Friday, March 4, 2011

The Session: The Passing of a Regular Beer Legend.

There has been a death in the family, so far unnoticed by most of us. He was not a California beer writer nor British ale brewer nor longtime Belgian café owner. He was Rupprecht Loeffler, venerable brewmaster of the Cervejaria Canoinhense, said to be Brazil's oldest craft brewery. He was 93.

I got the note a couple of days ago from reader Felipe Lorenzen. "The brewery was founded by Rupprecht's father in 1908 and the same oak barrels, brought by Rupprecht's father from Germany, are still used to ferment the low-alcohol beer produced by the Canoinhense brewery."

Loeffler appears to have been a local legend, and his face appeared on postage stamps in the southern town of Canoinhas. Lorenzen says the brewery was better known for its historical significance than for the flavor profile of its beers. The strongest made by Canoinhense is the blonde Jahu, at 4.5% strength. The Schwarz-like No'de Pinho, or "Pine Knot," checks in at 3.2%. A dark Malzbier is 3.2%, as is the lighter blonde Mocinha.

The low alcohol suggests high drinkability, but it's hard to know without tasting them. I haven't. There are a few notes on Ratebeer, which broadly suggest a sweet, malty character combined with a tart, fruity, vinous quality. The latter may have something to do with fermenting in 100-year-old casks. Regular yet irregular. It's not popular with that tiny handful of raters. But I wonder.

Old German-style beers, wooden casks, very low alcohol. It reminds me of a mental image I kept from Maureen Ogle's book, Ambitious Brew. It's an image of German migrants in the 1850s spending their Saturdays in large, brewery-owned "pleasure gardens," sharing gossip, playing sports, watching the tykes run in circles, and drinking brown lager of a pleasant but non-intoxicating 3 percent alcohol. Regular beers.

I kept that image because I want to be part of it. My own German grandfather wouldn't come to America for another 80 years--holding his secretly pregnant mom's hand aboard a ship from Hamburg--but I can't help but think that those were my people. And that would have been my beer.

Maybe Canoinhense is a relic of an earlier time, or maybe it evolved and took on a life of its own. Maybe both. Maybe the most remarkable thing about Cervejaria Canoinhense is that it survived. As Felipe says, "You sure know how hard is to survive brewing beer different than pale lager produced by big companies in South America." Maybe I'll get to visit sometime, taste the beers, and form my own conclusions. In the meantime all reports are welcome.

Regardless, a legend has passed. I thought you might want to know.

*Thanks again to Felipe for the note. Photo comes from Wikipedia Commons. This post is my contribution to Session #49.


  1. Great text about Mr. Loeffler. Thanks!

  2. Hello everyone!
    I'm from Canoinhas Brazil and I was a neighbor of Mr. Loeffler. He came from Germany with my grandfather and they were a very good and close friends.
    I grandfather past first and soon after Mr. Loeffler past....
    It was a big loss for our City. The Cervejaria Canoinhas still working but is not the same......
    I used to have some beers at his cervejaria when I'm in Canoinhas visiting my relatives.
    To be honest with everyone, it is a great loss when people like our grandparents disappear so we lose our roots.
    Best Regards!!!!!