There's no questioning the fact that cariocas – locals in Rio de Janeiro – like their lager. And the typical brews that are sipped at every social function and at every hour of the day tend to be corn-based; light in color, alcohol and flavor; and served estupidamente gelada ("stupidly cold").
Averaging at around 3.5% alcohol, these weak beers are seen as a perfectly acceptable alternative to soft drinks or water, and cans of big name brands such as Skol, Brahma and Antartica are cracked open round the clock.
But while Rio's love of these watery lagers is unlikely to wane any time soon, there's also a growing demand for full-flavored beers that deliver more of an alcoholic punch. Imported beers and craft ales are popping up on the menus of bars across the city, while some spots are offering beer and food-pairing advice. Still others are operating their own microbreweries.
Traditionally, beer in Rio is light in color, taste and alcohol — Photo courtesy of Thiago "James Capone" Ferronatto
Brazilian bar chain Devassa is perhaps the most accessible of the Rio night spots offering beers that go beyond the pale and uninteresting. Devassa began life over a decade ago with a relaxed bar in Leblon that had its own microbrewery, crafting pale ales; malt beers; and dark, hoppy beers.
The idea met with such mainstream success that the owners quickly opened branches across the city and wider Brazil, and Devassa beers – marketed in conjunction with Playboy – are now widely available at supermarkets in Brazil and even at specialist bars in the beer-lover's haven that is London.
Elsewhere, imported beers have been cropping up on drink lists everywhere from chic lounges in Leblon to informal taverns downtown and in bohemian Santa Teresa.
Meanwhile, in Cosme Velho, just a few minutes' walk from the station for trains up to the Christ statue, the Assis Garrafaria bar offers a vast range of imported and national beers, with well-trained staff on hand to advise on the best beers to pair with dishes on the food menu.
Notably popular in the city are imported Belgium beers, including the Deliurium Tremens brand that is (in)famous in beer-drinkers' circles for its dizzying alcohol strength. The brand's instantly recognizable 'pink elephant' is increasingly present on the shelves of bars across Rio. And in Ipanema, it's now possible to sample the super-strong brew at Delirium Cafe – a bar specializing in Belgium beers, including some great Trappist brews and Delirium itself.
This being Brazil – where import taxes are sky high – these kind of beers don't come cheap. Expect to pay upwards of R$25 for a small bottle of imported beer. See it as an alternative to wine when you're looking for something to accompany a bite to eat.