14/11/2012

Beer in Brazil Part Deux

An English man, a Scottish man and an Irish man walk into a pub in Porto Alegre…. The joke´s on them, there are no Pubs, no real pubs, in Porto Alegre as far as I can tell after 2 years here.  Not pubs as we would understand them in any case. This is not a slur just an innocent observation as there are some inextricable differences in atmosphere, method, blah and blah. That said, there are lots of good, some great, Pubstitutes. Some of them are even called Pubs as opposed to Bars to make them easier to spot.

Say you fancy a liquid lunch, pubs in Porto Alegre don´t usually open till about 6pm so you´ll find yourself having to sit in a neon-blanched lanchonette sharing a midday drinking sesh with retirees. To get a good beer at that time of day the best place I know is Café Cantante in Bom Fim. The staff are nice and you´ll never be alone as there are other lonely people sat in close proximity to you sipping their coffee, reading the paper and wobbling about on the dainty furniture.

Kerouac- Best English night in the city
After 6pm on a Tuesday (the beginning of the drinking week for most locales) you can find a variety of botecos, bars and pseudo-pubs in the area of Cidade Baixa. All of the pubs have table service which means you rarely get up save to go to the bathroom but makes it difficult to mingle.  When you enter these establishments you are given a comanda, a slip of paper on which your orders are tallied and which you lose under pain of a billion R$ fine. The fine is only to spook you, there´s no legal way they can make you pay it. The real problem with the comanda system is when you miscalculate your own funds.

Sadly, the vibrancy of cidade baixa has been coming under attack from a neighbourhood coalition demanding curfews. This has cut off the life blood to some smaller, newer pubs who depend on live music to keep going. The new pubs that don´t have an immediate buzz around them find themselves skittering around like Bambi on ice and are soon dead. The longevity of a pub is one of the deeper differences between back home and here. If you get the chance before it slips off the edge of the world then I heartily recommend the bluesy  beatnik bar the Kerouac Rock Pub in Cidade Baixa which has live music and a kick-ass English pub quiz (see Pub Quiz POA on facebook for info).

Bier Keller - where mugs defy gravity
Some other places I recommend:  First, the Bier Keller is a mysterious tavern hidden somewhere in Porto Alegre. It´s beautifully decorated and has a giant walk-in fridge stocked full of beers from around the world. Entry is by invitation only and it´s a little pricey but the atmosphere is wonderful. Second, the Malt Store in Petropolis is a shop offering a vast array of beers. It has a few tables for degustaçao, meaning you can drink yourself merry until about 10pm. Third, Imperial on the corner of Rua Santana, is a great, great boteco with ninja-fast service, top food and a real buzz. Last and my favourite pseudo-pub is Lagom. A brew-pub in Bom Fim where you can be served draught beers in pints and listen to Maiden!

Some places to avoid: It´d be unfair to name names. Certain irish bars near Redenção with their no havaiana policy (isn´t this Brazil?); an eponymously owned pub on Avenida Mariland where they´ll try to convince you that their sound system isn´t malfunctioning and that Robert Plant raps as fast as Apache Indian while simultaneously telling you that Baden on the menu means Baden Crystal and not Baden Golden which is 5r$ more please; a Bukowski joint which would be amazing if it had about 10 more floors to fit all the sardines in. 

I haven´t been to all of the so-called pubs here, whole streets and neighbourhoods are missing from my experience, and I imagine there´s many more wonderful surprises in store, perhaps even a real pub with London Pride on tap and KP nuts and Sunday roast. 

Sharing my experiences of beer in Brazil, how it´s served and where to find it! (Read part 1)

Now, if you're looking for bars with latin music in, try here.

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