As you meander through the streets of Buenos Aires, the fusion of eclectic architecture and stylish people can trigger an almost immediate comparison to some of Western Europe’s most famous cities. Heavily influenced by the Italians and the French, porteños, as Argentines are commonly called, are known for their love of indulgences, including wine, fine food, dancing, nightlife, soccer, and beer.
Yes, beer. The beer scene in Buenos Aires has seen remarkable growth in the past decade. The world’s best-selling Belgium beer, Stella Artois, chose the city to play host for its high profile international beer pouring competition last fall.
“Globally, Stella Artois is most popular in Buenos Aires,” said Andrew Sneyd, global vice president for Stella and Beck’s. “Since its introduction in Argentina in 2004, the brand has grown steadily, becoming the leader in its segment in 2006, and has maintained that leadership position in the premium segment for the affluent consumer since then.”
The brand’s elegant chalice speaks to the elite in Buenos Aires and in other cosmopolitan cities. There’s actually a functional purpose for the glass that trumps its status-setting appeal. The glass improves the nose and the taste of the beer and helps maintain the proper amount of head, which let’s face it, can make or break the entire experience.
The beer loving trend has migrated to Argentinian haunts in Miami. Sit at the bar at Novecento on Brickell during happy hour and take a look at the tap. It may come as a surprise to see such a solid selection and even a new “Beer of the Month” feature, which will be promoted as heavily as their famous wine specials that typically sell more than 100 cases of wine per month.
The unexpected popularity was undeniable at the 2011 Stella Artois World Draught Masters competition, where 25 bartenders competed to perfectly perform the brand’s 9-step pouring ritual. Thousands gathered in the warehouse district of La Boca for a star-studded night of performances and appearances by a few of country’s most famous characters. Renowned Argentine singer, Elena Roger, sang “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” before the winners were announced. How’s that for brand integration?
In Buenos Aires and beyond, Sneyd sees a renewed appreciation for the craftsmanship of beer. “Leading the way are pioneering chefs who are awakening restaurant patron’s taste palettes, and are introducing an elevated complexity of flavors with beer and food pairings.”
Many of the city’s most innovative restaurants are nestled in the Palermo Soho neighborhood. Most have impressive wine lists and beer offerings and commonly encourage guests to try beer before their meal as an apertif.
At the farm-to-table spot, Mott Cocina de Mercado, Stella Artois introduced the competition’s judges and VIPs to a beer and food pairing curated by Marc Stroobandt, UK-based master beer sommelier, and chef Maria Lancio.
In a perfect trifecta, Stroodbandt thoughtfully showcased the Belgium beer, a delightfully robust Patagonia amber ale, and Argentina’s national beer, Quilmes, with Lancio’s three-course meal. The desert portion was simply sinful as he carefully instructed guests to sip the Quilmes stout, take a bite of the chocolate mousse, and then immediately finish with another sip.
Stroodbant works closely with Stella Artois worldwide to introduce people to the joys and wonders of beer and food pairing. Master beer sommelier is not a made up marketing title; Stroobandt is the real deal. He was awarded an honorary Knighthood in the Order of the Masher, which was bestowed to him by the Confederation of Belgian Brewers. (Sounds serious.)
And beer is serious business. The growing beer culture in Buenos Aires is much like the scene in Miami where people are becoming more comfortable pairing sophisticated dishes with what seems like an endless list of dynamic beers. Expect to see more beer brands doing wild things this year as they vie for the attention of the culinary elite.
Drink a beer with Miami’s porteños at Novecento, 1414 Brickell Avenue, Miami; 305-403-0900