Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Beery Wishes and Salty Fishes.

The missus and I recently went to Lisbon. Some harrowing, in-the-trenches research confirms what a few minutes of googling might tell you: There is virtually no such thing as Portuguese craft beer.

In recent years, impressive microbrews have come from Italy and Spain. But Portugal? Not yet. Two giant beer makers, UNICER and Centralcer, apparently control 99 percent of the market. It might even be 100 percent. Surprise! Most of what they make is bland lager.

Think I'm exaggerating those numbers? Unfortunately not. This 2000 news release puts the total at 98 percent. Since that time, UNICER has taken over brewing for Cervejeira Lusitana, a pub chain in Lisbon. The big boys have a choke-hold.

Even so, Lusitana is a relative bright spot for Portuguese beer. So is the República da Cerveja, another faux-brewpub in Lisbon supplied by UNICER. I'll put it this way: Don't travel to Lisbon for the beer. But if you do travel to Lisbon, these places are worth visiting. Why? Two reasons: First, their lager recipes are a notch above what you'll find elsewhere in the country. Second, the food is two notches above the tourist traps noted in the usual guidebooks.

The salty local cuisine really brings out the strengths of these light, refreshing beers, which are nice for the warm-weather climate. The highlight for me was Lusitana's bottom-fermented wheat paired with bacalhau, a traditional dish of cod and potatoes. This lightly sweet and lemony guzzler was just the answer for that warm, hearty bowl of salty creaminess.

I hope to sell an article with more details and suggestions. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, please consider opening a real brewpub in central Lisbon. You'll cash in, believe me. Just imagine all the magic you could do with used port barrels...

1 comment:

  1. Joe, I just asked your little missus to send me the link to your blog so I could check it out. Am always anxious to see what exciting beer escapades you are up to. Send me an email sometime so I can add you to my blog (invite only). Can't wait to read more! PS - I didn't know you went to Lisbon recently! Can't wait to hear all about it!