The Inside Scoop on the Beers of Uruguay

by Karl | Last Updated: March 12, 2010

The following is a guest video from Brian Johnson, an American expatriate living in Uruguay. Check out his website and blog at ExploringUruguay.com.

From Brian: Here you’ll see a video where my buddy Brent from New Zealand and I take on almost all of the beers of Uruguay and get drunk in the process.

Billy: My buddy Brian has a pretty sweet set up. He’s an American living with his wife and kids down in Uruguay among the sun, the sand, and fine cuisine.

The beer scene, however, leaves something to be desired. Although, there is a diamond in the rough, but you’ll have to watch the video to see them discover it.

Brian and his pals were awesome enough to put together this very entertaining review of the beer scene in Uruguay, specifically for BillyBrew (THANKS!). Make sure to read below for a written overview of Uruguay (how many of you could find it on a map? 😉 ) and description of their beer choices.

What do ya think, did they have fun making this? I think so.

Enter Brian:

Exploring the Beers of Uruguay

To understand the beer of Uruguay, you first have to understand a little about Uruguay.

Uruguay is a tiny country in South America located just below Brazil and surrounded by Argentina. The capital city of Montevideo is home to 1.7 million people, which is half of the country’s population.

Uruguay is famous for having some of the best beef in the world. 100% of the beef and the majority of livestock here are grass fed, and delicious.

While Uruguay may be famous for having outstanding beef, it falls at the other end of the spectrum for its beer… and not because it’s a hidden gem.

Uruguay’s heritage is a combination of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. As you may or may not know, none of those countries are known for producing good beer.

There is not much information online about the different beers of Uruguay, with the exception of Patricia’s website. What I know about the beer’s history is primarily from word of mouth. Everything else I know about the beer here is from first hand experience.

The beers here tend to range from 5% to 6% alcohol, with the lighter beers having less and the darker beers having more.

Uruguay Beer Brands

There are 5 different brands of beer in Uruguay:

  1. Nortena – Known as “The Beer of Uruguay,” Nortena is apparently the first beer that Uruguay produced. It comes one way and that is light… it makes a U.S. Miller Lite feel heavy. To my understanding it “was” a good beer until Salus bought it…
  2. Patricia – Born in 1936 and owned by Salus, one of the biggest companies in Uruguay famous for its water. Patricia is known for being the first beer exported out of Uruguay and the first beer in Uruguay to do a 360ml (12oz) can back in 2006. There are 2 varieties of Patricia: Red and Negras. There are 2 types of Red: Rubia (light lager) and Red (Amber Lager) and 2 types of Negras: Dunkel and Porter. Pretty much the only ones I’ve seen at the store are the Rubia and Porter, which are both pretty decent. I’ve had the Red once and I remember it was decent and I also had the Dunkel once, but I don’t remember how it was because I was a little intoxicated.
  3. Zillertal – I would call this the “trendy” beer of Uruguay… it seems to get a lot of celebrity attention. It only comes as a lager. It’s bitter, and it fills your mouth.
  4. Pilsen – It has been around since 1866. There is Pilsen Sonic, a light stale lager; Pilsen Original, a step up from the Sonic (but not a huge step); Pilsen Amber, which is pretty tasty; and Pilsen Stout, a very weak stout that’s like a heavy bitter lager with black food coloring.
  5. Mastra – They have a Dorado, Rojo and Negra. The first and only microbrew in the country. And that’s the ONLY thing they can brag about because their beer… Well, you’ll see in the video the best isn’t always saved for last…

Beer in Uruguay typically comes by the liter. You’ll pay between 30-50 Uruguayan Pesos per liter or $1.50 – $2.50 per bottle. BUT, you never want to throw those liter bottles away… Save them and take them back to the store and you’ll get a 10 peso ($.50) credit for each one you return.

My favorite saying is…”Buy 4 and get 1 free.”

We had at least 2 bottles of every beer we drank sitting in front of us, and we drank until we could drink no more…

The only beers we didn’t take on were the Patricia Dunkel, Red and Rubia (I forgot to pick them up). And the Mastra Negra, which I’m positive was well worth missing…

Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.