The Summer Olympics are in full swing and Team America is most certainly kicking some major ass in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s hardest-partying region. Scenes of glistening bodies on Rio’s infamous beaches, samba dancing and copious drinking are gracing your screen, making the paradise on the Tropic of Capricorn seem even more glamorous.
Broadcasters may not tell you that Brazil is the world’s third-largest beer market, at 3.5 billion gallons annually. That’s more than 62 gallons per capita.
Brazilian brewing dates to the 1830s when opportunity-seeking Germans immigrated to the South American wonderland. Beer-loving Bavarians had the skills to quench their thirst for frosty beverages. In 1853, Bohemia Lager became the first mass-marketed brew in Petrópolis. Bohemia, now under the ownership umbrella of Anheuser-Busch InBev, is the oldest beer still brewed in Brazil. In the 1880s, Antarctica and Brahma lagers joined Bohemia; together the three brews claimed nearly 98 percent of the Brazilian beer market.
Like the rest of the world, mergers and acquisitions are rampant in the Brazilian beer market. The majority share belongs to AmBev, the owner of the Brahma, Antarctica, Bohemia and Skol brands. Brazil’s largest brewer was formed in 1999 from the merger of the two largest brands, Brahma and Antarctica. In 2004, Ambev merged with Belgium’s Interbrew to form InBev, which merged with Anheuser-Busch in 2008 to form the world’s largest brewer, now known as Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Brazil’s big cerveja brands are omnipresent at the country’s bars, beaches and barbecues. Brazilians consume light, refreshing lagers everywhere and at almost any time. According to local custom, they’re served on draft in small cups at least half-full of foam, supposedly to keep the beer colder longer. It doesn’t, but who can fight longstanding local custom?
Craft beer is making a slow emergence into Brazil’s beer scene, which today has a few craft breweries, with more starting up all the time. Sure, in the tropical summer, an ice-cold — I mean, so cold there’s a layer of icy slush at the top — lager is perfect to beat the heat but, more and more, craft brewers are amping up the style with hops infusions and indigenous fruit.
While mass-produced lagers may be at the top of the heap in Brazil’s beer market, as in the rest of the world, craft beer is inching up that mountain. As you watch the Olympic athletes, kick back with a cold Brazilian brew and cheer on your favorites.
Brazilian beers found locally:
Xingu Black – Cervejaria Kaiser
Black and silky, this Brazilian beauty is rich with dark, roasty flavors of chocolate and coffee. Sip with a Brazilian steak for an unforgettable experience.
Palma Louca Pale Pilsner – Cervejaria Kaiser
Keep this smooth representation of a Brazilian pilsner covered in ice as you watch Olympic beach volleyball.
Brahma – Companhia Cervejaria Brahma
Pale yellow with light, grassy hops, the typical Brazilian lager is also one of its oldest. Slip on a thong swimsuit — guys, too — and get to the beach with this buried in ice. (Only where it’s legal, folks.)