This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Country #16: Brazil

Beer: Xingu Black Beer

Brewery: CKBR S.A., Jacareí, Brazil

ABV: 4.7%

It's pretty black, alright.

When you think of hot, tropical countries, you think of watery, yellow beer. And, as I’ve maintained, that’s okay. When you find yourself in that part of the world, nothing beats a nice cold bottle of swill. So, it’s surprising to find that a brewery in Brazil is mass-producing a schwartzbier (black beer) for both the import and domestic markets. 

I like this beer that much more for having a map, complete with lines of latitude, on their label. I dig the caiman, too.
Xingu Black Beer (pronounced “SHIN-goo,” and named after a major tributary of the Amazon) may be just a gimmick. After all, the more popular Brazilian beers, like Brahma, are of the typical fizzy yellow variety. Xingu, according to its official history (available here), was first brewed in homage to traditional, pre-Columbian beers made by Amazon Indians, which were black in color. But without hops or barley, which weren’t brought to South America until god-knows-how-recently, this claim seems specious. Maybe the coloration is the same, but I guarantee you the flavor is not. 

Jack Russell terriers: unlike the caiman, not native to the Amazon.
And that’s for the best, probably. I’m all for a taste of the exotic (I drank raw corn beer out of a communal bucket in a township in South Africa and rather enjoyed it), but, knowing what little I do about the natural botany of the Amazon Basin (not much grain there!), I can’t fathom what ingredients might grow there that could result in a tasty product. Instead, Xingu uses regular beer ingredients, and the result is pretty good. Schwartzbiers are basically darker, slightly more full-bodied lagers, not as sweet as amber ales, not as hoppy as pale ales, but somewhere in between all of these, and Xingu is a fine example of the style, despite the Amazon’s distance from Germany.

Deforestation in the Amazon Basin. Red indicates dense vegetation, while, oddly, the green indicates non-forested areas. The Xingu River is highlighted in blue. A national park protects a large part of its watershed, but deforestation is rapidly encroaching on the Xingu.
So there’s nothing authentically Brazilian about the stuff, but I do appreciate the brewery’s efforts at preserving the ecosystems and cultures from which their beer did not come. They financially support Y Ikatu Xingu, a non-profit (warning, site is in Portuguese) dedicated to preserving the Xingu River watershed. While the entirety of the Amazon is in need of preservation, the Xingu is particularly vulnerable. As one of the southwestern-most tributaries of the Amazon, it is located far closer to Brazil’s major population centers than is much of the rest of Amazonia, making it a more attractive site for, say, cattle ranching, or, say, the growing of grains to make beer. I love me some steak and I love me some beer, but neither of things belong in the Amazon, so kudos to the makers of Xingu for doing something about it.

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