Rio’s Mondial de la Biere in Full Flight
By Tony Forder, email@example.com
Every year there are more layers added to the colorful tapestry of Brazilian brewing
culture. And nowhere are they displayed more vividly than at the Mondial de la
Biere festival in Rio de Janeiro.
In its 7th year, the festival, held on Rio’s harbor front at Pier Maua, displayed five
days of Brazil’s kaleidoscopic craft beer scene. There are the big breweries, which
each year offer more and more craft-like brands, either from their own stables, or
from a guest small brewer.
Groupo Petropolis, for example don’t bring their flagship megabrew – Itaipava –
they have separate booths for what has become their craft brand – Petra (Black
Princess), Serra which is their brand new craft brew operation, and Weltenburg, the
German monastic brewery for which they have contract brewed for some time.
There are the midsize brewers like Antuerpia and Mistura Classica who have
embraced the craft beer scene, and who were home to the first wave of gypsy
brewers. There are those first wave gypsy brewers like Hocus Pocus who now have
built their own breweries. And then there’s always a flurry of new gypsies who brew
at new purpose-built gypsy (contract) brewing operations like Lagos and Startup
If that’s not enough, there are plenty of imports to choose from including a lot of
Belgians from two major importers. On the American front there is Brooklyn, which
is now having some of its beer contract-brewed in Brazil, Lagunitas through owner
Heineken’s large Brazilian influence, and Founders, which has a growing global
presence thanks to its investment with Spanish Mahau San Miguel.
A-B InBev’s now global brand Goose Island had a kiosk, as well as their top two
Brazilian acquisitions, Colorado (Brazil’s first modern age craft brewery) and Wals.
And the food trucks – the outside promenade is dotted with a couple dozen –
separated by the two main stages – from burgers to seafood to mushroom themed to
desserts, pork BBQ, ceviche, tapioca, frites – you don’t have to go hungry.
It used to be that it was only the big breweries that built huge kiosk displays, but
now it seems that even the small ones go in for big stands and large graphics in
Mondial Rio’s convivial carnival atmosphere. Indeed that seems to be a very
Brazilian thing – almost an outgrowth of their mural culture – which extends from
their label art to the kiosk graphics – spectacularly creative and colorful.
And then there’s the people. “The first couple of days the Beer Geeks come seeking
out the specialties. Then the weekend, the masses come to drink and party,” said
show coordinator Gabriel Pulcino. Nearly all the days are sold out, or close to it
(48,000 people over five days). There is a nominal entry fee – about $10 – and from
there tasting by cash card, on average $1.50 and up for a 4 oz pour. There are roughly 100 breweries represent and more than 700 labels. You’ll find cocktails also, with gin becoming a new Brazilian favorite. The September festival is built around one of Brazil’s biggest holidays – their Independence Day – which this year fell on the Saturday. We decided this would be a good day for a break so we went to the beach instead.
The crowd was well behaved, although I did hear rumors about pickpocketers at
work over the weekend. Friday evening the Governor of Rio de Janeiro state walked
through with a large security detail. He was greeted with boos although I was told
he is popular with the breweries because has reduced taxes for them.
Beer styles run the gamut – and then some. Now that the malt and hop supply chains
are better established, you can find whatever is popular in the U.S. – Sours, Juicy
IPAs, Brut IPAs, and yes this year more craft lagers. Thirsty Hawks brewery won a
gold medal for their Kveik IPA, base on the Norwegian yeast which a lot of U.S.
brewers are playing with. Sours have really taken hold in Brazil leading to the
country’s first native style, Catharina Sour, usually with native fruit of some sort.
Sours took four of the 10 gold medals awarded in the MBeer contest. The single
platinum medal went to a caramel porter brewed by Wonderland Brewery.
Three Monkeys Beer has taken things a step further creating a culinary line of
experimental Goses which include food forward brews such as Gazpacho, with
tomato and pickles; Oyster Gose with squid ink and lemon; and Thai Curry with
curry spices and coconut milk. Sundog Brewing has developed a whole line of
recipes base on ancient cultures, from Egyptian and Sumerian to Viking and a
massive 19% Pictish Braggot. Meanwhile Hocus Pocus dazzled with their Stoned
Ape Theory, an imperial milk (pastry) stout with chocolate and bananas.
In Rio itself, more brewery-owned bars are popping up. Overhop has one, as do 3
Cariocas, Motim and Hocus Pocus. Prior to the competition, the judges were
welcomed at a new brewpub, Narreal. Even on the promenades of Copacabana and
Ipanema beaches you can spot a Colorado and a Wals cafe/kiosk which hitherto had
been dominated by the major brands like Skol, Antarctica and Brahma.
Across the bay in Nitteroi a new brewery, Masterpiece, is nearing completion.
Complete with solar panels and rainwater collection, they are aiming to be one of
the most sustainable breweries in Brazil, if not the world. Director Andre Valle told
me that after their equipment installation comes “the real hell of Brazil” –
permitting and red tape.
Lagos, a brewery which I visited two years ago, built as a gypsy (contract) brewing
facility in Saquarema, 2.5 hours up the coast from Rio, or 30 mins by helicopter, is
doing well with several of their clients represented at the Mondial. When they
opened, they said they would never brew a Lagos brand. Instead they developed a
new brand, Enseada, concentrating on lagers, and hired a sailing boat to promote it
at the festival. Unfortunately that was before I arrived in town.
Another similar setup, Startup Brewing, made the trip up from Sao Paulo. They not
only have developed their own brand, but also invested in some of their gypsy client
Maybe a trip to Rio de Janeiro is in your future – Ale Street News still has a proposed
tour on the backburner. Mondial de la Biere Rio 2020 is slated for Sept. 3-7.
The Mondial de la biere originated in Montreal in 1994. It was brought to Brazil in
2013 in cooperation with GL events.