Whether it’s a city break, golf trip or just bronzing yourself in the year-round sunshine, Portugal is one of Europe’s most popular destinations. In fact, each year over 11 million tourists visit the country with Lisbon and the Algarve high on the bucket list. For many of those visitors, enjoying a nice cold beer in the sun means sampling either one of Portugal’s mainstream lagers Sagres or Super Bock… or does it? Hopulist’s latest visit revealed a hop revolution is taking hold on this holiday hotspot.
A craft beer explosion has hit Portugal – the Algarve is no longer the domain of the macro brewers and Lisbon itself now has a range of brewpubs and craft beer bars to rival most European cities. It’s not just about imported craft beer either, the people of Portugal are embracing this change and microbreweries are popping up fast. Where mass-produced pale lager was once the dominant force now we are seeing American IPA’s, pilsners, amber ales and stouts.
So before you book your flights to this up-and-coming craft beer paradise, take five to check out our top five recommended Portuguese craft beers.
1. Born In The IPA, MUSA
American IPA | 6.5%
Founded by two friends determined to create better beer in Portugal, MUSA was born in Lisbon in 2016. The head brewer is an American, so Born In The IPA is an obvious homage to the American IPA with strong citrus/tropical fruit aroma and flavours created thanks to a generous amount of Citra, Mosaic and Columbus hops. The designer in us was drawn to the MUSA labels and really hoped the beer would live up to that, not that I’d suggest you buy a beer by its cover *ahem*… it’s fair to say I wasn’t disappointed.
Other beers in the MUSA range include Mick Lager - a hoppy lager, Red Zeppe-Lin Ale - a red session IPA and Twist and Stout - an oat stout.
2. Letra D, Letra
Amber/Red Ale | 6%
Letra is a micro brewery in Vila Verde not far from Braga, situated in the north of Portugal. Red ale seems a popular choice amongst Portuguese craft brewers and this is one of the better offerings. Amber in colour with an off-white creamy head, the aroma is more fruity than you would expect. The taste is malty with hints of caramel and fruit. This is one of the easier craft beers to get hold of on the Algarve as it is sold in Apolónia Supermarkets - think Portuguese Waitrose.
All the beers in the Letra range are unsurprisingly based on a letter and include a weiss (A), a pilsner (B) and a stout (C).
3. Not So Black IPA , Abaladiça
IPA | 6.6%
Abaladiça is a micro brewery based in Loulé in the Faro district of the Algarve. As the label suggests it is kind of a hybrid – an IPA with a pinch of dark malt. It has a strong citrus and pine aroma and flavour from the Amarillo, Chinook and Cascade hops but with a hint of dark malt character. Extremely hop-forward and an interesting take on the Black IPA, well worth a try.
Abaladiça’s other key beers are ‘35ºC/95ºF’ a witbier and Medronhaut which is a stout.
4. Gyroscope, OPO 74 Brewing Co
American IPA | 7%
OPO 74 are a brewing company from Porto, Portugal’s second city. Gyroscope is their west coast style IPA, it has a very subdued floral and orange peel aroma. The flavour is a mix of citrus with floral and grass notes. A nice level of bitterness make this very quaffable in the heat of the Algarve. Overall a very mellow IPA that whilst enjoyable could split opinion because it is slightly lacking in the strong hop character you would expect from a beer of this style.
OPO 74’s other core beers are Common People – an urban lager and Red Mosquito – an American amber ale.
5. Lince, Lince
American IPA | 6%
Another American IPA, this time from Lisbon-based brewer Lince. The co-founders of Lince began brewing in a garage before making the leap to micro-brewery. The name refers to the Iberian Lynx a once endangered species they wanted to bring to the publics attention. This is our favourite of the bunch, it has a citrus/pine aroma thanks to the four American hops used in the brew with a well balanced finish.
Lince also produce a stout, blonde and Belgian pale ale.
One for the road…
If you’re in the Algarve and want to sample local craft beer, we recommend a trip to Gourmet Made In Portugal based in Loulé Central Market. Not only is it a very attractive town, well worth a visit in its own right, but it has an excellent market housed in an old Moorish looking building with a fantastic range of fresh food and fish each day. Although ‘Gourmet’ is a smallish stall the selection of craft beer is excellent and the store owners are very friendly and knowledgeable.