I’ve not been blogging much lately – okay, at all – because I’ve been busy running around Brazil and experiencing their emerging craft beer culture, largely at the recent, three day Festival Brasileiro da Cerveja de Blumenau.
For a first time beer fest, I’d have to give this one high marks. Sure, the hall was a little drab with its largely unadorned walls and grey concrete floors, and the portion sizes, which could run up to the equivalent of $10 or more for a full bottle of beer, were more conducive to drinking than sampling, but there is definite potential here. A few thoughts:
- The space was large and roomy and never felt crowded, which was nice. During the hours I was there, it was seldom difficult to approach a booth and speak with the brewer or owner;
- Servings of the beers, as noted above, could have been better portioned. Granted, a lot of Brazilians seemed to be there more to drink than to taste – cold pilsner is pretty much the rule for drinking down here – but perhaps future fests could feature two or three sizes, as does the Great British Beer Festival;
- Two things they got very much right – lots of seating and a nice variety of live music kept the party going. The bands got a little loud for easy conversation later on in the night, but that’s the case at a lot of bars, too, so I’ve no complaints there. (And I loved the Saturday afternoon samba band!)
- Blumenau has factors both good and bad going for it with respect to hosting such a festival. On one hand, being already the site of the largest Oktoberfest in the world outside of Munich, they have the infrastructure in place to host a big beer party. But on the other hand, it is located well into the south of the country and a good distance from the nearest airport, which makes it less than central. (But then again, the drive or bus ride from Navegantes to Blumenau really isn’t all that much further than the trek from DIA to downtown Denver.)
- The Brazilian craft beer industry is definitely in its infancy, with the same sort of beer breakdown that you expect to see in such a youthful market – lots of good, enthusiastic efforts, some pretty poor and flawed beer, and a handful of exceptional brews;
- Probably because of the intense heat they experience, Brazilians are obsessed with pasteurizing their bottled beers, often, it seems, with rather primitive equipment and to the detriment of the beer’s flavour. One brewery booth I visited, for example, poured me the same beer in pasteurized bottle and unpasteurized draught form, which might have been completely different brands;
- Most of the brewers and brewery owners I spoke to told me they were selling all they could brew, which is definitely a sign of potential for the future, but equally most of the breweries here are crafting pretty small quantities, with a large craft brewer brewing around 10,000 or 13,000 hl per year. They seem to be experiencing big time the classic craft beer challenge of education their customers to appreciate something beyond a bland, blonde lager;
- But there is definite interest and excitement about craft beer in Brazil, and that, I think, bodes very well for the future.
More later on the breweries of Brazil.