Beer is mentioned in ancient Sumerian poetry, Egyptian texts and Norse mythology. First brewed as early as 9500 BC, it remains beloved. After water and tea, it's the third most popular drink worldwide.
I love to try new beers, especially when traveling. This often creates disappointment, but sometimes I hit pay-dirt. On a recent trip to Brazil, I tried some local beers by national breweries and found them undistinguished. The Internet turned up an antidote and a handful of us agreed to give it a whirl.
The congested streets of Sao Paulo hide many gems, tucked between suco stands and airless shops crammed with bootleg DVDs. One such is a small brewpub offering craft brews that are a welcome counter to the boring "yellow beers" I'd tried. Chalkboards in the bar displayed info about color density, alcohol content and bitterness for the current batch on tap, a promising start.
The sampler, generous glasses of the whole quintet, sparked debate about our favorites and required deeper exploration. Accompanied by spicy linguica, delicate farofa, light and crispy batatas frita, the weiss beer, IPA, pils, amber and stout were savored as we discussed their flavor, color and complexity. But for the melodic Portuguese spoken all around and the fragrant remnants of the feast, we could have been in any bar in any country where beer is celebrated.
Beer, it seems, is a lot like love. True believers speak a universal language, understood by all. Malt or malte, cor or color, bouquet or aroma, it's all about the mystery, experience and exploration. What happy mix of soil and sunlight, hops and yeast, malt and time, shines in your glass like jewels on velvet and how will it compare? You never know until you taste, and that anticipation is a sweet intoxicant...near as sweet, and timeless, as the beer itself.