I want to produce a witbier,” says José, “one that says ‘I am Belgian.’” The dubbel shows plenty of of malty aromas, with complexity from the raisins they add along with the black Carafa malt. “It’s not a big brewery, but it’s all made with heart,” says José. Thiago produces a bottle of their cork-finished Tripel. The nose is complex spicy-fruity, from dried bitter orange peel and coriander and hops, too: Galena, Styrian and Saaz. There is a firm bitterness, a bit of which tastes like it comes from the dried orange peel. White cane sugar is used in both the abbey beers. Sales of the tripel are growing rapidly. “Women love this beer,” José adds.
Back in São Paulo, or actually in the far-distant suburb of Votorantim, best known for an immense cement factory, another young brewer has some big ideas. Cervejaria Bamberg is a seriously industrial-looking operation filled with eye-blindingly shiny stainless steel equipment. It’s the pride and joy of Alexandre Bazzos, president and brewmaster. A former food technology engineer, he started the brewery in 2005 with his brothers and some partners. He had spent some time in England and “was excited to find 35 different beers in the grocery stores there. I came back to Brazil, and at that time we had seven beers, all pilsners.” Like so many in the states with the same story, he decided to do something about it.
He fell into the name by luck. “We were looking for a German name that would be easy to pronounce in Portuguese,” he says, “and Bamberg was near the top of the list.” When he did the research, he realized what he had stumbled into it. Since then he’s traveled to Bamberg, in Bavaria, and tries to live up to the city’s reputation. For him, Cervejaria Bamberg is all about German tradition, but he is a genuine craft brewer as well, excited by flavors and ideas, and determined to make beers with real personality, not just the cookie-cutter yawners many of the Reinheitsgebot-obsessed breweries squirt out. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, and makes for interesting artistic challenges.
The brewery mainly focuses on authentic, but characterful versions of Bavarian classics: pilsner, weiss, schwarz, and alt, all very finely made. On top of that is an amber-colored bock, which lagers for two months at 32°F until it’s satiny smooth. Most radical is a rauchbier, a smoked beer famous in his namesake city, but rare elsewhere. It’s a good one, too, with a bacony taste of beechwood-smoked German malt—nothing timid about this place.
He’s open to new ideas, too. In the cooler sit two wooden brandy barrels maturing the first barrel-aged barley wines in Brazil. A preview taste reveals a huge fruity/caramelly nose, kind of like dried apricots. There are some nice oaky flavors, with more to come, I am sure.