Thursday, 31 March 2022

Distillery tour

I've signed up for a brewery/distillery tour. The bus leaves at 8:00. Only 7 hours after I got off the last one.

I leave myself around 20 minutes for breakfast. I sit with Pete Slosberg, Doug Piper and a couple of Polish judges. I have my now standard cheese and sliced meat stuff. Plus a coffee and an orange juice. My stomach really doesn't want anything more.

Pete has some interesting stories about visiting Japan in the 1980s. Which pass the time while I'm wondering why the hell it's 8:10 and there's no sign of a bus.

It turns up a little later and we trail onboard.

The start is jolly enough. I'm sitting by Susan Boyle, who is a bundle of positive energy. Backed by a gaggle of lively Poles behind us. I try not to drag the part down with negative energy, my speciality.

The countryside around Blumenau is hilly and very lush. Trees pack every hillside with radiant green. This really isn't like Europe.

Susan tells me lots of fascinating stuff about wine and whiskey in Ireland. It turns out that in the 18th century, it wasn't beer or whiskey that was Ireland's favourite tipple, but wine. I would never have guessed that.

I'd been expecting a short ride, assuming we were going to the Xanadu distillery like two years ago. It's not far from the centre of Blumenau. After an hour of sliding past lush forests, I twig that we're headed for a different distillery. One much more distant. I'm pretty quick, me.

There a building with Alambique on the side. Doesn't that mean distillery? We motor past it. 10 minutes later there's another one. We don't stop there, either. Finally, we pull up outside a third. Ah, this must be it. One of the Brazilian judges has a word with the driver and we turn around. We've come to the wrong distillery.

Our real destination was Bylaardt. The second one we passed earlier.

It's quite modern and looks very efficient. Well, not totally modern. There's an ancient wood-fired boiler behind the still room. It looks a bit like a steam locomotive. (Andrew tells me it probably is the boiler from a locomotive as many were repurposed in South America.)

The fermentation room has several open vats of sugar cane juice fermenting away. Bubbling away like crazy. Unsurprisingly, as a control panel tells us that it's over 30 C. It ferments out in just 24 hours, we're told.

The barrel room is very compact. And at ambient temperature. Which is again over 30 C. At least today. The barrels are made French oak. Most of them, at least. They have a few of amburano. There are also some larger vats. Weirdly, the time spent in those doesn't count towards the age of the cachaca. Only the time in vats of 600 litres or less counts, for some weird reason. 

I'm greatly relieved that the sampling room/shop has airco. Though it's still quite early, it's bloody hot outside.

The shop is notable for having an array of small casks - filled with cachaca - for sale. When we asked earlier, we were told that, after four fills, the casks were broken up and made into smaller ones. I'm gobsmacked to see one of the judges buy one. Then realise he's one of the Argentinians who has driven here. No problem for him to get it home. Not sure what they'd say if you tried to check a cask onto a plane.

I get myself a couple of bottles. Well, not myself. They're for the kids. A 10 and an 18 year old. I'll let them fight over who gets the older one. Surprisingly. neither bottle gives its age on the label. It seems it's something to do with Brazilian law. If it claims to be 10 year old, it has to be only that. With neither younger nor older cachaca in it.

Our lunch stop, Das Bier, isn't too far. The setting is incredible. In front is a fishing lake, backed by more forested hills of glittering jade. The balcony has an amazing view. But is really hot. After snapping a couple of views, I sit inside with three of the Brazilians.

Pils is the only draught beer. Not really fancying that, I get a bottled American IPA. Which is fine.

Lunch is another buffet - what else. I get two chips, some salad to stave off scurvy, several types of meat and bit of fried fish. It's not bad. And I'm maintaining my protein intake.

Chris and Martyn trundle in while I'm eating. Along with a Brazilian brewer with whom Martyn will be brewing a collaboration beer later.

All the signs are in German. Something I'm getting used to it this part of Brazil. It is quite surreal when the view from the window is a jungle.

Would I like to look around the brewery? Sure. I start regretting that decision immediately. It's boiling hot. And I could see it through windows in the bar. Yet again, I leave early, sweat running down my arms, legs, chest and every other bit covered in skin.

I'm looking forward to getting back on the lovely cool coach. Forgetting that the driver had been sitting at another table the whole time. While the bus, power off, sat baking in the car park for 90 minutes.

It's 48 C when we get back on. I'm soon dripping with sweat again. Despite drinking quite a bit of beer and cachaca, I've had little need of the toilet today. I've been sweating everything out. A bit like back in my clubbing days.

The airco brings the temperature down fairly quickly. It's still 37 C when we arrive at our next destination. Not at the Xanadu distillery itself. Rather at the place where we switch to a minibus which can negotiate the steep narrow road to it.

Xanadu. I've been here before. Last time quite early in the day, when the pavements hadn't started melting. No such luck today.

There are only a couple of stills and a room full of barrels to show. The tour doesn't last long. Just as well, given the rivers of sweat coursing down my flesh and through my clothes. Pure torture.

The tasting is dead interesting as they have cachacas aged in a variety of different woods: American oak, European oak, amburana, balsem and a couple of others. All six years old, but amazingly different in character. The balsem aged one has zero colour, despite all the time in cask. But packed with flavour.

I'd be able to explain all this better, had I not been worried about melting into a puddle of dripping. There's no airco and I'm English. It's hard to concentrate your faculties when fearing your imminent collapse, or, worst case, demise.

Investing in more cachaca seems for myself seems wise. This time, it is for me. I suppose unless one of the kids takes a shine to it more than those from the first distillery. Now if only I can get that crap Olivia Newton-John song out of my head. I'm very susceptible to song prompts from my location. I was continually playing the Kinks' Victoria through my head when I commuted into London.

My accommodation most of my food and some beer were paid for by Concurso Brasileiro de Cervejas Blumenau. All travelling expenses I paid myself.

1 comment:

Chris Pickles said...

I thought what, he's buying booze for a ten year old!