Where to Drink in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Destinations by | Jan 2013 | Issue #72

Illustration by Sam Brewster

Commonly referred to as the “Paris of South America” for its wide avenues, stunning architecture and café culture, Buenos Aires is a sprawling metropolis that deserves its rank among the world’s greatest cities. Spend a few days in Argentina’s capital and chances are you’ll find plenty of tango, steak and wine. But you’ll have to look deeper to find the craft beer. Then you’ll find a tight-knit community of cerveceros—literally “beermen”—who share recipes and brewing tips at weekend barbecues. The scene is small enough that homebrewers and brewmasters frequently rub shoulders, an environment that’s propelling the craft beer movement.

Veteran cerveceros will tell you that when it comes to beer, Argentina is where the United States was 20 years ago. Most Argentines will turn away a hoppy ale, a toasted Porter or anything that isn’t a malty lager. The country just hasn’t developed the taste for these beers yet. But the craft scene is maturing. At a recent beer festival that drew more than 1,000 people, How To Brew author John Palmer was received like a rockstar by local brewers. They listened attentively to two days of brewing seminars, and they eagerly poured and compared each other’s latest batches, including an 11-percent Imperial Stout, a Wee Heavy and a session-worthy Bitter aged with oak chips.

The beer market may still be dominated by AB-InBev’s Quilmes, with its recently expanded line that includes a Stout, a Bock and a Red Lager. But forgo these ricey lagers and syrupy Stouts, and head off the beaten path to Buenos Aires’ true beer bars.

Buena Birra Social Club
Buena Birra Social Club—which takes its name from the Cuban band—is a call-ahead speakeasy in a sleepy Buenos Aires neighborhood. Living the homebrewer’s dream, brewmaster Ariel “Toti” Golia has been opening his doors on Thursdays and Fridays for the last two years, serving up pints of beer brewed in his backyard shed. BBSC is the cheapest place in the city for quality craft beer. Look out for Toti’s delicious Rauchbier or his orange peel-infused IPA.

Buller Brewing Company
Steps from the touristy Recoleta Cemetery, the Buller brewpub opened in 1999 with a line of well-crafted beers that includes an Oktoberfest, a Dry Stout and a Honey beer—their most popular. Brewmaster Ricardo Muhape has been brewing at Buller for seven years and is hopeful that Argentine palates will continue developing, because he wants to release a Double IPA on the masses. Happy hour starts at 7pm with free peanuts, but don’t pass up their sausage pizza.

Bodega Cervecera
Thames 1716, Palermo
Craft beer enthusiast Sebastian Piñol has opened a beer bar on a shady street corner in ritzy cobblestoned Palermo, across the street from where he used to just sell bottles. Bodega Cervecera has got fridges stocked with bottles from the northern deserts of Salta (try Me Echo la Burra’s Red Ale) to the end of Patagonia (pour yourself one of Beagle’s Fuegian Stouts). If it’s on tap, get Sebastian to pour you a Triskell IPA. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Antares Brewing
Antares is Argentina’s first successful microbrewery. Founded in 1998 in the seaside resort city of Mar del Plata, Antares now has brewpubs across nine cities in Argentina. Their pubs usually have seven styles on tap, of which the Imperial Stout and the Barleywine are the standouts. Occasionally, Antares will release a treat like a Belgian Pale Ale or Wee Heavy. Two-for-one happy hour is great, but the bar really gets going after 11pm.

Half beer store, half bar, Cervelar is one of the best and most affordable places to pick up a craft beer and a decent hot dog with all the fixings. On tap, the Kraken Red is crisp and refreshing after walking through busy downtown to find the bar. Pick up a mixpack on your way out, and stock it with the Kraken Scottish Strong Ale, El Búho IPA, Beagle Fuegian Stout, Gulmen Imperial IPA, Berlina Munich Bier and one of the best beers in Argentina: La Loggia’s chocolaty Imperial Stout.

Lavalle and 25 de Mayo, Quilmes
If you’re going to make it out to one suburb of Buenos Aires, make it Quilmes. It’s a 20-minute cab ride to 15 taps pouring Argentina’s best kegged beer. Six of those taplines are dedicated to Taberna house brews that don’t disappoint. Taberna also has a selection of imported European beers and your pick of 50 different whiskeys. Needless to say, the ride home goes by in a flash. Two-for-one happy hour starts at 6pm, but show up late for live music.

Breoghan Brew Bar
Breoghan Brew Bar sits in Buenos Aires’ historic San Telmo district, not too far from the Casa Rosada—Argentina’s equivalent of the White House. Owner and brewmaster Ramiro Rodríguez has his fermentors past the bathrooms in the back, and visitors are encouraged to check them out. Ramiro shares his taplines with contract brewer Hernan Castellani, who brews one heck of a Robust Porter. A night at Broeghan’s involves many games of pool and listening to Argentine hard rock, pint glass in hand. Request some Pappo, and you’ll make instant friends.

This woodpaneled expat hangout around the corner from Breoghan pours the much sought-after Gambrinus Celtic Stout, a creamy, toasted Dry Stout. Like a good British pub should, Gibraltar offers fish and chips—a welcome change from your standard Buenos Aires fare of steak, empanadas and schnitzels. The lounge area has English-language newspapers, and there’s a pool table in the back.

Venezuela 474, San Telmo
Tucked down a side street in Buenos Aires’ historic San Telmo neighborhood, Krakow is an old-fashioned sports bar with good pub food, several tap lines and more than one shelf of Polish and Russian vodka. Owned by two Poles—one of which hails from Brooklyn—Krakow has a party vibe and always a couple dark beers on tap, like Antares Porter and Gambrinus Celtic Stout. Krakow is one of few places in the city to catch football and basketball on a huge projector screen.

Cruzat Beer House
Cruzat is nestled in Buenos Aires’ busy theater district, right off Corrientes Avenue. It has a big fridge stocked with a wide variety of Argentine craft brews and taplines pouring Antares and Kraken beers. Chances are they’ll have the Antares Porter and a Red Ale from Kraken. For bottles, try the Die Eisenbruck Imperial Stout or El Bolsón’s chili beer, one of the spiciest things you’ll find in Argentina.

Humboldt 1416, Palermo
Who would have thought Buenos Aires would have a place that matched Indian food with craft beer on tap? Bangalore serves Gambrinus and Antares beers alongside your standard Indian dishes like tandoori chicken, vindaloo and garlic naan. As long as you don’t expect the most authentic of Indian food, you’ll be satisfied. Burgers and wraps for the more conservative.

The Shanghai Dragon
Araoz 1199, Palermo
A little on the kitschy side, Shanghai Dragon is owned by the same folks as Bangalore and Gibraltar, and pours Antares and Gambrinus beers. If you can handle the décor—books line the back wall while Chinese and Japanese artwork stares down at you—take a seat at the bar and order some spring rolls and a Pilsner. Get there early: Their happy hour is one of the cheapest in the city. 

Previous: Brewery Vivant