Once upon a time, watery ‘ol Quilmes was basically the only beer in Buenos Aires, with cerveza artesanal (craft beer) found only outside the capital, in places such as Mar de Plata, Cordoba or down south in the wilds of Patagonia. But the boom has hit (and continues to hit) Buenos Aires and there are now dozens upon dozens (massive craft beer map) of craft beer places to choose from. Where to start? We bring an up-to-date round up for the old, the new and the classic.
Antares San Telmo
(Opening Hours Mon to Sun, 5pm – 3.30am, Happy Hour 5pm-7pm)
The big name of the Buenos Aires cerveza artesanal scene has been Antares, a franchise of gastro pubs originally from Mar de Plata. On the scene originally when the craft beer movement began in Buenos Aires three or four years ago, the Antares franchise has expanded to several locations: Palermo Soho, Las Cañitas, Caballito and San Telmo. Yes, these guys are heavyweights in terms of size and name recognition.
Despite being a franchise, the San Telmo location can boast a pretty good vibe. It is usually packed with the after office crowd, a good place if you want to soak up the local atmosphere and mix with Porteños. Beer wise, Antares serves eight of its own microbrews plus a rotating selection from the brewmaster.
(Opening Hours Mon to Sun, 6pm – 12.30am, Happy Hour 6pm-8.30pm)
Bluedog is a small cozy bar with a slick, modern interior and old time rock ’n’ roll. Twelve taps pouring Grunge craft beers (brewed by the owners) and rotating taps which (at the time of writing) included the well known Berlina from Patagonia and Beoghan from San Telmo. This writer loved the Indian Pale Ale with romero (rosemary) which matched well with savoury snacks; nachos, papas bravas and bratwurst with chimmichuri and Indian Pale Ale flavoured mayonnaise (yes!). The Black Mamba extra stout was also delicious and worth a go.
Good music, friendly service, and a great little bar menu. Bluedog has the feel of a dive beer with the interior of a designer-boutique restaurant. A great little neighbourhood spot.
(Opening Hours Mon – Thurs 6pm – 12.30pm Fri – Sat 6pm – 3am , Happy Hour 6-8pm)
Have you seen how many American burger joints are popping up all over Buenos Aires? Unfortunately, copycat ideas are rife in the city. The upside is when something different opens, they stand out. We think Benaim is one of them and has potential to be champion one day.
Benaim offers excellent modern Middle Eastern food; thick hunks of pastrami served on bialy (similar to a bagel), kebabs and freshly made felafels. Most impressive is the open-air courtyard with long picnic benches, perfect for large al fresco gatherings. At the moment, Benaim is a casual restaurant that serves craft beer (a Golden Ale and a Irish Red Ale from Siete Colores) than a craft beer specialist. However, the owners plan to host a rotating weekly roster of various craft beer makers, and on Fridays and Saturdays, a converted-trailer bar in the courtyard will pour a variety of craft beers. We hope the trailer bar will become a daily mainstay when Benaim becomes more popular.
Benaim has been opened only a little more than a month and it is a work in progress. Be an early adopter, because we believe this prospect will be a real contender soon.
Espuma de los Dias
(Opening Hours Mon – Wed 6pm – 1am, Thursday – Saturday 6pm – 3am)
Espuma de los Dias has strange ‘90s lighting and no discernible design concept…BUT it has that magical little something that other bars thrive for but don’t always achieve – buena onda (good vibes). This is a small but well attended neighbourhood spot. Despite being next to a hostel, there are no tourists. Just locals. Eight rotating craft beers on tap plus an entire wall of bottled beers, really interesting microbreweries from all over the country. Check out their Facebook page for specials on bottled beers (3 for $AR50!- April 2016). There is no advertised happy hour because it is happy hour all the time – $AR45 for a pint. As an added bonus, this place is just a few blocks away from this writer’s favourite little hole-in-the-wall parrilla (barbeque), La Leyenda (Guemes 4249).
POUND FOR POUND CHAMP
Opening Hours Mon to Fri 5pm – 12.am, Sat & Sun 1pm – 12am, Happy Hour 6pm-8.30pm
NOLA (New Orleans – Lousiana) has it all. The original independent gastropub, which began its life as a great puerto cerrado (closed door restaurant) right behind its present location, with the beers being brewed in a shed on the rooftop. NOLA has come a long way, to become the undisputed favourite hang-out in the neighbourhood. It’s the only place in Buenos Aires to get Southern fried chicken (wings, drumsticks, nuggets, chicken sandwich) right. Bonus: they have a great selection of actually spicy hot sauces.
The indie vibe, great food, friendly staff, music as diverse as Neil Young to Lauryn Hill, NOLA is a favourite of both locals and expats, and busy pretty much all the time. This place is the definition of buena onda. Can’t find a table? Hang out the front on the sidewalk, sit on the curb with a beer and a chicken burger and watch attractive people of Palermo cycle pass on the bike path.
Opening Hours Mon – Sun 6pm – 3am, Happy Hour 6pm – 12am
Cervalar is a chain of gastropubs, more casual and less upmarket than Antares, with a generous happy hour that tends to draw a younger college crowd. They serve a dozen different craft beers on tap (on rotation) and a large selection of bottled local and international beers. The Palermo location is in an attractive refurbished building on the corner of Cabrera and Julian Alvarez. Cervelar Palermo is spacious with plenty of long tables, a good choice for large gatherings. However, it lacks the atmosphere and cool of a smaller, independent venue like our Pound 4 Pound champ, NOLA, hence being relegated to journeyman status – solid, budget friendly, but not quite championship material.