Brazilian beers: plenty of exciting brews to experience

Brazilian beers and the beer scene in general are full of great potential, with an abundance of new breweries, unusual beer specialties and plenty of new interesting ideas cropping up on the scene. But Brazilian brewers aren’t just looking at current trends in the US, they’re taking an example from the German beer culture in particular.

It’s well-known that there is higher beverage consumption in tropical countries than in more moderate regions. But it may be news to some that Brazil has more to offer than just caipirinhas, cachaças and batidas de côco. For the last ten years, the South American country has experienced an outright beer boom – a fact made clear at the annual Brazilian Beer Contest in the metropolis of Blumenau, once a settlement of German emigrants in the southern part of the country. It was six years ago that the competition was launched with 215 entries. But at this year’s event, an 86-member jury from 38 countries judged 2,859 beers from 475 breweries. The number of entries rose by more than 40 percent compared to last year alone.

The beer scene in Brazil: ranked number 3 worldwide

The fact that well-chilled Brazilian beer is growing ever more popular as a lifestyle beverage is also evident in the rapid rise in consumption. While per capita consumption has not reached peak levels, current figures indicate that some 14 billion liters of brew is consumed by thirsty fans each year. This number puts the land of samba in third place among international beer markets, just behind the USA and China. The number of breweries is also growing. There are now almost 700 breweries – with rising tendency. Although almost 70 percent of the market is in the hand of major breweries, which almost all belong to the American Beverage Company (AmBev) and thus to the world’s largest brewery group, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), variety is thriving at small, creative breweries in particular. In recent years, the market share of craft beer has grown eight times faster than that of beer from large breweries. Experts forecast that the share will increase to at least nine percent by 2022.

Brazilian beers: long-standing tradition with German origins

The craft of beer brewing actually has a long history in Brazil. German immigrants first established the craft in the southern part of the country at the beginning of the 19th century. So it’s no surprise that some breweries still bear German names, including Opa Bier, Baden Baden, Blauer Berg, Lohn Bier, Schornstein, Cervejaria Bamberg and Eisenbahn. Brazilian brewers model themselves on the German beer culture in particular. The majority of beers available are pilsners, wheat beers and lagers. Beers with American influence are also very popular, including pale ales, IPAs and barley wine. Sour beers are especially popular now, having become trendsetters in the international beer scene with all kinds of varieties. Brazilians have even created their own sour beer – the Catharina Sour – which is actually like a Berliner Weiße and usually made with fruit flavors typical for the country, such as passion fruit, guava, pitanga, butia or umbu.

The Brazilian touch

The hippest beer scene in Brazil can be found in Rio de Janeiro. There are now some 50 creative breweries in the city by the Sugarloaf Mountain. Among the pioneers are breweries such as Three Monkeys Brewing, 3Cariocas, 2 Cabeças and Hocus Pocus. However, many of the new star beers operate as “gypsy brewers,” since opening an independent brewery is said to be very difficult. This means that several brewers from Rio lease space in the Allegra brewery, founded in 2008 in the eastern part of the city, to produce their ales.

While many international brewers stick to the German purity law established in 1516 out of long-standing tradition, many beers in Brazil also contain some corn or rice, which gives them a lighter flavor for the tropical temperatures than beers with conventional malt contents. A maximum of 45 percent of corn is allowed. Creative brewers are also fond of using nuts, coffee or cacao to give their specialties a special Brazilian touch. Even jurors of international beer awards, such as the European Beer Star, are fond of these combinations – several Brazilian brews have already celebrated important wins.

Mareike Hasenbeck

Mareike Hasenbeck is a freelance journalist with her own craft beer blog (Feiner Hopfen), she is also a beer sommelier and an international expert for beer sensory certified by the DLG (German Agricultural Society).