Grupo Schincariol has been making beverages in São Paulo state since 1939, mostly sodas and fruit juices. In 1989, the company decided to create a value-priced beer, something that had not been seen in Brazil’s monopolistic beer market. This became a huge success, and by 2005, the company was looking at other opportunities. As a result, they acquired several of the more successful small craft breweries, including Baden-Baden, Eisenbahn, and Devassa. Because of their parent company’s distribution power, these are some of the more widely distributed Brazilian craft beers, although a short supply has often limited them to specific geographic regions.
The word “devassa” loosely translates as “slut,” and their beers seem to be aimed at the entry-level craft beer drinker with a blonde, a dark and two other light-on-the-palate beers. Baden-Baden produces a typical range of Brazilian craft beers, mostly with German accents. Eisenbahn is similar, but with a slightly more adventurous product lineup that includes a weizenbock, a rauchbier, and a high-end Champagne-like beer called Lust that is one of the few Brazilian craft beers currently imported into the U.S.
We are just now seeing the tip of the coming iceberg. A new generation of motivated homebrewers, many with business plans, fully fleshed out brand identities and family money of lined up, are ready to get started with their commercial ventures. They will not be making boring pilsners.
Homebrewer João Becker is typical. An earnest young man with a piercing gaze and a quiet smile, his family is in the wood products business and part of the current plans to build a new factory includes a small brewery on the property. His homebrew brand RugBrew, is a play on his love for the sport of rugby. One of his showcase beers will be a ginger-flavored ale with the piquant spiciness of ginger without the earthiness that sometimes intrudes. Other beers include a wit and a honey-wheat ale. He is interested in the possibilities for Brazilian woods for beer aging and will begin experimenting with them. I am sure he will meet with great success.
Another homebrewer, Sergio Fraga, is close to launching his beer. His Fraga weiss is spicy and dry, with a decent backbone of hops; more than is typical for German or other Brazilian examples. Armando Fontes has a beautifully packaged barley wine called Vila. And behind all this nascent commercial activity is a well-organized bunch of homebrewers, enthusiasts, podcasters, writers and all the other players needed to bring Brazil’s scene into the 21st century. It’s going to be a very tasty scene.