A Weekend in São Paulo

22 Nov

Must Do in São Paulo

  • Cervejaria Dogma
  • Empório Alto dos Pinheiros
  • Beco do Batman
  • La Guapa Empanadas

When work takes you to cool locations, you take advantage of that.

Fortuitously our business has another plant in Maua, Brazil, located about an hour southeast of São Paulo. My technical reason for a week spent there was to perform a pre-audit assessment of their IT systems, but if you know me you’ll know I always have a secondary reason. 99% of the time that reason is beer. While Monday – Thursday would be spent at the plant, I had an open Sunday before working and all Friday and Saturday to galavant around São Paulo in search of all the good beer.

On the Copa Airlines flight to Brazil, I had a short layover in Panama City in which I got to rush through the airport. The plane food was pretty bad, but I did get to try a little local Panamanian flavor with an Atlas beer and an arepa, both of which were also pretty bad. At least they managed to be photogenic.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Britt Antley (@brittskibeers) on

A late evening arrival into São Paulo put us at our hotel around 10 PM local time which was just in time to catch the start of World Series Game 4. As my body was still 2 time zones behind and I had napped on the plane, I stayed up until 2 in the morning watching baseball and drinking the scant selection of minibar beer. Skol was the shitty macro light lager of choice, and as a local Brazilian favorite you’ll be absolutely shocked to learned it’s owned by Belgian megabrewery AB InBev. Nothing like being in an exotic location and drinking rebranded Bud Light. At least the baseball was good.

Sunday in the suburb of Santo Andre was fairly uneventful. We went to a restaurant in the mall across the street for lunch. While the food was not very good, I had my first Brazilian craft beer. QI from Dama Bier was a respectable if not amazing Pale Ale, and the bottle design was very cool. Thankfully they don’t share a market with Ingenious Brewing from Houston because I feel like some trademarks might be violated.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Britt Antley (@brittskibeers) on

A big bright spot was me finding a beer stand in the mall. For those unclassed and uninformed people, a beer stand in a mall is like that stand selling pink glittery iPhone cases in your local mall, but this stand sells beer. And good beer at that! Mr Beer was the name of the spot, and apparently they have multiple locations throughout the city. I picked up a couple Brazilian craft beers to enjoy in my hotel room throughout the week. Speaking of throughout the week, not a lot happened out in the burbs. The food was not worth recounting. Perhaps I just happened to not find any good places, but the food varied from bland and uninteresting to downright bad. We did go to a churrascaria that was respectable, but I’ve been to much better ones in the States. I happened upon a German style brewery nearby my hotel, Fritz Cervejaria, that seemed like a chain, but I could not figure out much about the brewery since I don’t speak Portuguese. The kolsch I had was nice and refreshing, and I ate some decent bar style snacks with my coworker. The beer highlights of the week were those I picked up from the beer stand. The Roleta Russa series from Cervejaria Imigração featured some of the coolest bottles I’ve ever seen: the cap is a revolver’s cylinder with a single bullet i.e. Russian roulette. Their New England IPA was just alright, but their American Black IPA had a great roast flavor backed up by a nice hop presence.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Britt Antley (@brittskibeers) on

The beer of the week went to a whiskey barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout from Cervejaria Dogma. To celebrate International Stout Day, I picked up and drank a healthy 16 oz. can of E.A.P. There was very little whiskey booze, and coffee and chocolate were the prominent flavors. This was my first taste of Dogma, and it would not be long before I got to try their beers from the source.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Britt Antley (@brittskibeers) on

The week had flown by, and Friday morning was my time to head to the big city. After an hour long Uber (the São Paulo metropolis is freakin’ massive), I arrived to my Airbnb in the Pinheiros neighborhood. The condo was really awesome, and appreciating the great view of the city I naturally popped open a cold American IPA from Baden Baden. Lunch time was upon me, and a branch of La Guapa Empanadas was nearby. I devoured several of the saltena beef empanadas and washed them down with a refreshing Carmen pilsner. These were some of the best empanadas I had ever eaten: perfectly crunchy crust quickly giving way to a flavor explosion meaty interior. I would eat here way too much if I lived in São Paulo.

