Last Saturday, May 7th, the very first ¨Beer Fest¨, a festival of micro-breweries took place in Montevideo. It was organized by the Chamber of Breweries of Montevideo (Cámara de Cervecerías de Montevideo) on the premises of the Carnival Museum, right in front of the port in the old part of town. The entrance fee was 500 pesos (16 USD/14 Euro) per person and included a beer glass, vouchers for tasting 100ml of 10 different craft beers and access to lectures and live music.
Although being 50% German and having grown up in Germany, I (unfortunately) am not an expert when it comes to beer...Don´t get me wrong, I definitely love beer, but I can´t tell you a lot more than ¨I like it!¨ or ¨I don´t¨ – that´s it. And to the surprise (and probably also disgust :-) ) of many Uruguayos (and probably also other nations), I like to mix my beer with Sprite or 7Up and enjoy a refreshing ¨Radler¨*, as we like to call it in Germany, especially during summer.
*Of course I would never do that with micro-brewery beers! :-)
Since I first arrived in Uruguay in 2010, the dominating beer brands have been ¨Patricia¨, ¨Pilsen¨ and ¨Zillertal¨ – all produced by the same company ¨Fábrica Nacionales de Cerveza¨ (FNC), nowadays owned by a multinational company. All three brands produce - in my (very) unprofessional opinion - pretty light, easily drinkable beers that are also great candidates for being used for my ¨radler¨. To be fair, they have also started offering different beer styles such as Stout, Amber, etc., however, the industrially produced beers lose a big variety of flavors through their production techniques. When it comes to flavor, the micro-breweries have a lot more to offer than the industrial beers.
Since last year, in my perception, the presence of micro-breweries in Uruguay has drastically increased. They have creative names such as ¨Birra Bizarra¨, ¨Volcanica¨, ¨Oso Pardo¨ (Brown Bear), ¨Davok¨, ¨Mastra¨, ¨Temenda IPA¨, ¨Chela Brandon¨, etc.. and produce all kinds of different craft beer ¨styles¨. It was not easy for these micro-breweries to establish themselves on the local market – FNC has many exclusive contracts with supermarkets, restaurants etc.. But eventually, also due to a growing demand, the micro-breweries found their ways into bars and smaller stores. There are now also some bars primarily dedicated to promoting craft beer such as ¨Montevideo Brew House¨ or La Chopería by Mastra, etc.
One of the most common craft beer styles in Uruguay is IPA (India Pale Ale) with a strong passionfruit aroma. But you can also find American IPA, English Pale Ale, Scottish, Irish, Belgian and also German styles. There is a huge variety!
My absolute highlight at the Beer Fest was the ¨Breakfast Stout¨ by Birra Bizarra. It´s a dark beer (stout) with oats having been added during the brewing process and aged in French oak barrels. It has a strong flavor of dark chocolate and coffee (hence the name). But I found the dark chocolate aroma especially dominating – yum!
If you are intrigued and would like to learn more about how to taste craft beer, here is the link to a great article I found online: http://www.craftbeer.com/craft-beer-muses/decoding-flavor-four-keys-to-tasting
I think coming season, a beer tasting tour will be on our menu! So stay tuned!