popular choice, while the English pale, IPA, wheat, blonde and dark beers of Parapapoto merit a try; all of which are brewed using Patagonian water sourced from the brewery’s seven-metre well.
The world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia also lays claim to the southernmost brewery; taking the title from Cervecería Austral across the Chilean border. An amalgamation of two beer companies, Beagle and Cape Horn, Cervecería Beagle uses traditional brewing processes, glacier melt-water from nearby Martial Glacier and Patagonian-grown hops. Their beers, including golden and red ales and cream stout (Beagle Ale), can be sampled in bars across the city.
If you're only passing through the north of the country, the Bodega de Cervezas market in Buenos Aires is a must-visit. They pride themselves on having the largest selection of bottled Patagonian, Argentine, and imported beers in the whole city. They stock most of the Argentine craft beer mentioned above.
Explore more of South America with the Rough Guide to South America on a Budget. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.
Top image © Adwo/Shutterstock