Where to Drink in São Paulo, Brazil

Destinations by | Mar 2014 | Issue #86

Illustration by Sam Brewster

The first thing you should do when you get to São Paulo is climb the tallest building you can find and take in the city’s enormity. Then, revel in a craft beer scene that is by far the most advanced in Latin America. Today, you’ll find Black IPAs, Saisons, Imperial Stouts, and plenty of Brazilian-themed beers like açai Stouts and cassava Pilsners. But all this happened with the beer explosion in the last seven years. Before that, finding craft beer was like looking for the source of the Amazon.

Marcelo Carneiro is unanimously heralded as Brazil’s craft beer pioneer. Some would say guru. After traveling the world and learning to appreciate great beer, he built a brewpub in 1995 in the sleepy city of Riberão Preto, a few hours outside São Paulo. Michael Jackson even made the trek to try the beers at the brewpub that would become Colorado Brewery. In fact, Carneiro recounts, Michael Jackson came up with the name for his IPA. He signed a photo for Marcelo “Nice Indica!” referring to the as-of-yet unnamed IPA. Now, Colorado is one of the largest craft breweries in Brazil, and has helped usher in a wave of craft beer throughout the country, attracting visits from folks like Randy Mosher, Doug Odell and Charlie Papazian.

Another name to look out for is BodeBrown. Samuel Cavalcanti is the wiry-haired wizard behind these beers brewed in the southern city of Curitiba. Arguably the most bold beers Brazil has to offer, BodeBrown makes a Perigosa Double IPA, a Wee Heavy, a Black Rye IPA and a stellar cacau IPA with cacao nibs that was a collaboration with Stone’s Greg Koch.

The good news is you can find all of these beers in São Paulo. Though you’ll only find but a couple small breweries, the city provides plenty of watering holes for the strong homebrewing scene, the handful of gypsy brewers and the legions of recently converted beer geeks. Here are the best.

Empório Alto dos Pinheiros
Wow. This bar-slash-store has hands down the best craft beer selection in all of Latin America, with 33 taps and over 600 beers calling out to you from the fridges and copious shelves. EAP is the reference point for every beer aficionado in São Paulo, whether to try recent releases from Brazilian craft breweries or to browse the selection of imports like Founders, Ballast Point, Anchor, Ola Dubh and more than a handful of Belgian breweries.

Cervejaria Nacional
Cervejaria Nacional is São Paulo’s first brewpub, opened in mid-2011. It is immensely popular. They go through more than 100 kegs a month of their five regular brews and the seasonal one-offs, like a Weisse with hibiscus tea. Rumor has it they’re brewing a World Cup seasonal. Get there on a Monday, and you’ll be treated to their approachable Mula IPA filtered through a Randall with Chinook hops. Bands play Tuesdays and Thursdays on a stage above the fermentors. With three floors of ample space and a glassed-in brewhouse for your viewing pleasure, the brewpub is a whole lot of fun.

Empório Sagarana
Rua Aspicuelta 271
The open-air, scavenged wood and rustic feel makes Sagarana a welcome change from the snootier establishments on Aspicuelta Street. The bohemian neighborhood turned late-night hotspot is one of the city’s most vibrant—albeit pricey. But Sagarana keeps prices low and has a wide selection of Brazilian craft beer. It’s frequented by beer journalists and local brewers, like Júpiter’s David Michelsohn. Try his American Pale Ale and soon-to-be-released chipotle beer. They also have a boatload of cachaça from all over Brazil if you want to get nutty.

De Bruer
Rua Girassol 825
“101 Brazilian beers,” boasts the sign outside Oliver Buzzo’s tiny bar and bottle shop, De Bruer; how he squeezes them all in is mystifying. Shelves upon shelves surround his two beer fridges, all packed to the gills with only Brazilian craft beer. Try the Hi5 Black IPA from 2 Cabeças, or anything from gypsy brewers Júpiter. Buzzo’s kitchen pushes out kebabs, burgers, ribs and wings to satisfy those late-night cravings, and be sure to catch the two-for-one happy hour on his sole draft line at 6pm, which frequently pours Dama’s easy-drinking IPA.

Rota do Acarajé
Rua Martim Francisco 529
Rota is a little off the beaten path. Take a cab or the metro over to Santa Cecilia to find this small restaurant famous for its traditional dishes from the northern state of Bahia. Shrimp stew, fish casserole, dried meat and fried cassava … the list goes on. Anything fried is pretty much awesome, including the restaurant’s namesake: fried bean dough balls called acarajé. Oh, and the beer. Owners Luisa and Gil have prioritized space for both imports and local craft. Try Way’s Cream Porter with the meat dishes. Their bomber of APA is good, too.

Aconchego Carioca
With over 200 craft bottles and three tap lines, the São Paulo Aconchego branch has been a successful re-creation of the Rio de Janeiro original, which opened in 2001. Aconchego serves up traditional Brazilian dishes from all over the country paired with beers from around the world. You can find Fantôme and Cantillon as well as Brazilian classics like Colorado and Eisenbahn. There’s usually a special on draft. Go for Bamberg, they’re local and make a great Helles.

With more than 500 beers on its menu, this quaint bar in São Paulo’s North End recently made The New York Times. “Frangó” means “chicken” in Portuguese, and most Brazilians eat their chicken in fried dough balls called coxinhas. Frangó’s are some of the best. From Brooklyn Black Ops to Kasteel Blonde, the import list is comprehensive yet expensive. If you’re on a budget, your best bets are Brazilian craft beers like Wäls’ Petroleum Imperial Stout, Invicta’s Imperial IPA, Colorado’s Demoiseille and Bamberg’s Rauchbier.

BrewDog Bar
Scottish beermakers BrewDog have officially partnered up with Brazilian importers Tarantino to open a BrewDog-themed pub in São Paulo’s Pinheiros neighborhood. Housed in an old mechanic’s garage, the pub has several of the brewery’s most recognizable beers on tap, like Punk IPA, Dead Pony and 5 A.M. Saint, while leaving room for local brewers like Colorado. Order the cheese plates and hot dogs to feed the munchies. Tarantino prizes itself on maintaining a cold chain all the way from Scotland to the pub. The kegged beer is pretty darn nice considering the journey. The brewery-themed bar joins two others in the city: Delirium Care and Les Trois Brasseurs.

Essentially a beer shop with a few tables, Cervejoteca packs shelves and shelves full of imports and domestic craft beer. The selection is surprising: Oude Geuze, DeuS, Rogue, Green Flash, Sixpoint, Southern Tier, Eel River, De Molen and Nøgne to name a few. Cervejoteca’s chef Rossi throws periodic barbecues and beer events, so check the site.