Just How Cold Do Brazilians Like Their Beer?
Brazilians are very particular about beer. First and foremost, it needs to be as cold as possible without being frozen (or maybe just a little frozen is OK), and being served beer that is not this cold is absolutely unacceptable. People in the US don’t seem to care when their beer comes in a glass that feels like it was just pulled out of a piping hot dishwasher. In Brazil, this would be an offense, an outrage, it would be sent back immediately and appologies would be issued. No, I change my mind – in Brazil this scenario wouldn’t even happen. It’s common in Brazilian bars to see large refrigerators behind the bar used only for storing bottles of beer, and most of these refrigerators are branded by one or another of the Brazilian breweries. These fridges normally have a digital thermometer prominently displayed near the top of the door. This allows the bartender or waiter (and discerning customers) to monitor the temperature inside the fridge.
Not only that, but when you order a liter of beer in Brazil, called a litrão to share among friends at the local bar or boteco, it comes hidden in a giant plastic cozy , called a porta garrafa to preserve the “right” temperature for even longer:
When asking for a beer, most will tell the waiter that they want the beer to be bem gelada (well chilled), geladinha (quite cold), or even estupidamente gelada (stupidly cold).
Brazilians, who by the way are the least wasteful people that I know, will throw out a beer if it has been sitting around for too long. Most Brazilians won’t finish the last inch of beer they have in their can (lata) or bottle (garrafa), simply because those last sips are just too warm by the time they get to them. Even the way you hold a beer is important, because if you grasp a bottle of beer in the middle, it will warm up faster. So, you are supposed to hold a bottle of beer by the bico - the neck. This is the correct way to hold a beer in Brazil:
the correct way to hold a beer
Draft beer in Brazil is called choppe. It is important to remember that in Brazil you can specify the amount of foam, espuma, that you want when you are served your draft beer. “Dois dedos de colarinho” means “two fingers of foam” – a good amount. Most bars in Brazil now also offer the option to order a torre - a “beer tower” which looks like this:
And lastly, in Brazil, ideally even the glasses should be served cold:
Brazil is one of largest beer manufacturing countries in the world, and the most popular beers in Brazil are Skol and Brahma. However there are many others like Bohemia, Itaipava, Devassa, Baden Baden, Nova Schin, Antartica, Kaiser, and Xingu. They also have Heinekin in Brazil, but it is imported and expensive and also thought of as more “high class” among normal people. It isn’t found as often as the other Brazilian beers, Brahma and Skol being ubiquitous in Brazil. Here’s a little guide to the top brands of beer in Brazil:
Brahma: This beer is the top selling beer in the country, most bars with draft beer, will have Brahma as their draft beer. Taste: Low fermentation, very smooth, neutral aroma.
Skol: This beer is big in Rio. Because “cariocas” drink excessive amount of beer, it is quite light and their slogan is “it goes down round (or smooth)” so you wont get sick of it. Personally I think it’s too watery.
Bohemia: The first beer of the country! This beer is light and refreshing. One of my favorites!
Itaipava: This beer is quite similar to Bohemia, however a little more incorporated.
Devassa: This beer was just recently launched about 2 years ago with Paris Hilton as the face of the beer. Its become a great hit in the country, its taste is a little on the bitter side.
Antarctica Original: Very traditional beer, created in 1906, hints towards a bitter tastes, but is quite smooth. The beer comes in a 600ml bottle, it’s a good choice to get at a table with friends.
Rules For Drinking Beer in Brazil
- You should test the coldness by slightly touching the bottle before allowing the waiter to open it, but not too much now because if it is ok, well then, any unnecessary over touching of the bottle will only make it warmer! It should be “estupidamente gelada” – stupidily freezing, so much that you can’t make out the brand label on the bottle due to the thin layer of ice covering it. It’s what they call véu da noiva – the brides veil. If it doesn’t peel the skin off your fingers, well then to the waiter, you say this:”Uai cara, esta cerveja está quente!” – “Hey man, whats the story? You keeping the beers in the oven!?” To this, they will replace it with no fuss.
- When pouring the beer, grasp bottle by neck, and quickly distribute it into the small cute glasses provided preventing prolonged touching of said bottle as for the already aforementioned reason.
- Upon distribution, you then must raise your glass and say “Saude!” (health/cheers) lightly touching the other persons glass, and then strangely enough the bottle of beer itself, kind of like, the indians ‘thanking’ the bison for ‘offering’ itself after they killed it with 20 arrows. Of course, all this is done extremely quickly as the instant the beer has touched the inside of the glasses, it’s already getting warm, you need to waste no time drinking the stuff.
- Important note here, don’t keep the cute glasses of beer in hand while you are conversing, again this will warm the glass thus warming the beer, and possibly resulting in filthy looks from your Brazilian friends. The same also goes if you are drinking a long neck, if you do have to hold it, hold it by its neck, and if possible, do it with your index finger and thumb.
- Now that everyone is served, the ceremonies are finished, and the mandioca & linquiça has been ordered. This is when the game starts, the idea being too drink the bottle of beer while the beer stays cold.
- Then, when the last cold crop has been drained, and even before you can blink, suddenly, from out of nowhere, a new bottle has been opened, glasses have been filled, and all that remain of the presence of a waitress will be an icy smoke rising from the bottle (appreciate it, it’s probably the fastest you’ll ever see Brazilians move).
Microbreweries in Brazil
Brazil also has microbreweries, they are just hard to find on the market. That seems to be changing a bit recently. For example, there is Green Cow IPA, produced by Seasons Brewery, in Porto Alegre and Colorado Vixnu or Ithaca Imperial Stout, from Ribeirão Preto, in the state of São Paulo.These three beers are among the best produced in the country, according to Gordon Strong, president of the Beer Judge Certification Program, a reference in beer contests around the world. He just visited several Brazilian brewing centers and summed up his impressions, published in O Estado de São Paulo. Generally speaking, Strong said that the Brazilian (artisan) beers he drank were mostly correct and he praised both their “basic qualities and boldness”. But he complained that they were served excessively cold in a festival he attended in one of the country’s beer meccas, Blumenau, in the state of Santa Catarina, and that this compromised their balance. Well, it’s just a Brazilian thing I guess.
Green Cow IPA from Porto Alegre
Oktoberfest in Blumenau
Every year, for half of the month of October, the largely German populated city of Blumenau in the Brazilian state Santa Catarina has hosted the largest German party in Latin America. In international terms, it only loses out to the original Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany and the second biggest in Ontario, Canada.
In 2010, an estimated 600,000 people attended the Blumenau festival, and although 22% less people showed up than in 2009, they drank 25% more alcohol. According to last year’s numbers, each person drank around one liter of beer, an average that’s on par with the event’s bigger brother in Germany.