The Beer Nut: Warm up to this import

Norman Miller

There's something about warm-weather locales and beer -- the hotter the average temperature, usually the worse the beer.

There are some exceptions. California has numerous world-class breweries, and the Abita Brewing Company produces some good beers in Louisiana, but generally, high temperatures equal light, tasteless lagers.

The Eisenbahn Brewery in Brazil shattered my concept of South American beers. Instead of worthless yellow, fizzy beer, it produces a strong lineup of German-style beers brewed to the Reinheitsgebot, the German Purity Law for beers.

``Unhappy with the mass market beers available in Brazil, we decided to build a craft brewery, where we could apply all the knowledge from our German brewmaster,'' spokesman Juliano Mendes said. ``Passion about beer. That's how the idea of handcrafting beer in Blumenau, the Brazilian capital of beer, came about. We brew according to traditional European methods, where neither preservatives nor adjuncts have (a) place.''

Brewer Gerhard Beutling also adds some British and Belgian styles to the mix, Mendes said, and the brewery hopes to add other styles now that it has a foothold in the area.

The 5-year-old brewery is now the largest craft brewery in Brazil. The name Eisenbahn is German for railway.

``We have chosen this name because of another brewery with the same name that existed in Blumenau in 1909,'' said Mendes. ``They were not strong enough to fight against the commercial actions of the big breweries and shut down a few years later. The new Eisenbahn was born on July of 2002, and we hope to continue for many years to come, always faithful to pure and traditional beers.''

It was not easy for Eisenbahn to grow, he said. Nearly all of the beer produced in Brazil are light lagers. Mendes said the large breweries pay bars and restaurants to only carry their beers, blocking other breweries such as Eisenbahn from getting their names out.

Even with the difficulties, Mendes said the brewery knows they made the right decision to not just do what was popular.

``We believe this kind of beer (light lagers) doesn't add anything to the experience of drinking real beer,'' Mendes said. ``When we drink good wine, don't we look for flavor and complexity? Don't we want the correct flavor to pair with different dishes? For us, that's the point about beer. Beers with flavor gives us a much richer experience.

``Brazil is dominated by these huge breweries. The only way to succeed is creating a new beer market in Brazil.''

And for that to happen, Eisenbahn had to make quality beers. They succeeded.

The four beers I tried were all wonderful and were true to the styles.

The Escura, called a Brazilian dark lager, is an all-malt, German-style lager. It's flavorful, smooth and creamy. The six malts used give it a nice, roasty flavor.

The Dourada, called a Brazilian golden ale, is a kolsh, a form of a light ale. The fruity flavor mixes well with the bready malt-flavors to make a perfect warm-weather beer.

The Vigorosa, a weizenbock - a strong, dark wheat ale, is the biggest beer of the group, coming in at a hefty 8 percent alcohol by volume. It is definitely a sipping beer.

The South American Pale Ale is a British-style pale ale. The citrusy hop flavor gives it a nice kick and a good earthy flavor.

Also available, but not sampled, is Lust, a Belgian-style Champagne ale. A biere de Champagne is a style of beer conditioned and fermented in a manner similar to Champagne.

``It's a very poor beer culture in Brazil,'' Mendes said. ``But slowly, the craft breweries and importers are changing the situation.''

Eisenbahn is currently only available locally at Julio's Liquors in Westborough, but sales in the United States have been good. Mendes said a new shipping container of beer, the second one they have sent, will be arriving in the states next month.

Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, contact nmiller@cnc.com or 508-626-3823.