Tuesday 21 March 2023

Free at last

Hoorah! With no judging, I can get up when the fuck I want. Which turns out to be not that late. As nature’s alarm clock wakes me at 6:30. How do I switch the fucker off?

I lie around in bed for a while dozing. But get bored.  I’ve arranged to meet Jos for breakfast at 9:00. I’ve a little time to spare and use it to traipse to a nearby supermarket. It’s cloudy and only in the mid-20s C. But the 300% humidity still makes it quite a sticky walk. Especially when I try to cross the road. Traffic is pretty crazy in Brazil. I’m lucky to make it there unscathed.

I soon find what I’m after: cheap rum. I finished off my hotel whisky yesterday. I take a few snaps of the stuffed fruit and veg shelves to send to my friends in the UK.

I breakfast with Jos. When he heads up to his room, I chat with Chris for a while. This is lovely and relaxing. Which is exactly what I need after the strain of yesterday.

I’ve arranged to go to Cerveja Blumenau with Jos. When I mention this to Chris, he says that he’ll get in touch with Alexandre Melo, who brews there, to show us around. That’s very good of him.

“Alexandre speaks very good English.” Chris tells me. That’s handy. I remember a visit to the Alles Blau brewery three years ago. No-one there spoke any English. We ended up using Google translate on a phone.

When we arrive at the brewery, we’re ushered into a waiting room. Where Alexandre collects us. Then gives us a tour around the shiny things. Which look much the same as the shiny things in every brewery everywhere.

We finish in the barrel ageing room. Where Alexandre pours us samples. Dead good, they are. A lovely clean, bright acidity. Overlaid in some with a little Bretty funk. I’m impressed.

We adjourn outside, where he pours us some more samples. Catharina Sour and, something I was quite apprehensive about: a Special Bitter. I shouldn’t have worried. It’s pretty good.

As we sit in the shade, talk pings around between beer styles, historical brewing in Santa Catharina, Crimea Porter, capivaras and much else.

A cooling breeze blows over us, and I think: “How did my life go so wrong?” I could still be a wage slave, working for an ungrateful boss. Instead, here I am sipping beer in the tropical heat. While back in Amsterdam everyone is freezing their arse off.

When we get back to our hotel, Stephen Beaumont trolls up.

“What are you going to do now?” he asks.

“I’m going to say hello to my bottle of rum. If you want to drink some really cheap and nasty rum, you’re welcome to join me.”

“You make it sound so appealing, but I think I’ll pass.”

He doesn’t know what he’s missing.

“Hello rum.” I say, “Do you want to be my friend?”


“I’ll take your lack of response as a ‘yes’.”

Not having eaten since breakfast, I drop down to the hotel bar for a snack at 16:30. I grab a seat outside. Stephen is in the pool. While I’m waiting for the food, I get myself a caipirinha. A ham and cheese toasted sandwich. And a pile of chips. Makes a change from another fucking barbecue. A little afternoon rum has given me a healthy appetite. For once.

Luckily, there’s time for a second caipirinha. Pity there was no vinegar for the chips.

I only stay for the two caipirinhas. Don’t want to get overexcited too early. It’s not that long until we’re bused off to the beer festival and awards ceremony. And I want to slip in a quick hotel room rum. Or maybe two. Let’s see how thirsty I am.

Not stupidly thirsty, it turns out. Leaving my legs in fully working order. For the time being.

The bus to the festival is at 18:30. It seems to take an incredibly circuitous route. Maybe that’s just the one-way system.

Before the awards, I trail around the festival a bit with Chris. We kick off with an Old Ale from Lohn, aged with pediococcus. We’re given some chocolate to go with it. Which cuts through the acidity quite nicely. But I really can’t be doing with sour beer. The mixed fermentation beers on the first day of judging really did my stomach in.

Next, it’s the turn of Seasons. Where I get a couple of IPAey things. And have a dead good chat with a brewer. But time is passing. And we need to get to where the awards are.

They’re playing the Peep Show theme tune. Why the hell is that? I record some video so I can show the kids. They’re both massive Peep Show fans. Alexei is forever quoting Super Hans at me.

The judges’ enclosure is on a balcony. Where there’s left over beer from the competition. And a few seats. It’s boiling hot. Only made bearable by being able to grab a seat. Next to Jos Brouwer.

It’s not as unbearably loud as last year.  But it’s a lot warmer. Did I mention that it’s unbearably hot? It’s unbearably hot.  I’d prefer unbearably loud. Paper handkerchief in my ears would solve that. I’ve no way of cooling down.

Most of the beers seem to be either some sort of hybrid or sour.  My stomach isn’t going to thank me for anything acidic. Eventually I find a straight up IPA. That’s nice and cold. Between sips, I hold it to my temple.

There’s much rejoicing on the floor when the gold medals are announced. I know what the overall winner is. Because I judged the pre-BOS of the category: Italian Grape Ale. There was a good deal of discussion about which beer we should award gold to. Me and Carolina liked one beer. Simone a different one. Our eventual choice was a compromise. As these things often are.

When the awards are done, Chris says: “Fancy a nightcap?”

Of course I fucking do.

There’s a craft cachaca bar from the Moendao distillery, just at the bottom of the balcony stairs. We have a few samples. The ten-year old is dead good. So me and Chris each buy a bottle.

It’s time to leave. I’m feeling hot and tired. As there’s no wifi kerbside, we nip into a bar, where Chris connects to the wifi. And I drink a cachaca. Not as good as the ones at the festival. But, hey, it’s full of alcoholy goodness.

The uber returns us swiftly to the hotel. In my room I say hello to the cheap rum again. Still no reply. But it takes me by the hand and leads me to slumberland

Cerveja Blumenau

R. Arno Delling, 388
Itoupavazinha, Blumenau
SC, 89066-35

Disclosure: Concorso Brasiliero de Cervejas paid for my hotel during the judging as well as for some food and drink.


A Brew Rat said...

I have never heard of "Italian Grape Ale", let alone had one. It sounds terrible. When I was in college one of my roommates drank a cocktail called a "Sneaky Pete". It was 2/3 cheap American factory lager, 1/3 Riunite Lambrusco. That's my mental image of Italian grape ale.

Ron Pattinson said...

A Brew Rat,

that's not a million miles away from some. The better ones were like a blend of Belgian beer and a nice Sauternes or Burgundy.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever done a writeup of the history of beer in Brazil, or do you have a good link to an English source? I'm curious where these brewers fit in.

I'm not sure I'd trust search engines to give me a reliable link anymore than I'd trust them for a good link to IPA history.

Ron Pattinson said...


no, I've not written anything about Brazilian beer history. I'm really quite ignorant on the topic.

Anonymous said...

I asked ChatGPT for 250 words on the development of the Brazilian craft beer scene and it seemed to do quite a good job