A note on walking around São Paulo: I walked around the city quite a bit during my short stay, and I never once felt unsafe. Bad things can certainly happen in big cities in Brazil, but I would not let the fear discourage you from visiting. My next walking destination was the best beer bar in São Paulo, EAP (Empório Alto dos Pinheiros). At EAP, I took a seat upstairs and dove into some Brazilian haze. My first beer was Enjoy the Spring from Cervejaria EverBrew. It was delightfully light and still full of tropical juice. Boombox from Croma was a delicious NEDIPA, and Tamed World was a more traditional yet still good DIPA from Dogma. In addition to their impressive draft list that’s mostly Brazilian, they also have a phenomenal selection of bottles and cans to go. I picked up some of these and then rounded off my tasting with RISMF (Rye Imperial Stout M@!&$* F#%*&$), a big 12% rye stout from EverBrew. EAP would do very well as a beer bar anywhere in America, and it was awesome to see that nearly all their beer was Brazilian craft.

While walking around, I noticed that I was nearby Cervejaria Nacional, the oldest microbrewery in São Paulo. The brewery space was a beautiful old brick building, but the beer was less than beautiful. The flight I ordered contained the same generic beer you’d find at many meh breweries in the States. Their Hefeweizen was probably the best. I wouldn’t go out of your way to try anything from them when there is much better Brazilian craft beer to be relatively easily found. I’m not sure if Cervejaria Nacional is truly craft or not as it certainly had a corporate feel to it.

I headed back to the condo to put down my bag full of beers, and while I was at it I figured I may as well enjoy the fruits of my walking and carrying labor. Flower Trip was a nice West Coast IPA from Croma, an awesome São Paulo brewery I did not get a chance to visit it as the brewery was pretty far away. A timely beer, Livin’ The Dream from Koala San Brew, was perfectly enjoyed while livin’ the dream and diggin’ the view.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Britt Antley (@brittskibeers) on

Dinner time had snuck up on me, and I was going to take a chance at Chou in hopes that the wait wasn’t too long. I was lucky and only had to wait around 30 minutes. A caipirinha would do an excellent job of holding me over. The style of food was New American with Brazilian flare thrown in. It would have been a great place to go with more than one person and share dishes, but I made out fine by myself. I had an appetizer of polenta with ricotta and an olive tapenade. The steak for my entree was the best I had while in Brazil. I also had several very well made caipirinhas before and during my meal. It was relieving to finally have a great meal in Brazil, and São Paulo was starting to live up to its reputation as a foodie city. After dinner I settled into the cozy yet vibrant Le Jazz Petit for some more cocktails. Even though I didn’t speak the language, there was a palpable vibrancy that I couldn’t help but to connect with in the city. The cachaca had me feeling good, and I rode the wave of drunkenness back to my condo for the night.

I’m surprised I made it this far in recounting my trip and only just now mentioned caipirinhas. Let me rewind and say that I had many caipirinhas throughout the week. I had them with nearly every dinner and often as a nightcap at the hotel. The national cocktail of Brazil is made using cachaca (a liquor made using sugar cane), muddled limes, and sugar. That’s it. Very simple to make and very delicious. While it’s boozy in nature, the fire is masked wonderfully by the sweet and sour combo of sugar and lime juice. I fell in love with the drink and even brought back a bottle of cachaca with me so that I can make caipirinhas at home. I’ve done that a couple times so far, and the results were very tasty. Everyone needs to discover and fall in love with caipirinhas because they’re the best.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Britt Antley (@brittskibeers) on

Now back to my final full day in Brazil. I wanted to see some of the big weekend markets, and my condo was located very close to two of them. Fair Benedito Calixto is a large flea market consisting of 300+ vendors of all manners of art, historical objects, knick knacks, and pure randomness. Food and drink stalls complete the festive atmosphere. I nommed on some delicious salmon temaki while taking in the scene, and I purchased some art for the house and jewelry for the gf. Next market on my agenda was Beco do Batman (Batman Alley), a must-visit art and cultural destination in São Paulo. This is an area of a couple square blocks that is full of street art. Nearly every surface is covered in art, and there are often artists painting murals as you walk around. I bought a really cool painting from a local artist, and I naturally managed to find a caipirinha. The atmosphere is a little touristy but nonetheless vibrant as people walk around and pose for photographs with various pieces of art.

