Only someone from the UK would move to Brazil, start a blog and then write their first post about the weather. Only someone from the UK would bother to write a sequel.
And this, I guess, doesn’t do much to challenge the depiction of us Brits as a bunch of grumps, whose approach to communicating with strangers – to whom they’d probably prefer not to have to talk to in the first place anyway – typically consists of half-hearted utterances lamenting our perennially mild and temperate climate.
Or perhaps that’s just me.
Yet, whilst we may be the weather-forecasting, small-talk champions of the world – let’s face it, there’s not much else we’re good at these days – the more time I spend in São Paulo the more I realise that we are not alone.
There are others.
For a start Brazilian football commentators seem to be more obsessed about British weather than we are. Next time you watch a Premier League game on Brazilian TV count how many times the commentators mention how cold or rainy it is – even when it’s not that cold or rainy. It’s enough to warrant some sort of drinking game.
My favourite example of this was a recent Champions League match wherein the ESPN commentator remarked upon some slight drizzle.
“And it’s 15 degrees in London, and it’s raining as usual”
Meanwhile, outside my window in São Paulo a bibilical storm was causing whole part of the city to grind to a halt with flash-floods.
“And the second half begins. It’s 15 degrees in London and it’s still raining a little.”
Indeed, just look at that drizzle.
On Saturday, the Brazil Character Lab, a twitter profile that provides links to blogs, articles and news related to Brazil, started what became a fairly heated debate when it repeated what one expat had tweeted about Brazilian reading habits – namely that it’s rare to see a Brazilian reading a book in public that isn’t the bible.
I blithely quipped that they’d forgotten to mention Fifty Shades of Grey, a cheap wisecrack inspired by a recent train journey in which all four of the people who were reading on my carriage were doing so with their bonces firmly ensconced within the pages of E.L. James’s softcore porno. Ironically, I did at the time actually think to myself: “Well, at least they’re reading….and at least it’s not the bible.”
However, a short while later my timeline started to draw attention to some commentators who were providing some rather more well-considered ripostes than my own. Initially, there were some Brazilians who took umbrage at what they considered to be a generalised slight upon their taste (or lack of) in literature. Counterarguments duly followed, in which it was suggested that it is not the act of seeing Brazilians read that is rare, but rather the fact that what they do read is rarely anything other than something related to a job or course – or the bible. Furthermore, the scope of public reading in Brazil was unfavourably compared to the UK and US.
My thoughts were then twofold. Firstly, I replied that I thought it unfair to compare the content and prevalence of reading in Brazil with that in the UK or US. As I’ve noted before, whilst Brazil’s economic boom has lifted millions out of poverty in the last ten years it has yet to invest as heavily in its infrastructure, including its public education system. As such, with the vast majority of Brazilian children (80% in 2010) commonly only receiving basic schooling from lowly paid / motivated teachers, it may not subsequently come as too much of a surprise that a significant proportion of the population is either completely or functionally illiterate, and thus does not acquire suitable inspiration to read either a Chekov, Orwell or Lispector before going to bed – or for the sake of this argument, whilst catching a bus. Continue Reading
As I’ve mentioned previously, the majority of Brazilian beers are macrobrewed and labelled as Pilseners – albeit watery and quite bland. However, Brazil’s burgeoning microbreweries are increasingly introducing a wide variety of styles and flavours to the market.
One style in particular that I’ve enjoyed recently is Rauchbier – a smoky lager that originates from Bamberg in Germany. Its smoky flavour comes from the drying of malt (one of beer’s key ingredients) over open flames before its use in the production of the beer.
At last week’s first ever Brazilian Beer Competition in Blumenau, two Rauchbiers were adjudged to be Brazil’s best smokey beers, and by chance I happened to have one of each in my fridge!
And they are? Well, the silver medal went to:
The word boteco (or botequim /butiquim) is derived from the Portuguese word botica (bodega in Spanish), which is itself derived from the the Greek word Apotheke – meaning a place or store where goods are sold.
However, if in Portugal a botica was a place of storage, in Brazil a boteco evolved into becoming the place where you go for a beer. In other words botecos are the Brazilian equivalent of a pub.
Where can you find botecos?
Brazilian botecos, like pubs in the UK, are ubiquitous and can usually be found on most street corners around the country.
Botecos do not discriminate, regardless of social class or standing and you can find them in most parts of Brazilian cities, from the favelas to the most ‘chic’ (or chique as Brazilians like to say) neighbourhoods. Unlike bars they do not charge entrance fees or add service charges, and there’s certainly no dress code.
What are they like?
Well, like pubs it varies, although there tends to be a ‘typical’ type of both.
For example, at one end of the pub continuum you have the rough locals-only boozer where you can buy stolen DVD players for a tenner, whilst at the other there are poncey gastropubs serving gourmet burgers for £15 (excluding chips).
Avoid both where possible.
The pub frequented by my father and I on (too) many occasions over the years.
Whilst the majority of Brazilian Pilseners, which make up 98% of the Brazilian beer market, can be dismissed as bland and watery, there are an increasing number of microbrews offering something a little different. One of them is brewed by Göttlich Divina and it is this week’s Brazilian Beer of the Week.
Göttlich Divina – Pilsener Extra com Guaraná
The Vital Statistics
Brewery: Choperia & Distribuidora Opa Bier (Joinville, Santa Catarina)
Size: 600ml bottle
Where purchased: Pão de Açúcar (also seen in larger supermarkets in São Paulo).
Cost: R$11 ($5.50; £3.60)
Background: Göttlich Divina beers are brewed in Joinville, a city in the state of Santa Catarina that was founded by German, Swiss and Norwegian immigrants.
The beers were developed after the brewery’s founders visited the German monastery of Weihenstephan in 2007 – which dating from the year 768 is the world’s oldest brewery. After the visit they decided to incorporate Old World brewing methods with original ingredients from Brazil and around the world.
One example of this can be found in today’s choice of beer, in which the process of Dry Hopping (adding hops to a beer as it ferments) has been used, although in this instance using Guaraná (a Brazilian fruit) rather than extra hops.
What’s it like?
I was quite excited about this when I bought it and expected it to have a very distinctive Guaraná taste. However, it’s flavour is actually quite subtle with the dry hopping process having the effect of leaving only a hint of fruit and citrus. Refreshing and slightly bitter.
Lively, it pours with a clear, golden body and a nice white head, with a fruity aroma.
the book is on the table’s Rating: It’s towards the higher-end of the Brazilian beer market and this is reflected by its price. However, given the extra attention paid to the ingredients and the brewing process it’s worth it. Importantly, it shows that Brazilian Pilsener doesn’t necessarily have to be bland and as cold as humanely possible in order to be refreshing.