“A few years ago I didn’t know how beer was made.” This bold statement came from Ricardo Ferreyra, who, just a few short years later, is the General Manager of Cerveza Artesanal Beagle, personally tastes all batches of beer, and clearly knows everything about how beer is made.
Bespectacled, Ricardo looks much like the accountant he was in his former life, however, the way he moves around the small premises of Cerveza Artesanal Beagle in Ushuaia, Argentina, shows that he’s very much at home in the world’s southernmost brewery. When an employee handed Ricardo a tasting glass of the latest batch he let the flavours roll over his tongue, and without saying a word, nodded his agreement.
It is easy to see what drew Ricardo from bustling Buenos Aires to the more muted metropolis of Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city and the capital of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego province. To the north of Ushuaia the jagged peaks of the Martial mountain range jut into the sky and to the south the cold waters of the Beagle Channel lap at the city’s shores. Ushuaia wraps itself around a wide bay and is nearly the end of the world. It is a staging point for journeys to Antarctica and treks through the pristine wilderness of the Tierra del Fuego National Park. There are snow-capped mountains everywhere you look.
So pure is Beagle beer that the water used in its production comes from the nearby Martial Glacier and is delivered to the brewery at the precise temperature of 5°C. The beer is still brewed using the original recipe and uses barley grown in Belgium, Germany, and the Argentine region of Patagonia. The hops come from England, the Czech Republic, and around the Argentine city of Bariloche, while the bottles are produced in Argentina, Chile, and Columbia.
As Ricardo guided us step by step through the brewing process we spotted a manual and clearly well-used bottle capper. “We produced 2,400 bottles today and they were capped one by one using this.” he said. The person with that job must have arms like Popeye.
Ricardo explained how Cerveza Artesanal Beagle was founded in 1999 by Dany Pages, now the Director of Brewing Operations at Upslope Brewing Company in Boulder, Colorado, and united with Cervecería Cape Horn in 2010. Cerveza Artesanal Beagle takes its name from the Beagle Channel which in turn is named after the HMS Beagle, a survey ship which explored the channel on its first voyage from 1826 to 1830.
The labels of Beagle beer pay homage to the Martial mountain range and to the Yámana indigenous people, the first inhabitants of the land of fire, Tierra del Fuego.
As we moved through the brewery Ricardo offered us a taste of freshly brewed Cape Horn Honey Ale. Organic honey is used in the brewing process, resulting in a beer which is smooth, light, and leaves just a lingering taste of honey on your lips.
And Ricardo’s favourite? He prefers Beagle’s Fuegian Red Ale. An Irish red ale, it is 6.1% alc./vol. and is best enjoyed when served between 5-7°C.
Cerveza Artesanal Beagle is a simple brewery but spirit is what produces its great beer. There is an overwhelming feeling of family at the brewery, as if a tight-knit groups of friends are working together doing something they really love. It is craft beer, through and through, and while not yet exported outside of Argentina, it is available throughout its home country.
As a parting gift, Ricardo gave us something that we hadn’t yet sampled. He plucked four bottles from a crate of just-capped beer and set them up at the mouth of the label machine. Hot off the press, we left with two bottles of Beagle Fuegian Golden Ale and two Cape Horn Oatmeal Stouts.
That night we toasted to Ricardo, to Ushuaia, and to a little brewery at the end of the world. ¡Salud!