Brazil. While Brazil was a colony of Portugal from 1500 until independence in 1822, the history of beer in Brazil begins in 1634, when Dutch colonizers arrived for the first time, carrying provisions of beer. That era lasted only until 1654, leaving Brazil without beer (or at least European types of beer) for 150 years. In 1807, England sent her armies to defend Portugal against Napoleon, forging close ties between England and Portugal. Partially as a result, English merchants established businesses in Brazil and made porters and pale ales available in major cities around the country. It took more than 50 years for the first local artisanal beers, now produced by large waves of German immigrants, to appear. The Germans colonized the southern part of the country and the first breweries were located in the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. However, most of them struggled to survive. As a tropical country, Brazil didn’t have an ideal climate in which to cultivate good barley and hops. Both ingredients had to be imported from producing countries, which was particularly difficult and expensive at the time. Beyond that, refrigeration wasn’t yet available, making the lives of brewers very tough in a country where the temperature easily reaches 40°C (104°F). At these ambient temperatures, contamination by wild yeast and bacteria was hard to stave off, and batches of beer often spoiled before they could reach the market.

It was only in 1888 that the two major Brazilian breweries, Cia. Cervejaria Brahma from Rio de Janeiro and Cia. Cervejaria Antartica from São Paulo, were founded. After many years duelling for market share, Brahma acquired Antartica in 1999, becoming a major player in the world beer market. The new company was named Ambev, which later merged with the Belgian giant Interbrew to become the second biggest brewery in the world, called InBev. In 2009, the Belgian–Brazilian brewery managed to acquire the largest brewing company in the world, Anheuser-Busch, to create a new company, named Anheuser-Busch Inbev. As of 2010 InBev accounted for more than 68% of the Brazilian beer market, mainly brewing mainstream light lagers such as Skol, Brahma, Antartica, and others. Other major brewers in Brazil are Grupo Schincariol, which accounted for 12.3% of the beer market, Cervejaria Petropolis, with its Itaipava brand, with 9.7% of market share and Femsa, mainly with its Kaiser brand, which recently sold its beer operation to Heineken, with 7.5%.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, with the resurgence of several craft breweries inspired by classic styles created in Europe, a small beer revolution has taken place in Brazil, attracting enthusiastic beer consumers to the world of specialty beers.

The Brewpubs Dado Bier, Cervejaria Bork, Cervejaria Colorado, Krug Bier, and Alles Bier started their operations during this time, and the renaissance was underway. They first tried brewing light versions of pilsner like the bigger breweries, but soon found that this wasn’t to be their niche. In 1999 Cervejaria Baden Baden was founded and introduced new styles into the market such as a Barley Wine named Baden Baden Red Ale, an award-winning stout, a German-style pilsner, and a bock. Three years later, Cervejaria Eisenbahn was founded in Blumenau, Santa Catarina, with a line up of well made German-inspired beers, including a schwarzbier, weizenbier, kölsch, a highly credible dunkel, and even a Belgian-inspired beer re-fermented like Champagne. Blumenau, a place that looks rather like a small German city, even holds a large well-attended Munich-style Oktoberfest every year, startling visitors who expected to find caipirinhas in Brazil rather than weissbier. Cervejaria Colorado has been particularly creative, adding regional Brazilian ingredients such as manioc roots, natural brown sugar, and local honey to their beers. German brewers have even given an award to Cervejaria Bamberg for their well made smoked beer, as they did before with some Eisenbahn, Baden Baden, and Colorado beers.

Of course, bigger brewers have not failed to notice the burgeoning Brazilian craft beer scene, and Grupo Schincariol, mainly known for its popular mass market brand Nova Schin, has acquired the three largest craft breweries in Brazil: Devassa, Baden Baden, and Eisenbahn.

Yet in 2010 virtually every month saw the opening of a new brewery in Brazil and consumers, journalists, and restaurateurs are starting to understand that Brazil now produces another great drink besides the native cachaça. Approximately 100 craft breweries are now running in the country and it will not be surprising if Brazil eventually gains a reputation as a diverse and creative brewing nation.