Portugal is a place of fantastic culture, architecture, incredible beaches and soccer. In the beverage industry, it’s given us some true greats, but never a truly special Portuguese beer to be considered world-class.
There have been some impressive offerings in the last few years and the industry is growing at a remarkable pace.
Popular Portuguese beers are available around the world, but for a true experience of Portuguese beer, you would be hard-pressed to find excuses not to visit this exquisite country.
Brief History Of Portuguese Beer
Portugal has a far running, if not slightly shallow, history when it comes to beer. Dating well back to the third and fourth century, Romans may have been a predominant wine drinking people, but they did produce beer as well. Skipping forward a fair amount, during the reign of António de Oliveira Salazar, the alcohol industry was heavily regulated. No international beer was allowed to be made or drank in Portugal, and no new local companies were allowed to start brewing beer.
The only two breweries in the country were left to thrive with little in the way of competition, Central de Cervejas and at the time Companhia União Fabril Portuense das Fábricas de Cerveja e Bebidas Refrigerantes, later to be known as Unicer, were the only Portuguese beer brands competing for the market and both did well.
The industry was nationalized in 1974, allowing for other manufacturers to join the market, however, the two existing brands had such a strong grip on the market at this time that new brands had a difficult time making strides in Portugal. Only in the early 2010s did the small scale and craft beer scene start to grow.
What Is The Beer To Drink In Portugal?
There are many great craft beers to try in Portugal, enough to satisfy anybody’s taste. The craft beers though have not come to much popularity in the public eye, yet. Most major restaurants in Portugal will serve one of two, or even both of the two most popular Portuguese beer brands, both of which are worth a try.
Super Bock – Super Bock has a relatively large variety of beers on offer. In a restaurant or bar setting, you are likely to get the original Super Bock Pilsner.
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Sagres – Sagres has fewer beers on offer when compared to Super Bock, but still produces some amazing quality beers. The most popular of which will be easily found in any restaurant or bar is the original Sagres pale lager.
These two giants own an estimated 94% of the beer market in Portugal, making them the go-to for any place you could visit in Portugal.
Is Super Bock A Bock Beer?
Super Bock makes a variety of different beers, yet, none of them can be called a Bock beer. The original Super Bock and still wildly the most popular is a Pilsner. Super Bock Stout may present itself similarly to a bock but is actually quite far from being a bock beer. The naming seems to just be a coincidence, as Super Bock has never produced a beer of the bock verity.
Is Sagres A Good Beer, And Where Is It Made?
Holding well over 40% of the market in Portugal and competing on an international scale, you can be sure that Sagres is a great beer. Sagres is the namesake of a small town in Portugal, but contrary to popular belief, the beer is not made in Sagres itself. Sagres brewery is located near Lisbon in Vialonga.
What Are The Other Major Beer Brands In Portugal?
Sagres and Super Bock have an incredibly firm grip on the Portuguese market, there is only one other major brewery in Portugal at this time, Madeira Brewery, which has two beer brands under its banner.
- Coral – Coral is often considered to be the third-biggest beer brand in Portugal with lager, stout and non-alcoholic offerings. Behind Sagres and Super Bock, Coral will be the most commonly found beer in Portugal.
- Zarco – Zarco is a second beer by the Madeira brewing company. Only having a lighter lager on offer, Zarco does not have the large market presence of Coral, but is still worth a try.
What Are The Different Styles Of Portuguese Beer?
On the face of it, lager, pilsner and stout made by Super Bock and Sagres will be the main offerings available in any good bar, but when looking for interesting types of beer, the craft brewing industry brings a wide selection. A wide range of IPA beers, porters including some fantastic imperial porters, milk stouts and a variety of ales are all on offer. You would be hard-pressed to find a type or style of beer not available by the craft breweries in Portugal.
What Are The Best Portuguese Beers To Try?
The mainstream beer industry in Portugal is limited, with only a few beers to choose from that could all be tried in a day. There may be a lack of selection within the main stream, but the beers that there are available are still great beers and worth the try.
- Super Bock Original – The original is often still known as the best. If you are a fan of pilsners, Super Bock original will be a great beer for you.
- Super Bock Stout – A stout offering from the Super Bock Brand.
- Super Bock Green – The traditional pilsner Super Bock, with a dash of lemon juice.
- Super Bock Abadia – a craft offering from the Super Bock brand, Abadia is a ruby coloured, slightly sweet and deep flavoured beer.
- Super Bock Coruja – Coruja is another craft offering from Super Bock, providing a small selection of fantastic IPAs and lager beers.
- Sagres – the original sagres is still one of the best. Pale lager in its most simple but delectable forms.
- Sagres Bohemia – Bohemia is an intense and fruity auburn beer that offers a fruity, yet underlying ginger profile.
- Sagres Preta – Preta is a rich and dark Munich style of beer and is still the most common beer of this type found in Portugal.
What Are The Best Microbrew Or Craft Beers Brands In Portugal?
Portugal has seen a fast upturn in the craft brewing scene, with a lot of new breweries starting in the 21st century.
- Cerveja Musa – This craft beer brand has made a name for themselves with beers like Born in the IPA, Mick Lager and Red Ze-ppelin. All beers worth trying if you find yourself in the Lisbon or Porto area.
- Dois Corvos – With Dois Corvos, variety really is the spice of life. They supply over 64 different craft beers, spanning virtually every style you could think of. A tasting at their taproom make take more than a single day visit.
- Cerveja Letra – Cerveja Letra brings much less in the way of flare, but focuses solely on the beer. The name literally translates to “letter”, and each corresponding style is assigned a letter of the alphabet. Cerveja Letra provides some amazing beer that everybody should try.
- Algarve Rock – One of the newest craft breweries in Portugal, but one of the best. What they lack in experience, they make up for in creativity and innovation. The Piri-piri Pilsner is one of their greatest creations and should be experienced by any beer lover.
What Are The Best Portuguese Beers To Pair With Portuguese Food?
Portuguese cuisine is almost all revolved around seafood, and this shows in the most popular beers available in Portugal.
The seafood-based dishes in Portugal, while varying wildly, almost all pair wonderfully with high carbonation yet mildly hoppy beers. This means that the original of Super Bock and Sagres which are available in nearly every restaurant will make for a fantastic beer pairing for any authentic Portuguese dish.
Experimenting more with craft beers, traditional Portuguese cuisine will pair very well with IPA, of which there are many available. In this sense, the most common and drank Portuguese beers seem to be fitting for the incredible Portuguese cuisine.
How To Order A Beer In Portuguese
Most established restaurants in frequently travelled areas of Portugal will have at least some staff members who are proficient in English. If you would like to travel more off the beaten path, the language barrier could at some points become a problem. Ordering a beer in Portuguese is easy, there are only a few terms that you need to remember.
- “Por favor” is the most common way to say please.
- “Cervejas” means beer.
- “Uma” means one.
- “Duas” means two.
- “Obrigado” means thank you.
Putting these together, if you would like one beer the phrase would look like this “Uma cerveja por favor” which translates to “one beer please”.
To change this to two, simply replace “uma” with “duas”. If you would like to order a specific Portuguese beer brand, you can replace the “cervejas” with the particular beer you would like. “Obrigado” is a simple term to thank the person who has brought you a beer. Cheers!