My first close encounters with beer in Brazil were ordering pints of Brahma, Nove Schin and Kaiser and being given a Choppy instead. I couldn´t understand why I kept being given girly half-pints, half-full with espuma (head). The beer was cold, so cold I burped ice cubes, and undeniably refreshing but basically tasteless and in lilliputian measures. What was going on?
Soon though I was to discover bottled beers and the strange and shady world of casco-recycling. Authentic churrasco is one of the wonders of the world, but unlike the Taj Mahal it goes better with a cold beer. Big brown bottles of the stuff: Original, Bohemia, Serramalte, their labels slipping off from condensation. When you buy these beers from the shops, you´ll notice that each beer has two prices. That´s because if you bring your empty bottles back to the shop you just pay for what´s inside the casco! Not every bottle is recyclable though and if you build a collection of empties hoping to cash them in, be careful the grateful shopkeep keeps a proper tab. The charitable thing to do is to leave your empties on the street. Here selective littering is a form of charity, as hard laboring poor folk collect cardboard, cans and cascos for recycling.
One of the hardest things to deal with in our different drinking cultures is the Brazilian musketeer approach: All for one and one for all. A 600ml bottle of Original, roughly a pint, becomes property of the collective and is shared equally into pesky little half-pint glasses. The beer evaporates faster than agua com gas, it´s close cousin. Normally if I know my pint is about to be gang-banged, I try to drink just a little bit faster than everybody else and be sure that I serve the drink, giving plenty of head to Brazilians who see a lot of espuma as a mark of quality. Here there is no thumb-rule, draught beers from the Shamrock Irish bar to the boteco chopp dispensers are served as if it was bubble bath.
In London, we have a great range of craft ales, we even donate to CAMRA, a society to protect this endangered species. We care more about ales than we do pandas, by and large. If I was to survive Porto Alegre, I knew I would have to find something a little more palatable than thirst-quenching Original. Fortunately, Brazil is at the beginning of what I feel is a beer revolution. The economy is fermenting, people´s salaries are rising and with the world cup brewing, new pubs, breweries and shops are being opened. Yeast is so in right now, that even my wife has dropped out of uni to become a beer sommelier!
Generally, there is a huge mark-up on imported ales. Alas-alack-a-day, you can buy a Bishop´s Finger here but it costs an arm and a leg. Instead, rather than drink expensive imports you can find brilliant national beers. Seasons, Coruja, Eisenbahn, Way, Helles, Colorado, Rasen, Bamburg and Backer all make good beers. Beers you´d gladly risk walking a mile at night to find.
|The well-stocked ´Malt Store´ Cervejas Artesenais - Petropolis|
Sharing my experiences of beer in Brazil, how it´s served and where to find it! (Read part 2)