How far would you go for a great pint? The local pub for sure. Norwich beer festival? Perhaps. Belgium? I have known people who have.
How about the end of the world? It takes a while to get there. First a 12-hour flight to Sau Paolo followed by another five hours to Santiago, Chile.
From there it’s another few hours down to Punto Arenas, and as dusk falls, it’s on to the coach to head three hours up the Ruta Del Fin De Mundo to our stopping place at Puerto Natales, located at the head of the Última Esperanza (Last Hope) Sound.
Apparently, the hotel that was to provide our overnight resting place has great views, but my best picture is one of the rains gushing up through a manhole cover. Still, they did have a bar, and despite the late hour, we piled in.
As always I asked for a bottle of the local ale and was rewarded with a bottle of Polar Imperial Stout, a strong dark beer which was full of flavour. I took a picture of the bottle, much to the amazement of the barman, so the bar wife explained that I write a column on beer for my local paper.
A couple of minutes after we had retired to our table to eat our excellent sandwich, the barman sent over a bottle of Austral lager on the house for me It’s good to know that after five and a half years my literary efforts have finally received a tangible reward at the Southern tip of Chile, and I have no hesitation in recommending the Hotel Costaustralis if you are passing that way..
I felt after that I should complete the tasting of the available beers with a taste of the Yagan Dark ale and the Calafate Fruit beer which I particularly enjoyed. A couple of days later we passed through Puerto Natales again on the way back from theTorres del Paine National Park, and this time the sun was out, the views great, and the Rainbow Warrior Greenpeace ship was tied up as part of an educational tour., but there was no time to stop as we were heading back down to Punto Arenas, the southernmost city on mainland South America. We experienced a slight delay due cracked windscreen and a couple of stops to fix a broken fan belt on the coach, but fortunately we not only had a very able driver, but an engineer in our party who had been responsible for surfacing the A17 bypass and the runway at Marham, so we were soon on our way.
The highlight of Punto Arenas for me is the bar in the hotel where Shackleton recuperated after his epic rescue mission. It is a beautiful wood panelled place with a series of drawings of incidents from his journey. It also serves the most wonderful beers from the local Hernando de Magallanes brewery, a superb stout and a Pale Ale.
For me, this is one of the great bars of the world, and if you become a little disoriented on the way out, you will get a glimpse of other parts of this stylish hotel, though you may have to endure the questioning looks of the gentlemen in military uniforms in their private dining area.
Chile might not be the first place you consider visiting, but I has a lot going for it, not least the beer.
In the Lakes area, Chester’s produce a fine range, and up in the Atacama Desert look out for the Guayacan brewery, and for those who like it, they even make wine.