Alcântara is still an area very much in a research and development state. It’s a great place for cheap, stunning seafood (near the train station), there’s LX Factory which isn’t really what it used to be anymore, and there’s still one or two other hidden secrets which will be revealed here in due time. All in all then, there’s still room for improvement and new iniciatives. No surprises then that when Adam Heller of one of Lisbon’s best restaurants decided to open up a brew pub in a seriously beautiful cave in the heart of Alcântara, we did a little dance of joy. We were expecting great things from a café set in an incredibly picturesque 18th century stone-walled tunnel and despite some growing pains you can expect from a café open only for about a month or so, we definitely didn’t walk away disappointed.
There’s no use in beating around the bush about it: craft beer is now officially a thing in Lisbon. It’s been a long time coming really, what with the first Portuguese craft beer Sovina appearing on the stage in 2011. Since then, quite awesome breweries like Mean Sardine, Dois Corvos and 8a Colina have popped up and are now relatively easy available in some of Lisbon’s most trendy bars and cafés. Most recently, the very suave Duque Brewpub opened its doors and there was the dubious, halfhearted attempt at organizing a craft beer event in Lisbon sometime in May.
The Chimera restaurant has always had a craft beer or two of its own on offer but the thought of a beer pub devoted entirely to their beers is something to be very excited about indeed and we were hoping that it would add a unique voice to the so far relatively monotonous craft beer landscape. Chimera has about 12 beers on tap, 9 of which they brew themselves and the other 3 from befriended brewers such as 8a Colina. That evening we stuck to Chimera’s own beers: you can conveniently try three beers in small, 25cl glasses for 5€ and we made our way through six of the beers on offer.
Most of the beers were distinctive and definitely followed current Lisbon’s craft beer trend which is based on the English and American beer model with porters, stouts and lagers. Great as most of them are, they do lack the complexity and fullness of flavor in order to be drunk on their own, unlike so many of the Belgian beers or some of the mindblowing craft beer we’ve tried in Amsterdam this winter.
We’re not gonna bore you with all that we scribbled down in our notebook, but we were impressed by the Belgian Blonde Ale which presented itself with flowery notes, had a light but creamy texture and got a little smokey towards the end. We were also quite taken with the IPA which was more balanced and smooth than you might expect from an IPA. After that, things got a little more hazy, because neither the Chocolate Porter with a mild, subtle mocca flavor nor the relatively watery mouth feel of the stout managed to stay for very long on the palate. That is to say, yes, they are nice beers, but they definitely need some food in order to really stand out and in comparison to what is out there on the international craft beer scene, we would say they still have a way to go.
Actually, it was the food, unassuming pub n’ grub done gastronomic style, that made the concept of the brew pub really come into its own where the flavors of beer and food beautifully intermingled and re-enforced each other. The pulled pork sandwich with ham and cheese was simply to die for and would definitely end relatively high on both of our lists of last things we would like to eat before we die. So satisfying. The pastrami was almost as good, tender, juicy meat and beautifully balanced with the pickle and mustard. These sandwiches were such spirit-lifting experiences that any faith in humanity we might have lost last Friday would be instantly restored with a sandwich like that, not to mention the a very honorable guacamole and crisps or coleslaw they serve on the side. Price quality, that’s a pretty amazing deal for 5€.
And then there’s the space. Good lord. It used to be the path for the royal horses to get to Palácio das Necessidades, the Royal Palace at time, situated in the nearby, stunning Tapada das Necessidades. Now, it’s just a medieval tunnel that in terms of decoration and interior design, is a well-balanced mixture of old and new, what with the modern chairs and tables. You could also lean by the counter at the bar if that’s more your thing or sink into a red couch in a corner and there’s a (in our opinion, unnecessary) television from where you can watch people playing with a ball and getting payed a lot of money for that. Other than that: the lighting is a medieval pub’s dream: beautifully orange, cozy, but not dark, and the very appropriate hard rock music was playing at just the right volume and made me a tad bit nostalgic for the Belgian medieval tinged beer pubs that do this kind of stuff so very well too.
Chimera Brew Pub has only opened its doors in the beginning of this month so it’s normal that there are still some growing pains. The supposedly grilled goat cheese wasn’t all that hot and smothered in an overly sweet orange jam with walnuts which cancelled out any flavors you might have got from the goat cheese, which made it quite disappointing. Plus, it was served with bread that tasted a bit stale and flat. That said, there’s really no reason why we wouldn’t go back to Chimera Brew Pub soon enough one of these days – or where else are you gonna find such a beautiful bar that isn’t afraid to add elements of sophistication and stylishness but still understands that making, drinking and enjoying beer is as much an art as it is pure, devilish rock ‘n’ roll to be enjoyed in a man-cave with fancy chairs.
Opening hours: Wed-Sun: 17h00-1h00.
Address: Rua Prior do Crato, 6, Alcântara, Lisbon
Phone Number: +351 936 266 324