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Where to start with beer in Brazil? Somewhat of an anomaly among Latin America due to its status as the sole Portuguese-speaking nation and also its sheer size – it accounts for just under half of the population and land mass of South America. It is practically a continent in its own right. With this, brings great diversity in weather, culture and gastronomy.
In fact, alongside football, the only true unifying features of Brazil come in liquid form – by way of beer and the famous Caipirinha. Brazilians love their beer and – like most LatAm countries – it is a real sharing occasion, with large bottles the clear favourite over individual serves.
Ice, ice, baby
Often an issue with the larger serves – 600ml to 1 litre – is that by the end of the bottle the beer is no longer ice cold. This has led to a wave across South America of extra small serves by means of mini bottles (150-250ml) or slimline cans. In Brazil, however, there is little danger of a beer becoming warm, even with larger bottles. Firstly, they chill their beers to within an inch of their life. It is not uncommon to see fridges set to well below zero in bars to store beers – often so much so that the beer comes out as a more of a slushie or it is chilled to the point that any uniqueness in taste is negated (not always the worst thing with some Brazilian beers!). On top of this, every time a beer is served, it is accompanied by a cooler. These can be basic, either a polystyrene cylinder or a plastic casing for the bottle, but they are used without fail, across bars, restaurants and convenience stores.
It also serves as a great marketing opportunity for brands in Brazil. The bright yellow colouring of Skol coolers, for example, is almost instantly recognisable (and from quite a distance). Having this merchandise on-site provides a strong reminder and simple choice to the consumer to opt for a Skol over other beers on offer. Much like branded beer glasses, these coolers are often used regardless of what brand of beer the customer orders, so this merchandise can help generate a real on-trade presence for brands. Similarly, branded ice buckets/cool boxes are common to find in a Brazilian home.
International means premium
The big Brazilian beer brands – Brahma, Skol, Antarctica, Devassa etc. – can be quite polarising at times among the population. You tend to find extremely strong opinions in either direction as to their quality. For those who don’t like to indulge in a national beer, international brands are the cue for premium and quality. Heineken, Stella Artois, Estrella Galicia and others are frequently found and viewed by many as the premium option to turn to. This is partly down to their admittedly greater taste and superior quality, but also due to the lack of craft beer in Brazil. Yes… craft beer does exist to some extent, but for the largest country by some way in South America, the craft beer scene is far less accessible than in the likes of Argentina, Chile, Colombia and even Ecuador – where incidentally, international brands can be a little harder to find.
Of the national brands of beer in Brazil, a pretty much universal claim is that of the ingredient quality – more specifically – ‘puro malte’ or ‘pure malt’. This claim is a prominent feature among several of the leading brands and is used in the context of premiumising the beer – often there will be a normal version of the brand as well as the ‘puro malte’ variety (Brahma Extra vs. Brahma, for example). On top of this, there tends to be little by way of claims or flavour variations to cue premium across the Brazilian beer market. This is in stark contrast to markets such as Peru, Argentina and Colombia where red/amber ales or wheat beer varieties readily available from leading brands.
Beer before wine, you’ll feel fine?
Whereas beer in Brazil tends to be relatively unadventurous in their style and taste (it seems refreshment is key across the largely hot-all-year-round country), it still throws up a couple of surprises. Hands down, the winner of strangest beer in Brazil is a bizarre draft wine-beer fusion. The ‘Beer before wine, you’ll feel fine’ rhyme offers little insight into how this drink might you feel. This beer, from the brand Haller (who also offer more conventional lagers too), comes with all the cues of a typical beer – in barrels or can format, and served in a beer glass. Whilst not entirely unpleasant, it certainly threw up some radically different taste profiles compared to most of the beer in Brazil. Interestingly, this is not the first time I’ve come across a wine-beer fusion in Latin America, having had a taste of the Grape IPA found in Mendoza, Argentina’s famous wine region.
Favourite beer in Brazil
With a wide selection of local and international beer in Brazil, you are never short for choice. However, my recommendation would be Original from Antarctica brewery for a more premium option versus Skol or Brahma, for example. The perfect accompaniment for a Brazilian churrasco BBQ with a little Samba or Brazilian funk music in the background (as cliché as it sounds, this is actually quite a common occurrence!).
Enjoyed this branding analysis of beer in Brazil?
Check out our branding beer guides for other Latin American markets: