By Ken Weaver
Though pale lagers like Skol and Brahma continue to dominate Brazil’s beer glasses, the country’s craft brewers are poised to make an international impact. High-profile brewers are already taking notice of Brazil’s craft potential: Brooklyn Brewery launched a beer project with Cervejaria Wäls and Denmark’s Mikkeller has worked with upstart Cervejaria Way Beer. Here’s why the rest of us should be paying attention.
Unique ingredients. Brazilian breweries have access to a wealth of native ingredients that yield standalone flavors. Amazon Beer tosses passion-fruit-like taperebá and tangy bacuri fruits in the kettle. Cervejaria Colorado’s award-winning (and now U.S.-imported) Demoiselle showcases Brazilian-grown coffee. And brews like Way Beer’s Amburana Lager and 3 Lobos’ Bravo (a barrel-aged imperial porter) bring forth the highly charismatic umburana wood, which adds cinnamon, almonds and bright oak notes.
Homebrewers. The local homebrewing club in Curitiba has grown from 10 to 150-plus members over four years, while brewing school Cervejaria Escola Bodebrown has educated nearly a thousand students. Enthusiasm: check!
German underpinnings. Brazil traces much of its beer culture back to the early 1800s and the first major influx of German immigrants, who brought with them a strong brewing heritage. The annual Oktoberfest of Blumenau in southern Brazil is one of the world’s largest, attracting up to 730,000 visitors in recent years. See also, German-inspired breweries like Cervejaria Bamberg and Cervejaria Dortmund.
Vibrant festivals. An 18-day Oktoberfest is one thing, but it’s the craft-beer-minded events that help support a serious beer movement. The four-day Festival Brasileiro da Cerveja in Blumenau presented 500 different beers to 22,000-plus revelers last year, while the Wikibier Festival in Curitiba is one of a growing number to include homebrewers and legit beer-and-food pairings, aka harmonização.
Expensive hops. Brazil’s warm climate doesn’t lend itself to hop cultivation, and imported ingredients from America and Europe often command a premium price. Why is this helpful? Because it forces Brazilian craft breweries to think beyond the hop-forward trends and discover the brewing potential of ingredients in their own backyards.