The first lift came after an hour and was comical to say the least, with the truck driver struggling with his own sense of direction, let alone ours. We bailed after he made a u-turn to go back to Mar del Plata, leaving us 3km better off.
We scored four more lifts in reasonably quick succession over the next few hours and advanced another 260km to Tres Arroyos, however ended up taking a bus once it got dark as we were still 200km short of our target.
Unfortunately, Bahia Blanca was a bit of a non-event, with some ordinary weather greeting us upon arrival and continuing through the next day. Not wanting to risk losing a day through not being able to hitchhike the 530km journey to Cipolletti, we decided to take another bus.
According to a few CouchSurfers that we met while we were there, visiting Cipolletti is an interesting choice, but I had been given the name of a new microbrewery being set up when I was in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay.
We caught up with Osvaldo and Axel from Crafter on our second afternoon in the city and they took us to an apple and pear farm located about a kilometre from the Neuquén River, which separates Cipolletti from Neuquén, the largest city in Patagonia.
The farm belongs to Axel’s grandmother and it sounds like it took a lot of convincing before she gave the go-ahead to set up the brewery in an old shed – particularly because it housed a truck that his grandparents purchased after moving to Argentina from Portugal.
The guys started brewing in Osvaldo’s mother’s kitchen in Buenos Aires a couple of years ago and always dreamt of opening their own microbrewery. Crafter was established in June and they have been so busy converting the shed that they haven’t been able to continue home brewing. Unfortunately this means that we can’t tell you how good their beers are, but Crafter’s first offerings should be underway in about three weeks.
Initially they will produce three styles – a Scotch, Pale Ale and Porter – before brewing seasonal beers, such as an IPA and a Stout. They have also planted some hops (20 cascade and 15 other varieties) on the farm in order to experiment with other styles.
Osvaldo and Axel also hope to be able to offer tours once the brewery is up and running and I wouldn’t be surprised if this, along with the parrilla (BBQ) area at the entrance to the shed, helps to put Cipolletti on more traveller’s to-do lists…