Brewery: Sociedade Caboverdiana de Cerveja e Refrigerantes, Praia, Cape Verde
|How do you say "very fizzy" in Portuguese? Anyone?|
Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Cape Verde before. No? I’m not surprised. According to a quiz site that I (frequently) frequent, Cape Verde is the 15th most obscure country in the world, out of 196 independent nations. This means that most people, including a lot of geography wonks like me, simply forget that Cape Verde exists when asked to name the world’s countries.
|Strela just means 'star' in Portuguese. As we will see, there are lots of beers named for 'star,' or some translation thereof. Lazy marketing.|
The two most obscure countries in the world, as per the results of that quiz, are Kiribati and Nauru, in the South Pacific. And they don’t make beer. Cape Verde does, however, and I somehow got my hands on some. The stuff is called Strela (Portuguese for ‘star’). And it has some interesting ingredients in it.
|Water, barley malt, and corn gritz. Nothing but the best.|
The reason why Strela is available in the United States is because more Cape Verdeans live outside of Cape Verde than live in Cape Verde, and apparently they are nostalgic for the local grog. I knew Boston had a sizeable Cape Verdean community, so after a little research by my old roommate Steve, I was able to find Strela at a packie in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during a recent visit (the same store where I found Prestige, from Haiti… this place had a weird selection).
Just how is it that the Cape Verdean diaspora is bigger than the resident population of the country itself? Well, it’s a small country, with not a whole lot to offer its residents. Cape Verde is neither a cape (it is an archipelago off the Atlantic coast of Africa), nor is it very verde (green), receiving only about 10 inches of rain per year. It was uninhabited before the Portuguese found it in the 15th century, and it got by for centuries as a slaving post. So, no rain, no natural resources, a hard-to-reach location, and the typical post-colonial madness and malaise became a recipe for a bad economy after it gained independence in 1975. Many people left the country, and many landed in the USA. The name of the capital, Praia, means ‘beach’ in Portuguese, which sounds awesome, but the country has only recently begun to beef up its tourist infrastructure, and things are only recently starting to improve.
|The geography of the Cape Verdean diaspora. Notice the large graduated circle representing New England. I found Strela in Boston, and I'm not sure if it's available anywhere else in the States.|
The fact that they make Strela at all is somewhat miraculous, considering the climate makes agriculture almost futile. Ninety percent of all food is imported to Cape Verde, and one assumes that all the ingredients of the beer are too. Especially the corn gritz: because of these wacky, inferior ingredients, Strela is a typical Crap National Lager, but I think it represents a valiant effort given where it comes from. It’s very fizzy and has an overly sweet flavor, but on a hot tropical day, lounging on the praia, it’ll surely hit the spot.