Change your Idea of what is a Beer in Uruguay
October ended in Punta Del Este with recalls of the Oktober Fest at Conrad Punta Del Este Resort Lounge. Two evening gatherings took place of tasting premium beers of the best products available from the local and international markets with a range of crafted versions of significantly greater quality than in previous years.
The “craft revolution” supports local producers confirming that this new trend will continue. Small and medium-brewed beers surprised the public with a variety of malts and hops. In this way, the public had the opportunity to try different color and flavor versions.
Uruguay has a passion for making handmade and different beer and it is here to stay.
The trend came late and silently, almost like a secret. What began as a small and amateur style compared to the region turned professional in only a few years.
Mastra launched three beers to the market in late 2007 and in January 2008 Davok appeared, both located in Montevideo. At the same time, Cabesas Bier was founded in Tacuarembó. Today there are 19 breweries that sell their products and many more are under way in gestation. In 2014, Volcanic and Cabesas invested in technology and premiered factories in line with global quality standards.
The Brewers have invested in distribution, sales team, advertising, associating with revolutionary ideas and taking first steps in connecting crafted beer beyond borders.
Cabesas Bier for Export
For Cabesas Bier the biggest surprise was when they left Tacuarembó and expanded to the rest of the country. Nowadays, 70% of its production is sold in Montevideo. In Tacuarembó, Cabesas Bier used to have a bar where its beers were sold and customers would come in to test and learn about the product. Currently the new factory produces 2000 liters per month but new equipment imported from China is being installed with a monthly production capacity of between 40 and 50 thousand liters.
Within a year, Cabesas should export their products, probably to Brazil. It is a requirement since we stated in the investment law, “we are required to export at least 20 percent of our production.”
O’Neill Kingdom in Punta
We want to leave a mark on Punta Del Este to be the first local beer producer, “said Patrick O’Neill. “We want people to go adding to the move that captures what is natural, no conservatives, because it is all 100 % natural.”
Five years ago, O’Neill took a course in Davok and started making beer at home. He later teamed up with Diego Nieves. The factory is the garage of the home of O’Neill, on the 9th Street of the peninsula. They come up with 450 liters monthly and they conquered 12 small retail outlets in Punta Del Este. They unavoidably also sell in bars and pubs of Montevideo.
Recently, the two young partners traveled to Europe and countries in the region such as Argentina, Chile and Brazil to try beers and get raw materials and brought back a suitcase full of liquid yeast and hops to surprise us for the 2016 high season in Punta Del Este.
Volcanic was born big, with an investment of one million dollars, waiting five years to recover, unlike the rest, which began as home brewers. Today they are the second largest craft brewery in the country.
It is also the first in Uruguay in particular hiring a brew master. Alejandro Baldenegro, one of the founders of Montevideo Davok and Brew House, is responsible for making the recipes and put them into practice. Volcanic features making Belgian beers styles: “fruity, complex but not difficult to drink, with unusual hops and malts imported from Belgium.
Dharma: A Female Touch on the Coast
Dharma began in 2013, with the help of Joanna Fernandez and Mary Almiron in Fray Bentos.
The first time they made beer they bought a kit for 20 liters, but cooked in pots for 150. Of those 20 liters only 5 turned right. “They used such large burners that most of it evaporated, she said laughing.”
When, in February 2014, they finally obtained the authorization, they expanded and started selling in various shops in Fray Bentos, in Mercedes, Carmelo, José Ignacio and Montevideo.
Cooking takes about ten hours and they produced the beer during the night and early morning, because the cooling system is not very advanced and if it is hot they find it almost impossible to cool at that time. In summer, when sales are higher, the beer is prepared three times a week.
They are very proud to be the first women to run a brewery in Uruguay and their investment continues to grow.
More to come
In Uruguay 100 million liters of beer per year are consumed, according to National Brewery. Although calculations on craft consumption have not been done yet, this adds variety and more adepts. It has other flavors, aromas and bodies that complement those already offered by supermarkets. People want to try new things and they are all searching for quality products. One idea is to produce beers with herbs and native fruits in season, as butiá or eucalyptus.
While young brewers continue testing with lemon verbena, honey and continue making more experiments to surprise us we will have fun searching for the best spots to to find them.
Where to find Brew Bars in Montevideo
Ennis Irish Pub
The Shannon Irish Pub
Montevideo Brew House
The Chopería (Mastra)
The Shannon Store
By Mary Ann Thompson