Things are definitely improving in Portugal for fans of craft beer with cervejarias artesenal (craft breweries) starting to pop up all over the place.
When I first moved to the country in 2008 there really wasn’t a lot of choice when it came to beer.
Basically it was either Sagres or Super Bock, both of which battle to portray themselves as the Portuguese beer. (Even though Sagres has been owned for years by Heineken!)
A bottle of beer in a bar was certainly dirt cheap compared to back home in the UK but the usual choice was lager or lager. And for someone who grew up on what I knew as ‘real ale’, this – forget family – was one of the hardest things about being away from home.
Both brands did produce a few other styles – I developed a taste for Sagres Bohemia in particular, but back then I never came across this auburn beer anywhere other than in bottles in the supermarket.
But while the two big brands still dominate the country, things are definitely changing. Even outside Lisbon and Porto, craft beers are starting to become much more mainstream.
I first discovered the Barona brewery a couple of years ago on a visit to to Castelo de Vide in the north-east Alentejo.
Based in the nearby town of Santo Antonio das Areas, the brewery makes a very decent porter, IPA and blonde ale, plus various seasonal brews.
Until this year, I’d only tried the beers in bottles but on a return visit to Castelo de Vide earlier this month I found a new bar called Pirolito now has Barona’s blonde ale on tap.
Earlier in the year while on the road with another of our guided cycle tours, I came across Magana in Moura – which makes several lovely brews, although sadly I still haven’t managed to find them anywhere on tap.
And in Elvas while there are no craft breweries that I’m aware of as yet, there’s an excellent selection of bottled craft ales on sale at Mercato, also one of the best restaurants in town.
Craft beer is also spreading into the supermarkets – last week I found chilled bottles of Cerveja Bolina’s Hipster Monkey and Ave Rara (rare bird) on sale in the Pingo Doce supermarket in Lagos.
Things are definitely looking up as I know these are just some of the brews now available. There’s a list of many of Portugal’s craft breweries here.
But I know this list isn’t comprehensive (Magana isn’t on it for one) and I’d be interested to hear of more – and of any recommendations. Maybe one of our future cycle tours should be based around visits to some of these breweries?