Countrbrew special correspondent Mark Anthony Foster checks in with this special report on the state of craft brewing in Brazil. If you're headed there for the Olympics this is a must read.
Oi, tudo bem? MA here and I am putting in a hit on the blog about the craft beer movement in Brazil, specifically Sao Paulo. I visit Brazil every year for a few weeks for work and last year I had the pleasure of meeting the brewer of one of the few brewpubs in Sao Paulo, TRIA. When I returned this year, I had to visit and ask for an interview. He was pleased to accommodate and we sat down for a little Q&A...
Q: How did you come up with TRIA?
A: Honestly, I´m terrible with coming up with names, so I contacted a marketing company to do this. Their idea coincides with the number three which has significance with beer (3 main ingredients- grains, hops, yeast), religion, superstition. It was a name that I thought sounded fine and went with it. I was just more concerned with the brewing aspect and trying to get the pub open as soon as possible. We were the second brewpub to open in Sao Paulo. That was in August 2014.
Q: So when you look up your brewery you get TRIA and Mundo Cervejeiro- why two names?
A: I kept the brewery separate from the restaurant, Mundo Cervejeiro, because I consider it two distinct propositions. The pub side is more service oriented and the beer is product oriented. Each business has it's unique characteristics and deserve to be looked at separately, specially the marketing strategies and product placement. Tria brewery on Beer Me!
A: We have a 2 Hectoliter (52 US gallons) "one vessel" system (Braumesiter), 6 fermenters (525 liters) for 400 liter of fermentable wort. Giving us a total capacity of 7200 liter per month. It's a small operation but you need to start somewhere.
Q: I noticed the term for beer isn’t just cerveja but also chopp. Why and what does chopp mean?
A: Brazilian legislation refers to unpasteurized beer as Chopp. As far as I know, it comes from the German word "schop" used to define a serving of 300ml commonly used by the German brewers in the early days when asking for a beer (so I'm told). I have no idea how it went from that to meaning "unpasteurized beer" in our legislation.
Q. You are half-American, half Brazilian living in São Paulo with perfect English. Did you live in the states?
A: I lived in the DC area and Phoenix, AZ for 15 years but was born in Brazil to a New Jersey dad and Brazilian mom.
Q: What is your focus?
A: Our focus is classic styles as close as possible to traditional recipes- only ales. I love dry, low ABV beer (sessions). In fact, the only beer that exceeds this in my lineup is the pumpkin beer (7%) which is released for Halloween. My favorites are browns and IPAs (specifically American IPAs with Simcoe or Amarillo hops).
Q: Why sell mainly session beer?
A: I believe that drinking beer is a social event and session beers allow for that more than big beers. Session beers can be enjoyed multiple times whereas people can maybe drink one or a few big beers, at most, before being drunk and calling it a night. The hangover that next day is also not pleasant and it can lead to a bad impression of the product. I know that some will disagree but I recognize that I am not going to please everybody.
Q: Last year when we met, you said one of the challenges is getting fresh ingredients. Still true?
A: Much better than before, but it is still one of the biggest problems.
LNF is the biggest distributors for hops but for example, this year it’s hard to find fresh Simcoe and Galaxy, which are a big part of our IPA. I will have to figure something out, maybe change my recipe.
For grains, there are a few big importers bringing Weyermann, Castle, Swan and Best Malz. No Briess and I am bummed because they offer a great product for my malt focused beers.
For yeast, we have a good variety of liquid and dry yeast and some local labs are now producing some strains of liquid yeast. Unfortunately, quality can be a problem for liquid yeast due to the hot climate and long travel distances..
Q: Now onto some of the more macro questions… Sao Paulo is a growing market- when did this happen?
A:Big spike in late 2012 to now. It's still a niche market but doing surprisingly well in spite of the bad economy. People are really enjoying the product.
Q: Who is in this niche market? Could you describe the demographics?
A: Mainly younger men & women. Women are becoming a key demographic. It’s becoming more common to see a group of women come in to try the beer, as well as people who have traveled and experienced craft beers in other countries. I think the craft market has an appeal to the younger generation and for this reason it's has excellent growth potential.
Q: I get around to different bars and markets and I see a bunch more offerings but mainly IPAs and Weiss. It seems like there is a lot of the same being put out there. Is Brazil due for a market correction?
A: Maybe. The correction might come with the recession. New "Gypsy breweries" (what Brazilians call contract brewers) with average quality products will have a really hard time surviving the crisis but the established breweries with high quality products will survive and grow. If there's a correction coming, I think it will happen in the next few years.
Q: Give me the breakdown on the craft beer scene. How many breweries/ brewpubs?
A: In Sao Paulo, 3 brewpubs and in Brazil, about 300 breweries registered with the government but "gypsy breweries" are numerous and not officially counted, so the number is much higher.
Q: Any other cities that are embracing the artesanal beer movement?
A: Yea some cities are coming out with great stuff- Sao Jose Dos Campos, Belo Horizonte and Curitiba are some examples.
Q: What is the market share of artisanal beer in Brazil?
A: According to Sabrae, a non-profit small business group similar to chamber of commerce, the artesanal beer share is about 0.15%. Very different from the American craft beer scene. But it is forecasted to grow in the next 15 years to about 2% which represents is a big opportunity for brewers in this market.
Q: Local breweries in the states are very community driven. Whether sourcing local ingredients or by hosting small events. Are local breweries involved in their community?
A: Local breweries here are not as engaged with their communities as they are in the US. Of course, they want to but the culture isn’t the same as in the US. But they are trying and with some level of success.
Q: In the US there is friendly, almost “team”, type of culture with craft beer. What’s it like in Brazil?
A: For the most part, a friendly culture as well. There are some that are a bit bitter but that’s a small number of brewers.
Q: What styles are popular right now?
A: Imperials and Sours are getting big now. To be honest, not my favorite styles or something I would like to do. I want people to know TRIA for making traditional and classic styles. There’s a reason they call it CLASSIC.
After the interview, he invited me down to talk and try an excellent experimental pale ale with him and his employees. This is the great hospitality that Brazilians are known for. This brewpub is going to do great things and if you catch yourself in Sao Paulo, this is a must see!