Think Brazilian beer and I’m sure you’ll think Brahma or, if you’ve been there, Itaipava or Antarctica. But there is a growing craft beer scene or cerveja gourmet, as it’s called. One of those is Baden Baden, although it has been part of drinks giant Brazil Kirin since 2007.
It won’t surprise you that it was the Germans that started brewing in Brazil first, back in the 1830s. Baden Baden was the first recognised microbrewer in the country and the São Paulo brewery has churned out a whole line of beers which have picked up awards across the world. As part of my World Cup Diaries series in Brazil, I sought out some local beers and found Baden Baden’s range at a princely 13 Reals for each 600ml bottle (£3.82) in Copacabana. That’s more than most bottled beer in the UK in a country whose gross domestic product per capita is a third of the UK’s.
First thing to note is that the quality was pleasingly high. When your competition is mass-produced lagers it may not be hard to stand out, but Baden Baden excels, in my view. I really enjoyed its range, especially the heavier Stout and Chocolate varieties.
The Baden Baden beer range includes:
A great traditional pilsner. It’s really clean, not too crisp but with a smoothness that reminds me of a golden ale. Not too much carbonation but there’s some slightly chewy maltiness in there to slap your lips over. There are some nicely balanced hops and it is ever so slightly heavy going, but a massive step up from the lagers on offer in Brazil which dominate the beer market.
Red Ale (9.2%)
This knock-out is as heavy in texture as it is in ABV. It has a wonderful, blood-like deep russet hue, supported by a wonderful and strong nose of toasted almonds and marshmallow. Bitter hops dominate the flavour and there’s a slight medicinal feel but very satisfying.
This blew me away. OMG. No wonder it’s won awards all over the world. It’s an Irish style dry stout with an aromatic chocolate and black malt nose. Once your sense of smell has been suitably satisfied, again bitter hops come to the fore to lead the flavour. The texture is outstanding, really solid, almost oily. This would be very popular in the UK and Ireland (hint, hint…).
Call me an ignoramus, but for me there isn’t a great deal of variety between Weissbiers. It’s not like you get the same range as you do with porters or IPAs. Anyway, on a hot day (i.e. most days in Brazil, even in the winter) it’s pretty refreshing as it’s very light-bodied for a Weissbier. This is very well balanced throughout. Not too heavy.
This limited edition beer has – as you’d hope – an overwhelming chocolate nose with a hint of nuttiness. It’s light-medium bodied and there are burned and chocolate malt notes, very toast with a hint of marshmallow yeast and plenty of bitter hops.