By Oliver Bazely, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For most Cariocas, beer is synonymous with chopp, the ice-cold pale lager served all over Rio, usually from Brahma. Undoubtedly, when the heat rises, a few glasses of chopp are the perfect way to cool down.
Temperature is critical to a good glassful, and the 200-300ml servings are usually small enough to allow the beer to stay cold to the last drop. In fact, chopp is thought to be derived from schopp, which is a German word used to describe a 300ml serving of beer.
Chopp is a top-fermented pilsner-style lager, traditionally left unpasteurized. This process retains more of the flavor, but shortens the shelf life of the beer. The recipe for modern chope (as it is also known) has no doubt been altered to accommodate the industrial scale on which it is now produced, but considering the serving temperature of between 0-4 degrees Celsius, the effect on taste is probably negligible. Beer of a similar style can be found in most countries, such as Miller in the U.S., or Carling in the UK.
A recent phenomenon in the UK and the U.S. (and a phenomenon that never ceased in continental Europe) is that of the microbrewery. The diversity and number of small independent beer producers has exploded over the past decade, and the average beer-geek is spoiled for choice in many western cities.
This trend is slowly making a mark on Rio, but the high import duties mean that international beers are out of the range of the average Brazilian pocket. Some smaller brewers, such as Devassa, are making some headway in the specialty beer market, but fledgling micro-breweries are often priced out of the market by cheaper industrial beer.
However, when the heat is less oppressive, and the thought of yet another glass of bland lager does not seem particularly appealing, it is worth remembering that Rio has a few bars that offer a more exciting range of beers, both Brazilian and imported.
Delirium Cafe, in Ipanema, has a fantastic range of beers, including lethally-strong Belgian trappist beer, Pale ales from Chicago and Irish stout. The bar also has a good selection of local brews, including the popular Colorado beers, and their own Bottobier, which is delicious and served in frosty half liters.
Prices are high for the imported beers, but for those desperate for a taste of home, once in a while no price is too great. For those with the deepest of pockets, you could even buy a bottle of 11.5 percent Deus, thought by some to be the pinnacle of beer making.
Located in Botafogo, BierBoxx (Rua Martins Ferreira, 71) is primarily a mail-order business that sells ‘selection boxes’, but rumor has it that you can buy beer by the bottle in the shop and drink it on the premises.
Either way, if you are looking for an introduction to Brazilian beer, they will no doubt be able to help you out. The supermarket in the Botafogo Cobal also stocks an impressive array of local and imported beers.
Located near Largo do Machado, the German themed ‘Herr Brauer‘ (Rua Barão do Flamengo, 35) is a cozy little bar that, despite extra seats squeezed on to a small mezzanine, often gets crowded at the weekend.
As could be expected, the bar has a good range of European beers, including some Oktoberfest beers. The bar also serves food, and several dishes feature beer as one of the ingredients. Try the Eisenbahn Pale Ale, which is locally produced, and a great attempt at a classic beer style.
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