I believe Mr. Zappa had it right, and thank goodness for the country of Argentina, they have a national beer, an airline and a football team. That's a triple threat in my book, and speaking of threats, we'll leave nuclear weapons for another discussion. Right now, this is all about beer and Argentina. Argentina and beer. Put the two together for a match made in liquid heaven.
I lived in Buenos Aires for two years and left a large piece of my heart there. Argentina is where I started my travel blog, where I learned a foreign language, where I started over in a new continent and where travel changed me. To visit other countries during vacations and work trips is completely different than to actually live in another country. I was able to completely immerse myself for 24 months in new cultures, new living situations, new cuisines and new beer.
Quilmes is an Argentine beer brewed in Buenos Aires since the 1800s. The brew and I became very well acquainted throughout our two years together, especially since it pairs well with parks, my apartment fridge, bife de lomo and football. I'd be hard pressed to find something that didn't go swimmingly with a cold Quilmes cerveza. That's why when Anheuser-Busch asked me to join a beer tour through Argentina, I was completely taken over with pure elation...and then had to have a few beers to calm down. Sure, I have lived and worked in Argentina prior to this trip, but to return to my favorite place in the world for business and beer touring...SWOON. That's all I have to say. Wait, no. I've got loads more...
Day 1: From Buenos Aires to Tres Arroyos Barley Fields
Ever since I moved to Argentina and began traveling around the continent of South America, I learned that to arrive in paradise meant long journeys. I don't mean a 6 hour car ride from point A to point B, either. I mean planes, trains and automobiles lasting most of the day. Greatness takes time, y'all. This adventure was no different.
We traveled 45 minutes outside of Buenos Aires by bus to catch a two hour flight to Bahia Blanca via chartered aircraft. If you follow me on Snapchat, you caught sight of our eventful prop plane! We then drove 2 1/2 hours to Tres Arroyos barley fields. This was especially fascinating to me because I wasn't aware that natural ingredients like barley and hops played such a huge role in creating the drink. I can now appreciate the origin and the production process of the main raw material for beer produced by the Quilmes Brewery. I've visited many Argentine vineyards in Mendoza to witness the vine, grape, stainless steel barrels, French oak vs. American oak discussions, etc etc. Barley fields were something new and exciting, not to mention absolutely stunning during harvest.
The highlight of Day 1 was being able to farm my very own barley. Operating a tractor and mowing fields of gold is something you don't do everyday. I had an entire patch with my name on it and was even able to take it home with me. If travel blogging doesn't work out, maybe beer making will. I learned more about beer here on Day 1 than I learned in 4 years at college. That's saying a lot since I probably saw the inside of more bars than classrooms. Kidding, sort of. MOVING RIGHT ALONG. It's glamping time.
I'm still not done with Day 1. There were a lot of moving parts one this crazy day, and dinner deserves a standing ovation, as do our sleeping quarters. Dinner was set under the stars, smack dab in the middle of the barley fields and plated by Argentina celeb chef Narda Lepes. Sin palabras. Without words. Talk about a romantic evening with 35 of your best beer friends. A Quilmes beer station was on offer alongside a picada station, vegetable station, meat station and desert table. I was fat and happy as we made our way back to our glamping grounds where my tent and real bed awaited. There is nothing that these lovely people can't do in the middle of nowhere Argentina. <3 <3 <3
Day 2: Discover El Bolson Hops Farms
On this glorious day, the group woke up to breakfast being served outside our tents in a beautiful setting where many medialunas (Argentine croissants) found their way into my mouth. We then boarded our bus and embarked on a 2 1/2 hour drive to the Bahia Blanca airport where we flew our teeny tiny prop plane to El Bolson, Patagonia. A frequently asked question I receive is "Where is your favorite place to travel?" Patagonia is always the answer. Always. Siempre.
What was so fascinating about El Bolson was that only a tarmac emerged upon landing. No airport. No building. No nothing. Only a landing strip wedged between the mountains materialized before us as we descended into a Patagonia paradise, and that was alright with me. I'm not above utilizing a bush as a bathroom. Life isn't always going to supply paper and porcelain polished toilets. You do what you gotta do, and our hops farms were waiting.
The beer tour arrived in hops heaven, AKA El Bolson, where Stella Artois, lamb (a Patagonia staple) and bikes were waiting. I couldn't dream up a more perfect afternoon if I tried. If you're sitting there reading and thinking "now what on earth is a hops? I feel like I've heard of it once or twice in a bar..." then that is completely okay. I'm here to educate, inspire and make you crave lots of beer. Hops were introduced after the 11 century, so they've been around the block before. Many people associate hops with bitterness, and if hops are absent in beer, that means no foam, no bitterness, and no aroma. Where is the fun in that? Hops are an essential part to this elixir of life, and the amount of hops depends on the style of the brewer. Beer is big business in Patagonia simply due to the rich plant life and abundant supply of fresh water.
Day 3: Llao Llao Hotel and Patagonia Brewery Exploration
Fairytales really do exist. I tore a page out of one when I checked into the Llao Llao Hotel in Bariloche, Patagonia. If you're ever on the fence about where to take your next vacay, just come here. Don't hesitate and don't ask questions. Just go.
An end to any beer tour brings such sorrow, but a final visit to the Patagonia Brewery set on the banks of Lago Moreno provided smiles and giddy drunken cheer as the group was able to get a beer making lesson from Diego Bruno, the brewery’s beer master. The popular drinking hole put on a concert while serving fine cheese and sausage NOM.
And there you have it: How beer is made from ground to glass in Argentina, and I lucky enough to be a participant!
Beer Fun Facts
Barely is a good source of fiber and energy as it's packed with vitamins and minerals.
Hops are only utilized in beer - no other drink or food item incorporates them.
Beer necessities: yeast, water, malt, barley, hops and magic.
Beer has only natural components.
To be considered beer in Argentina, 60% malt must be present.
The transformation process from malt to barley takes 6 days.
Beer is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to cereal and bread production via barley.
The greatest runners in the world (like Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba, Derartu Tulu and Fatuma Roba) all eat barley. That's their secret.
In 2015, Americans spent $33.6 billion and bought 1.5 Billion cases of beer.
Tina Fey is the celebrity Americans would most like to have a beer with, narrowly beating out Jimmy Fallon.
Women account for 25 percent of beer consumption in the USA – the sale of beer to women is a growing market.
America Loves Lager – it’s the nation’s most popular beer style.
Nationwide, there’s a lot of love for lagers, making lager the most popular beer style in America. Most Midwestern and Southern states overwhelming choose lager as their beer of choice.
New York: European Lager
New York shows off its cosmopolitan heritage with a fondness for European lagers, which are extraordinarily popular in The Empire State.
Coloradans are sweet on wheat beers. With Colorado’s proud heritage of wheat production, it should come as no surprise locals pour “prairie gold.” Wheat beer is remarkably more popular in Colorado than the rest of the country.
Southwest Border States (CA, NV, NM): Mexican Lagers
On the Southwest border, they serve up the cerveza! Not surprisingly, Mexican lagers are extremely popular in this part of the country, bordering Mexico.
Alaska: Dark Beer
Alaskans won’t see sun in winter and enjoy midnight sun all summer, but like their beer dark year-round. Dark beers are unusually popular in the last frontier.
Facts provided courtesy of IRI/2015. Statistics provided by Wakefield Research in a custom online survey to 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 21+
El fin! The end! Many thanks to AB InBev, Quilmes and all other partners who were a huge help in putting this event together. Salud!