Craft beer is still a new thing in Lisbon and only in the last couple of years has it become popular and easier to get hold of. Cafés like Fábrica have had craft beer on offer for a while now and recently, the very cozy and charming Duque brewpub opened its doors in the center of the town. Then there is also Lisbom’s favourite Chimera which is opening the doors to its own brewpub in Alcântara pretty soon. What better way to celebrate the craft beer revolution than with an annual market to get an idea of what is out there, taste different kinds of beers and talk to brewers?
The Pátio da Cerveja event took place last weekend in LX Factory, from the 6th to the 8th of May. Last year, the craft beer market was in the Mercado da Santa Clara, in Feira da Ladra but Portugal must have taken quite a shine to craft beer, so much so that it now was located in a newly refurbished and renovated old factory with an impressive stained glass window in the middle of the back wall. While we applaud that Portuguese beer doesn’t necessarily mean crying salty bacalhau water tears over your tasteless Sagres or Super Bock anymore, the expanse also came with the unfortunate need to commercialize the whole event, of which the music was the most obvious but annoying sign.
For some reason, the organizers had decided to hire a DJ who played music so loud and obnoxious, it gave you the impression that the market was more like a disco, both distracting you from the beer you’re supposedly tasting and thwarting all attempts to really talk to any of the brewers, which is really why these kinds of beer markets supposedly exist. Unless you like screaming to each other, repeating your question over and over and nodding to pretend that you understood what the other was saying. We asked around and many of the brewers themselves complained and were unhappy with the music and we imagine the aspirin intake after that weekend must have been substantial. There were people who apparently did appreciate the DJ’s stadium-like approach to the music (which echoed marvelously across the huge space) but might we suggest transporting them to a nearby disco next time, DJ and all?
Leaving the stupidly loud music and my grumpy granpa rant aside, the old factory was a great location. It’s a huge building which was perfect for the alphabetically lined up brewery stalls and even though we got there at rush hour (Saturday evening), it rarely got unbearably crowded. The price was okay: in most cases, 3 euros you got a full tasting glass and paying 1 to 2 euros got you about half a glass, which is justifiable knowing that all of the beer was – supposedly – artisanally made and you’re kind of supporting all of these local producers instead of big companies and so on.If there was one complaint here, it was that you could only rinse your glass with water at one place, instead of at every brewery’s stand, which frankly was a bit of a nuisance. I know, luxury problems, but if you’re gonna treat wine like beer (and we don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t) then at least treat them also with the same amount of respect too.
It was all the more unfortunate then that there were no real revelations. The beer from 8a Colina we already knew for example and we love it deeply, especially the IPA they have on tap in the awesome Taberna Medieval. The same goes for the beer from Mean Sardine which you can try in Duque brewpub, both of which are some of the best craft beer you’re likely to get in Portugal. In that respect, the beer from Dois Corvos was a nice surprise, especially their IPA which is beautifully hoppy, flowery and of course ending in that typical bitter note but still maintaining a creamy texture throughout. Lovely.
We were also pleasantly taken with the Letra beer (which we already knew from In bocca al lupo) and especially the Letra E was probably the heaviest, fullest beer on offer that evening. I come from Belgium and I love heavy, dark, creamy beers that are smokey in the nose and taste of caramel, honey and cacoa. The “Letra E”, most likely the only one that evening, offered exactly that. Original was Luzia‘s Indian Grape Ale, a 50-50 mixture of grape juice and beer which had been fermented together and ended up tasting as sour as a Lambic, a traditional Belgian beer made with spontaneous fermentation instead of added yeast. “Against the tide” was the brewery with not only an awesome logo but also in terms of flavor combinations had the most interesting beers on offer, especially the Red Cider we were both very pleased with, a mixture of beer and cider, making for a lovely summer beer with a nice apple taste: refreshing and a great alternative to a nice, light summer wine. An honorable mention also goes out to the “Deck Beer Lab” from Estoril which did have some interesting beers, all of which were named after Estoril beaches, of which the Guincho, the chocolate porter, was the best with persistent burnt caramel and mocca flavors.
That being said, after about an hour of drinking beers that were rarely more than “quite nice” and having to shout to brewers to have our questions heard, we were getting hungry and it was Nora’s good gut feeling that led us to “Waffling“, a small food truck serving sugar waffles, the way they make them in Liège, Belgium that is. And oh my, did they deliver. Little pieces of burnt sugar on top, a beautiful gooey, buttery sweet interior and that persistent sweet caramel flavor throughout. We had to have two.
It’s not like the event was a failure, but the Portuguese craft beer scene is still obviously only budding (especially when you compare it with to the amazing masterpieces the Dutch craft beer scene has on offer). That said, it’s also a bit weird that most of the brewers stick to one style of brewing: IPA’s, porters, stouts whereas there is as much to be learned from Belgian and Dutch (craft) beer making too and the few times we had a supposedly Belgian styled beer that evening, we were disappointed. So, Portuguese craft beer still has got a way to go, but so does the market, especially with music as horrendously loud as it was on Saturday evening (and apparently, it was even worse on Friday evening according to one of the brewers). The gist of it is: when the freakin’ waffles are the best thing about a beer market, surely, something has gone askew.
(Nout Van Den Neste)
When? From 6th to 8th of May, 2016, it’s already been, nobody cares anymore. It’s probably gonna happen again next year.
Where? LX Factory, look at the introduction, silly!
Why? Waffles, that’s why!
Waffles!!! Waffles!! Waffles!