Monday, 22 May 2017

Portugal Craft Beer Review: Amura from Mean Sardine

Portugal Craft Beer Review: Amura from Mean Sardine
Welcome to the Shed. I am even-star and this is The Beer in Review. Today's Portugal craft beer review is for Amura from Mean Sardine.

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Amura American IPA from Mean Sardine. Cloudy dark honey colour. Citrus grapefruit aromas with some fragrant floral tones. Bitter and fresh right off the bat with the flavours not quite fulfilling the full sweet aromas. In the middle it warms up a bit to reveal tropical hints of lime and passion fruit and guava with resinous rosemary and juniper. Very fresh bitterness finishes with the characteristic cotton candy sweet tang you often get with an AIPA.

It is worth noting that I have been a regular traveller to Portugal for over a decade. Never in all that time was there ever a hint that I might be able to get anything other than imported French lager or big brewer beer. Maybe you would see the odd Belgian bock or dark ale but that would be from Grimbergen or the like.

Apart from my most recent trip in April, the last time I was in Portugal was Christmas 2015 and it was pretty much the same as always that year.

Fast forward to April 2017 and all of a sudden craft beer (made in Portugal) is on grocery store shelves, is being served in specialist bars, and basically having a moment.

In less than two years it's gone from pretty much zero to nearly 50 independent breweries nationwide.

The kind of beers being made vary widely from sweet northern European wit beers to dank American IPAs like this one. The market there has a wider taste than here in the UK with lots of tourists and immigrants from France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany.

Don't get me wrong, you won't be tripping over the stuff but it is definitely there to be found in not so obscure places. Lidl, Aldi, Modelo, Jumbo, and Continente all carry a limited selection of indie beers. Lidl and Aldi are most interesting because they stock sort of end of line stuff and the selection varies daily.

Regular cafes and restaurants don't serve craft beer but there are now specialist bars. I had this one at a tapas place in Silves called Almadina. It is a sort of cavernous wine cellar-y place just up from the main drag on the river. Interestingly they had Presse (tap) as well as Garrafa (bottle) craft beer options. Boheme in Faro also has one or two Presse. But mostly you will be drinking Garrafa if you opt for craft beer. Always served ice cold with a glass. If you do go to Almadina have the mixed starters. Do not, under any circumstances, order the grilled/baked sausage. I am pretty sure it won't be anything like what you were expecting.

This is all in the Algarve which is still a sort of rural economy slash resort destination. Neither the locals nor visitors have particularly sophisticated tastes in beer. Not that you need to be sophisticated to enjoy independently brewed beer. It's just that there is no history there for ales or home beer making. The local preference is for lager and wine. Cheap lager and wine. Many people have land that they chuck some vines on and make their own wine every year. Some of which is delicious. The land and climate are not suited to hops and barley.

Brits park themselves down in Portamao or wherever and chug down Super Bock, Guinness, and Cava. The French drink wine and French imported beers which are cheaper in Portugal than they are at home. Belgians and Dutch do the same.

There are only three craft breweries in the Algarve. Most craft beer comes from Lisbon or Porto with others scattered around the highlands of the Alentejo. But with craft beer becoming more popular in places the tourists come from, the bigger the market for it becomes in their holiday destination. The only problem right now is the price point. People come to Portugal because it is a cheap holiday. Food and drink especially. Throwing down 3 euros for a bottle of beer feels too much like being back home in Paris, London, or Amsterdam. You pay half of that for a good bottle of wine.

It would be interesting to know what the big boys in Portugal think of all this. The likes of Sagres and Super Bock promote heavily by giving local bars furniture, glasses, sun shades etc. If any of these little independent cafes started serving beer brewed by smaller concerns I don't know what would happen to that sort of support. You definitely notice that the craft beer bars lack all this big beer brand paraphernalia.

What do you think? Have you tried any Portuguese craft beer? Is it a revolution or a blip? Join the conversation on twitter @even_star

The Beer in Review is a blog about craft beer and real ale. Keep up with new posts and contact me with comments and questions on twitter or YouTube. I'd love to hear about your craft beer adventures and recommendations from your home town.