Author: Malin Norman
Rich in natural resources and now with a strong craft beer culture, Argentina is also getting fiercer in its hops production. Here, two of the country’s brewers share their thoughts on the green gold.
Argentina’s hops production is based in El Bolsón, Patagonia. Many dedicated brewers make sure not to miss the annual National Hops Festival, which takes place in February during the harvest. The two main varieties grown are Cascade and Nugget, but more are appearing. Slightly different from the American flavour profile, Cascade has more prominent pink grapefruit, herbs, pepper and spice, and is said to be suitable in particular for wheat beers, blondes and cream ales. And Nugget is super-alpha with plenty of herbs, floral notes as well as mint.
Ramiro Rodríguez Etchelet, head brewer at Gorilla Brewing in Buenos Aires, believes in further development in the segment. “The hops farmers understand the demands for new varieties with more essential oils, fruity flavours and aromas,” he says. “They are also producing for instance Victoria, Bullion and Mapuche, and other more experimental varieties will appear in the future.”
Gorilla Brewing uses local hops in its Golden Ale, American Amber Ale and Nitro Choco Stout, as well as a new launch last year. “In 2018, we brewed New Argentina IPA (NAIPA). It’s a New England IPA with the super fruity Patagonia hops Bullion and Victoria, a great beer.”
Matias Conca is a brewer, beer educator and beer judge in Mar del Plata, another beer hub. He confirms the quality of the hops in Argentina, with good yield and plenty of essential oils and alpha acids, and uses the hops for bitterness at the beginning of the boil and for aroma in a few styles. “But the big challenge in Argentina is the post-harvest technology,” says Matias.
“The drying and pelletizing times are long and the flowers lose their quality and oxidize easily. What Argentine hops need now is further investment and development in technology.” In addition to the traditional hops farms in El Bolsón, new promising producers are appearing on the scene such as the exciting hops project Lupulos Vulcan that started a few years ago in Mar del Plata. But it’s not all about hops; yeast is on the rise too with dedicated yeast research centres and projects, confirm both brewers.
Whilst most producers continue to use dry yeast for the moment, harvesting it 3 or 4 times, there are several ongoing projects with liquid yeast. “We will be working with White Labs in producing a beer fermented with liquid yeast and simultaneously a beer with dry yeast, to compare the final product,” confirms Ramiro at Gorilla Brewing. “In the next few months, we will also brew a beer with a Norwegian Kveik strain. And we’re hoping to start a sour beer program in the future, with different cultures of wild yeast and bacteria.”