Finding Craft Beer In Portugal
Portugal is not known for beer. Yet, if you are there for Port Wine, then you will not be disappointed! That is not what I was seeking out (granted, I did drink my fair share). Whenever I travel to a new place, it is generally my goal to find any new craft beer that I can. Portugal was no exception.
Now, when you travel within the US, you tend to have a lot of great resources out there to find new and up-and-coming craft breweries. Whether you use Beer Advocate, or a number of other websites/forums, you can usually come up with a decent list of places to stop by. I asked around my usual places and was left with a lot of silence. I eventually did come by a list of craft breweries (Cervejaria Artesanal) in Portugal that can be seen here (http://cervejaartesanalportuguesa.tumblr.com/cervejas/). Unlike what I am used to in the US, there really was not much information on their websites about taprooms or visiting them. Most just randomly listed stores that may or may not have them in stock.
Even with this list, most of them seemed to only sell in their small towns. My trip consisted of a couple nights in both Porto and Lisbon. So, I had to focus my searches on those two cities. Porto is the heart of port wine country. Even if you are looking for beer in this city, I 100% recommend you stop by some of the port wine houses. They offer tours and samples usually for around 5€. Just the sheer numbers of barrels that they keep in these places is crazy. Or the fact that one place had bottles of port available from the 1850s for a price that you can buy a car for. With that said, I will move on to the actual beer.
Super Bock. You will get to know it well. It is the main beer in Portugal and it is everywhere. While it is drinkable, it is by no means great. On a side note, it is actually a beer that is not owned by a huge multinational company like most national brands in smaller countries are these days. It is still privately owned and for that, I appreciate it a little more. You can find different varieties of it around. In Porto, Super Bock runs a brewpub-like establishment called Caves da Cerveja on the waterfront that you can find some smaller batches of beers. Nothing will really stand out here, but it at least gives you some different varieties to try. While there is brewing equipment in this building, do not be fooled as no beer here is actually brewed there. It is all brewed at Super Bock’s actual facility. Sagres is the other macro competing beer in Portugal. Much like Super Bock, do not get your hopes up for it.
If you are in Porto, I do recommend stopping by Mercearia das Flores. It is a small, local, artisanal store focused on local foods and products. For beers, they had bottles of about 6 different Sovina beers for sale to drink there or to take home. Sovina is likely the largest craft brewer in Portugal (cannot find exact stats on this, but it is the most common one seen in Portugal). They also have one tap which had Sovina Trigo on the day we were there. It is their take on a hefeweizen that had almost a farmhouse taste to it. This ended up being our favorite of all of their beers. Along with this, they also offered an IPA, Stout, Red, and Natal (Christmas beer).
Along with Sovina, another brewery was offered called Letra. Letra, which is letter in English, names their beers solely as a letter. So, Letra F, for example, was their IPA. Just in my opinion, I liked most of the Sovina beers better but the Letra IPA was better than the Sovina IPA. Along with Sovina, they also offered an Weiss (A), Pilsner (B), Stout (C), and Red (D) along with a Belgian Dark (E).
If you do want something more than a store to drink a beer at, then your best bet would be O Monge. They tend to have a wider selection of imported Belgian beers as well as assorted taps from Europe and sometimes even the US. They are less focused on the local/regional breweries, from what I saw, but definitely a better place to grab something other than Super Bock.
As for Lisbon, there is a clear winner as to where to get a beer there. Cerveteca is about as close to a beer bar/bottle shop as you can find in this area. While not focused completely on local beers, you will definitely find a good variety of other Euro craft beers (meaning not just the typical German/Belgian beers other places have). Along with their bottle selection to drink there and to take home, there were also around 10 taps that apparently are heavily rotated with regional beers. While I was there, they had a couple of local IPAs, a porter, and even Flying Dog Snake Bite IPA on tap. We ended up ordering a Hel & Verdoemenis Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout from Brouwerij De Molen out of Holland. It was definitely a treat to see something like this there. Their other bottles included a large variety of BrewDog, Beerbliotek and Mikkeller. This place has only been around for less than a year the bartender mentioned that it was about the only place like it in the country.
While Portugal may not be a beer destination, it is always great to see the beer culture growing. I am no expert, by any means, on the beer scene in Portugal, but am happy to see that there are definitely places to find good beer.