As a beer drinker, not a wine drinker, things were rather dry in Uruguay during my first decade here. I lamented that the South American palate prefers its dark beers sweet. I dreamed of Guinness.
But I suffer no longer. Several craft beer brewers have emerged in Uruguay and not only have they improved MY quality of life in Montevideo, they are also making a mark on the South American beer scene.
Montevideo Brew House
Tucked away in a maze of streets in a residential neighbourhood, where a street called Work crosses another called Freedom and right off Old Hotdog Plaza*, this small craft brewery and restaurant takes their beer production very seriously.
They stock their own beers –the MBH brand– and the excellent Davok line.
MBH produces six beers and a periodic special brew. The MBH dry stout rivals Guinness.
Last week, regular patrons were offered a coffee IPA (a bitter chocolate-tinged beer, delicious), a red imperial was produced for St Patrick’s Day. On the 4th of July, expect another specially brewed offer.
Order their beer sampler of six to find out which you like most before moving on to pints or halves.
It’s also worth going to MBH for the restaurant. The food is great. I recommend the ojo de bife (the tenderest steak) and the spicy home-made fried potatoes. The starters are ample and sometimes sharing a couple of starters with a dry stout is all I need for an evening meal.
Montevideo Brew House was opened in October 2013 by owners Gonzalo Torres, an enologist by trade, and his partner Macarena Perez, an industrial designer, together with Davok co-founders Alejandro Baldenegro and Gastón Rivoir. An internship opportunity took Gonzalo to a Californian vineyard, only for him to fall in love with craft beer (that’s mah kinda man).
Visit Montevideo Brew House at Libertad 2592 esq. Viejo Pancho, Pocitos. Find MBH on Facebook and check out their TripAdvisor reviews. MBH is now opening from 5pm and serving coffees and tea-time food stuffs. Dinner is served from 7pm and the bar stays open till after midnight.
Davok, Montevideo and Colonia
Montevideo Brew House also stocks Davok beers. Davok produces seven beers and an old-fashioned barley wine. I love their IPA, an American lager.
Master brewer Alejandro Baldenegro has been brewing since 2008 and is the brew master for both Davok and MBH. You can find more about how he got started in a 2012 article from New Zealand beer appreciators, SOBA.
The big beer award in South America is the South Beer Cup, where primarily Argentinian and Brazilian brewers compete. Davok has won a number of medals every year since first entering in 2011 and they are well-deserved.
Find out where you can buy Davok in Montevideo and Colonia.
Mastra is probably the only craft beer company to attempt to take on the commercial companies. Their beers are sold on draught in a number of bars and last year they opened a very successful beer stand in the newly-renovated Montevideo Agricultural Market (the Mercado Agrícola or MAM).
Likely because of their commercial aspirations (and good for them) I find their beers too tuned to the South American palate (too sweet) and unfortunately not to mine.
Cabesas Bier, Tacuarembó
Tacuarembó, the birthplace of tango legend Carlos Gardel, is the home of the other award-winning brewery, Cabesas Bier.
I have not been there however I can definitely feel a trip coming on. After all, despite its remote location in the centre of Uruguay, Cabesas Bier has won several medals at the South Beer Cup and has great reviews on TripAdvisor.
The Underground Beer Club, Montevideo
The UBC delivers real ales to your home each month for a subscription fee. As this blog is aimed at short-term visitors I won’t be exploring the club here. But here’s their website (in Spanish) for anyone that is interested.
Where are the pubs serving craft beers in Uruguay?
Check out this article (with useful map) on Montevideo’s Top Brew Bars, from Como Sur (May 2014)
* Sorry, but the street names are just too amusing, I could not resist. The cross streets are Libertad and Trabajo, and the Plaza is called Viejo Pancho.
Just an update to anyone reading this (2017) Cabesas Bier is now closed. Thanks for the tips!
Great, Karen. If I lived in MVD, I would be a regular at MBH, but, with the drinking/driving laws, a night at MBH would require a room in MVD as well. Sigh! I agree with your dislike of sweetness in beers. What is the best Guinness approximation in bottles, in your opinion? Available in Atlántida would be a bonus.
Hmmm, I have not found a Guiness-style in bottle that I could recommend. Unfortunately Davok does not offer their dry stout in bottles. As an alternative for us hoppy folks, I would recommend any IPA, but especially IPAs by Davok, Volcanica (which is pretty widely available, plus their factory is very close to Atlantida) and Bizarra.
Thanks, and indeed, the Volcanica plant is in Los Toscas norte, about 2 km distant.
IPA stands for “India Pale Ale”; it’s not a lager.
Hi Welsh Witch
I am Tim Webb. I write The World Atlas of Beer (big beer book, 1st edition came out in 2011 and went into 10 translations globally – next edition out in October) and various other beery tomes.
I am going to be in Montevideo on Friday 26 February from about 09.30 till 17.30 – on a cruise boat, strictly holiday but beer writers are never off duty.
Any guidance that beats, “Get off boat, go to Mastra Chopería Port on the corner of Rambla & Colon, have a beer and work it out from there” would be much appreciated.
Any opportunity to speak would include beer and food on me.
Hi Tim, we’ve been in touch by mail. Looking forward to meeting up! Karen
Great read! I’m taking a trip down there next week and I’ll definitely be using this as a guide. Thanks and cheers!
Great! Have one on me!! 🙂
Oh my gosh! Thanks for posting about the beer of the month club! I was wondering what to get my husband for Christmas and I just found it. Also, I love that you made this website. My in laws are coming for a visit and I’m scrambling for ideas on what to do with them. Your site is making it a whole lot easier.
Ha ha! Great to read this, Michelle!!