We have an ambitious schedule so I just have time for the facts but not time to make them sound pretty.
Valparaiso is a major port town about an hour and a half west of Santiago. The streets are narrow, twisted, steep and covered with art in unexpected places. We met with Andres of Cervezera del Puerto. They make three beers: Genuine Ale (basically a pale ale), Barba Roja (amber ale named after the pirate Red Beard), and Barba Negra (a porter that verges on a stout named after the pirate Black Beard).
The pale and amber were both rather sweet, as has been the norm with the artesanal beers we’ve tasted here thusfar. The porter (Andres feels it’s a porter, I thought it was a stout) was dry and roasty with noticable coffee notes – easily my favorite of the three. We tasted several experimental beers but Andres swore me to secrecy so I can’t divulge the styles. I’ll say this, one pursues sweetness to a logical next step while the other seeks higher alcohol.
(Cafe de Paseo, which in addition to serving all the Cervezera del Puerto beers on draft, also offers a decent cup of coffee – a very good thing in a country dominated by Nescafe.)
The company is owned by a family that also owns a swank corner cafe called Cafe de Paseo, a restaurant/pub/disco called Mastadon (sporting a distinct dinosaur theme), and a hotel (where we stayed) called Hotel Rincon de Valparaiso.
(Nigel wasn’t as half crocked as his eyes appear to be in this photo. He’s standing behind a handful of Chile’s artesanal beers and a glass made from a Grolsch bottle, all placed atop his bar which is made from railroad ties. The seats of the stools are also made of railroad ties and the legs are fashioned from the giant spikes used to nail down the ties. I guarantee you no one will ever walk off at the end of a drunken night with one of these hundred pound stools!)I spent an evening (a whole night actually) with Nigel Patrick William Gallagher at his pub El Irlandes – The Ireland. As the names suggest, Nigel is an Irish ex-pat who, as he says, “arrived in Chile with a backpack, married a Chilean woman (seems to be a trend in the Chilean beer scene) and opened a pub.” He boasts over one hundred bottled beers and half a dozen taps, and reckons he’s got the best beer selection in Chile. Appropriately enough for two Irishmen (me being Irish-American), we drank draft stout (or porter depending on your opinion) all night, the Cerveza del Puerto Barba Negra.
Around midnight his pal Bruno arrived. Bruno runs a place called Cafe Vinilo and is a partner in Cervezera Cerro Alegre (“happy hill”) so we tasted his two beers: “Blond” and “Brown.” Both were served quite cold, making it difficult to taste them well (Nigel complains that this is how his customers demand it) but under the circumstances I preferred the Blond (as gentlemen do). The brown was quite cloudy, not all that brown in color, and lacked the nuttiness and caramel flavor I expect in a brown, which is ironic because many of the other beers we’ve tasted here have quite a dominant caramel sweetness.
Bruno, Nigel and I discussed the meaning of “artesanal” late into the night. They both felt strongly that artesanal beers must be literally made by hand. Scale is very important; once a brewery becomes too big it loses its artesanal taste and credibility. Bruno’s entre into beer the desire to marinade the food at his cafe with beer. So he and his partners Ricardo and Renzo set off to make some of their own. Renzo went to England for three years to study the art of fermentation. Bruno has a very intriguing new beer on deck, but again, I am sworn to secrecy (the brewers here seem a bit competitive). Suffice to say it will contain what sounds like a uniquely Chilean ingredient – wish I could taste and tell.
The next day we visited Robert Tauss at his rural biergarten half way between Olmue and Limache near Parque Nacional Compana. The park features as its focal point a mountain that was scaled by Charles Darwin and from which one may view the Andes to the east and the Pacific to the west. Robert has a brand new brewery built next to his house (did I mention he is a German ex-pat who married a Chilean?) where he lives with his wife and two children.
Robert is taken with the notion of bringing brewing back to this area. CCU operated a large plant here emplying one thousand workers but laid them all off so it could consolidate production elsewhere. Robert’s brewery is small, producing just one barrel at a time, but the building is new and shiney and built with lots of love. He’s been working on it off and on for nearly four years, brewing experimental batches all the while. He is visibly excited about how close it is to being in full operation. We tasted an unfiltered pilsner he had on tap. It was good, especially in his shaded biergarten on a sunny warm day with a small crowd of guests, children playing on a trampoline, and men grilling meat. Robert is a German brewmaster, trained at Weinstephan, and has worked in several German breweries including Spaten. I expect good things to come from this endeavor.
Today we visited the Los Robles winery in Curico. More on that next chance I get to blog.