Friday, October 8, 2010

Ye Olde Beer House

Got no bricks, no wood, no sandstone deposits lying around the corner! Then smear salty snacks on your tongue and tilt that head back. A few million bottles of beer later and you may just have what you need.  

Quilmes, a city just south of the capital, is the home of Argentina’s best-loved beer, aptly named Quilmes. And it is there that local man Tito Ingenieri has been building his house for the past nineteen years, out of empty beer and wine bottles.

What he has ended up with is quite frankly his own little bottle-topia of a palace, which is not only a house but also a storm forecaster.  

Fortunately for Tito’s health, he hasn’t had to drink the hop and grape filled contents of the six million bottles which have gone into the construction, (I feel a little tipsy just writing about it), but has relied on the ever swelling beer bellies of his neighbours, while also collecting discarded bottles from the streets.

And finding discarded one litre beer bottles in Argentina is no mean feat in itself.

When I was first sent by friends four years ago to pick up beer at the local Chinese supermarket, I took the four empties they gave me, dumped them in the rubbish bin, and then spent ten minutes as the cashier tried to explain why I had to pay more than the displayed price. I forked out the extra and she gave me a ticket. Had the Chinese cashier ripped me off because I was foreigner, I asked my friends. What did you do with the empties they replied. I chucked them away. At which point they proceeded to roll around in hysterics like I was some sort of crazy person.

In Argentina nearly all one litre beer bottles are recycled by returning the empties (known as envases) and exchanging them for filled ones. Finish your bottle, take it the shop, leave it in the crate, and don’t pay the $2.09 extra that they charge for a new bottle. A pretty environmentally friendly practise really. Though it can be slightly irritating when you can’t nip into the supermarket on your way home to pick up a cold one, without first making a detour up to your flat for an empty.

Tito, however, has mainly used the non-returnable variety and in doing so has made a valid contribution to environmental good practice. And though his house might not be everyone’s cup of tea and may attract the odd drunk who comes to lick the bottles, it is certainly an original piece of design and one Tito is proud of.

Who says alcohol is bad. It has certainly aided his creation.

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