Monday, April 14, 2008

Cerveja Connoisseurs

Just to go ahead and clear the air, we don't sit around pounding beer. But, there is something about a mug full of icy draft beer that makes the steak and fries at one of our favorite restaurants in Belo Horizonte even better. We both really enjoy a glass of wine in the evening or with our supper, and the same kind of thing applies to beer. There are few things tastier than a really cold beer on a sultry day at the beach under the intense Brasilian sun.

And Brasilians love their beer. Those we know who have been to the US tell us regularly how much better the beer is in Brasil. While we do appreciate how cold they serve the cerveja here (it is not uncommon for it to be a little slushy), neither of us have been able to tell a huge difference in taste. In fact, despite everyone here having a favorite brand, they all seemed pretty much the same to us: they are, after all, all pilseners.

Last night, we had the great idea to do a side by side comparison and try to figure out the subtle differences in the Brasilian cervejas. We armed ourselves with saltines (to clear the palate...if we're going to do this, we're going to do it right!), five different beers, and five glasses so we could do a 'blind' tasting. While there are other brands too, these are some of the ones we've had most recently, so it was a good place to start the tasting. (On a side note, the Sol is actually a Mexican beer, but pretty common here too.)

The notes from the cerveja connoisseurs, if we can call ourselves that, in alphabetical order:

Antarctica: It has a medium, smooth flavor; it's nothing overly special but a good basic beer.

Bohemia: After my first taste last night, I commented to Eric that it has a really surprising smokey, fruity essence to it after tasting the others. He chuckled a little and then gave me this hey-quite-trying-to-use-fancy-terminology-and-sound-like-a-snob-and-by-the-way-this-is-beer-not-wine-or-scotch look. Then he took a sip and said, "wow, this has a really smokey, fruity essence to it." Geez, men! Anyway, we both agreed it has, by far, the most flavor and tastes a lot like a micro-brew. It would be way yummy with steak (and yes, I'm certain that's how the true connoisseurs would phrase that), but may be a bit too heavy to enjoy on a really hot day in the sun. (Although, we had never noticed the unique flavor previously.)

Itaipava: Compared to the others, this one was very, very light, and Eric thought is tasted watered down. I sort of appreciated the lightness of it and thought it was the perfect one for hot days on the beach. My favorite part is that they put a foil wrapper over the top, so you have a clean drinking surface.

Sol: This is the Mexican beer that we've had on several occasions here. When we tasted it beside the others, it had a real bitter bite to it. Again, we never noticed it in the past when we had it alone, but after our little experience last night, the Sol has left us with a bitter taste in our mouth (yes, bad pun intended.)

Skol: This is by far the 'standard' here in BH. We rarely find a restaurant or boteco (very common here: a small place, usually with tables outside on the sidewalk, that serves beer and food, major social gathering place) in town that doesn't carry Skol. In the blind tasting, it was hard to tell much difference between the Antarctica and Skol, although Eric thought the Skol had a slightly smoother taste when it first hits your tongue. It's a standard for a reason: a good basic cerveja.

So, there you have it. This is what we did last night sitting in the living room with 5 glasses and saltines spread out in front of us while we kept an eye on the Master's on TV. (Eric was really beside himself to have something other than soccer on ESPN down here!) Yes, we felt quite cultured (sort of).


wondering ego said...

Damn well! You two are good in degustation. I've been drinking those beers for years and have the same opinion! For regular commercial beers like those, I like best Bohemia, Skol would be the second... Best beer in town "Mosteiro", from a micro-brewery around (pity it costs around R$ 40,00/btl)

Anonymous said...

Antarctica: aguada!
Bohemia: gosto mais presente, mas pesada.
Itaipava: you're right! Made for enjoying the beach. After all, it's from Rio.
Sol: New here. Reeeealy bad. It's in the bar for a matter of price (and marketing skills, since it's new).
Skol: smooth it's the word! Desce redondo!
You forgot two majors: Brahma and the very common in places to dance: kaiser SUMMER.
Ps.: It was funny!