Beer:30 had arrived, and I was off to my most anticipated brewery of the trip, Cervejaria Dogma. I had already tried two of their beers in Brazil, and now I had the opportunity to drink the nectar straight from the source. First beer up was an American IPA, Touro Sentado. It leaned West Coast style and had nice hop flavors to counteract a solid malt profile. Magnum Opus was next, and I was blown away by its citrus orange presence. I tried asking the bartender if they had used orange in it or not, but the language barrier prevented me from getting a good answer. I imagine it was fruited, but it managed to avoid any cloying sweetness or artificiality of many fruited IPAs. Dynamic Distortion was another Double NEIPA that knocked it out of the park, and I was officially in love with Dogma. I would proceed to take things to the next level by ordering a flight of 6 big beers. Cafuza was a wonderfully executed Double Black IPA. It’s quite unfortunate to see this style fall out of favor because Dogma showed that it can still be crafted very well with an appropriate hop presence to balance out the big roasted malt flavors. A casual 9.4% TIPA, Beast, paved  the way for a quartet of stouts to finish things off. Cake! was my favorite of them as vanilla, coffee, and bourbon danced delicately across my palette. Dutch Granny’s Breakfast was a breakfast stout collab with de Molen, and its sweeter sibling, Sweet Dutch Breakfast, was basically liquid dessert for breakfast. I had the Russian Imperial Stout Theobroma Brasilis last, and I was properly toasty in the warm climes. Dogma is pumping out some legit shit, and I bought a couple bottles to bring home and share with friends.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Britt Antley (@brittskibeers) on

Now a smarter man than I would go somewhere to sober up for the rest of the day ahead, but alas I was fully in the throes of tipsiness and another brewery seemed like a great idea. TRILHA Cervejaria was a short Uber ride away and sat situated on a quiet street, not unlike a casual bodega. This relaxed atmosphere led me to enjoy my beer on the sidewalk while soaking in the sights. Citra-me was a hazy American IPA with clean and refined juicy flavors. Melonrise White Oak was yet another super drinkable juice bomb, leading me to the conclusion I had found another amazing brewery in the city. I capped my brewery visit off with Gorilla Pistache, a 12% Russian Imperial Stout with pistachios added. Now was the point where I needed to make it back to my condo for a drunk nap before continuing my day.

I had managed to get a dinner reservation at Tuju, and I was fully ready for one last great Brazilian meal. The menu style was similar to Chou, but all their options are set menus. I opted for the 6 course Farmers Market Menu and was rewarded with much deliciousness. I’d be lying if I told you what all I ate, and I’m telling the truth when I say that I should really start making notes of what I eat during these awesome meals. Despite my lack of specific details, it was still an awesome experience and very reasonably priced. I paid <$100 for my meal and 3-4 cocktails. At a similarly fancy restaurant in the States, that meal would easily be $150-200.

After dinner, I walked around that area of town which was bumping on a Saturday night. While I was not in any type of clubbing mood, a good beer at a relaxed spot would hit the spot, and Empório Sagarana turned out to be just the ticket. The mood lighting and classic rock were perfect conduits for sipping on their large selection of Brazilian craft beer. SUPEREGO by Suricato Ales was my 10% TIPA can of choice enjoyed while watching the street scene roll by. My Saturday sidewalk drinking game was strong and will be one of those random associations I’ll forever have with São Paulo. The party animal in me had been partied out, so I headed back to the condo while I could still make it there. A deliciously hazy Nuclear Fusion nightcap would be the final Brazilian craft beer I drank in the city.

Sunday was a travel day with shitty lounge beer being the only suds I had. There was definitely no craft beer to be found in the São Paulo or Panama City airports. My short stay in the big city was over. While I did not get a chance to do everything I wanted to do (checking out Ibirapuera Park and the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art chief amongst those things), I still had a very eventful weekend in São Paulo and got to see a lot of sights and drink a lot of amazing beer. São Paulo is so huge that you could easily spend a week there and not come close to experiencing the city. I’ll definitely be back and hopefully get to see a craft beer scene that has continued to evolve and improve. Saúde!

 

Britt Antley

Britt is a native Texan, lived in Houston for 12 years, and is excited about his recent move to the Big Easy (although his liver is having second thoughts). His liver is also not nearly as proud of his 7600+ Untappd uniques as he is. Stupid liver. He loves flavorful complex beers from juicy IPAs to fruited sours to barrel aged stouts, and he has vowed to some day be buried with a 4-pack of Yellow Rose.