Brazilian craft beer is happening
Craft beer is happening everywhere in the world these years, and of course also slowly but surely in the worlds third largest beer market, Brazil. At the occassion of the football world cup, I wrote an article about Brazilian craft beer for the Danish Beer Enthusiasts bi-monthly magazine, and since I got a lot of help from Brazilian fellow beer writer, home brewer and hop lover Mariana, it’s only fair that I also make it available in English so she can read it.
At the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, Mariana was one of several Brazilians who had made the trip all the way to Denmark. We talked about female brewers, metal rock, the silliness of religion, and also about the Brazilian craft beer scene. And I learned some interesting points that I thought would make a good article.
My first experience with Brazilian craft beer was at the Great British Beer Festival where Eisenbahn were represented with a handful of English and German inspired beers. They were five years old at the time, and as such, one of Brazil’s oldest micro brewers. My favourite was the rauch bier Defumada, which was lighter than Schlenkerla, but tasty and easy drinking.
Eisenbahn is situated in Blumenau and most of their beer is German inspired, and brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot. Blumenau is in Santa Catarina in the south of Brazil, and as the town name suggest, it was the center of much German immigration 150-200 years ago. In fact, the world’s second largest Oktoberfest is in Blumenau.
Santa Catarina is also one of the richest and most organized states in Brazil, and it’s probably no coincidence – in a country with giant income inequality, craft beer isn’t for everyone, though industrial beer is.
Brazil is the world’s third largest beer market, only behind China and USA, and the per capita consumption at 68.3 liter is actually higher than in Denmark. The world’s largest beer conglomerate also has its roots in Brazil. InBev was created through the fusion of AmBev (with brands like Skol, Brahma and Antarctica), and Belgian InterBrew, and with the later acquisiton of the American concern Anheuser-Busch it became AB InBev.
The industrial brewers have a firm grip on the market, and it was only last year that the craft brewers got organized to counter the big boys. They still have to learn to work together, and see each other as colleagues rather than competitors. For example an internal duty on goods travelling from one state to another, clearly favours the national breweries who have a strong lobby to keep the status quo. Importers and small breweries are also hampered by a large and slow bureaucracy and the availability of quality ingredients.
Since my experience with Eisenbahn, and until this spring, I actually haven’t had any Brazilian craft beer. At Copenhagen Beer Celebration, I met Way Beer and tasted their brews. Inspired by the American beer scene, they mostly brew hoppy pale ales and tart saisons. Their tart beers with various Brazilian fruits are brilliant summer beers, and would have been perfect to have in unlimited supply during the World Cup. I had one with a fruit called graviola. It didn’t taste much of the fruit, but had a little pineapple character.
At brew day on Amager Bryghus, I tried beers from 2Cabeças, since their brewer Maira was also in Copenhagen. I’m not a big fan of black IPA and their Hi5 was a little unbalanced for my taste, but the passion fruit (maracuja) IPA was really tasty. Good passion fruit character blended perfectly with the fruity American hops.
The Brazilian craft beer lovers don’t have it easy, but there’s reason for optimism. More and more passionate beer enthusiasts are joining the ranks, home brewing becomes more wide spread, and hopefully the craft brewers will eventually have it easier.
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