Saturday, December 28, 2013

El Bolson: Hops Valley South

  About eighty miles south of Bariloche, deeper into the Patagonian Andes, a pretty town of some 20,000 lies in a valley between two mountain ranges.  El Bolson began to prosper a hundred years ago when a German immigrant named Otto Tipp (no relation)  found the valley ideal for growing hops.  Today, like an austral mirror of the Yakima Valley, El Bolson produces the bulk of the hops used in its country's breweries.
  While most of that sweet bittering is trucked out of town, enough stays here to keep a number of craft breweries going.  The first one I wanted to call on is named for that visionary German, Cerveceria Otto Tipp.
This is a true brewpub, with the small brewing works off to one side and a restaurant with a fairly extensive menu in the bulk of the space.
The brewery side looked rather small and, while they do some bottling, sales appeared to be on-premise for bottles as well as draft in the restaurant. When I ate there that evening, I had the rubia fuerte (strong golden).

I walked a couple of blocks down an unpaved street to get to the Tipp brewery, and passed another on the way, Cerveceria Araucana.  This establishment was not open for a visit; however, its pub downtown, Los Lupulos, was. (The Araucana are a native American people, not to be confused with the araucaria or monkey puzzle tree which grows around here.  Lupulos are hops, of course/)
   The signs on the pub spell out the selections--like many craft brewers in Patagonia, they tend to use color for style.  Thus a "rubia" may be a blonde ale. the literal translation, or it may be a kolsch, or a pilsner.  A roja may be a red ale, or an IPA, or a pale.  A negra is most typically a stout or porter but may be a dark bock or anything else that comes out dark brown.  This was also the naming pattern at Otto Tipp and at the town's largest craft brewery, the eponymous El Bolson.  I saw their brew works, their fabbrica, on the outskirts of the town coming in on the bus; like Araucana, they run a pub in the downtown area.
These guys run a quality website, and it shows the true styles behind the rubia, roja, and negra titles on the labels.  Here, I went with the Negra Extra, a dark bock, in the modern bar.
   Strolling back to my hotel, I passed a pub called Rowan which was presenting two local craft brewers:
Rupestre and El Dragon Verde.  The green dragon is, of course, the favorite pub of Frodo and his pals in Hobbiton.  I had a small glass of Rupestre's roja, an IPA that made good use of the local hops.
   A couple of aficionados of the brews named Mark and Saskia passed through El Bolson a few months before I did, and they posted some good reviews on their Flight of the Condor blog I will link here.  They also got some good chopps (Argentine for a draft in a 330-ml mug) at the Saturday artisan market, which I touted the next day and will cover in the next post.
(Visited 12/6/13)

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