Yes, there is a craft beer scene in Brazil and yes there is a substantial community of beer lovers and geeks but it is a very small niche scene in Brazil and does not really register on the public radar. What dominates are the big brands that are entirely indistinguishable to my taste buds and which are all frankly terrible. The craft beers I had were all decent but none were exceptional and it appears (at least in my small sample) that there is more love for the malt than the hop and not much attention paid to the yeast. I found the beers generally heavy for my taste and lacking a characteristic hop or yeast note to make the beer more interesting.
I say this all after a month in São Paulo where I was very busy and missed my chance to get to the place on the top of my list: the Cervejaria Nacional in Pinherios neighbothood of São Paulo. I had limited time and ability to seek out craft beer, but I did what I could and found a few stores (first and foremost the Casa Santa Luzia on Avendia Lorena in Jardins) that had a pretty good selection of Brazilian craft beer. But such is the craft beer scene that more attention is devoted to imports than to Brazilian craft beer.
What I worry about is that the craft beer scene in the US has already found solid footing and took advantage of the failings of macro-brew to establish a beach head and start their very successful assault on the big beer empire. In Brazil, big beer already has more numerous defenses (tied houses and restaurants), has recently retrenched with consolidation and scaling up, leaving the craft brewers precious little sand upon which to establish themselves.
My great hope lies in Carvejaria Nacional - from the outside it looks a treat. It has everything you want in a brew pub - ambitious brews, constantly rotating experimental beers, and a diversity of styles with plenty of English ale and Belgian sour influences to round out the traditional German influence that dominates Brazilian beer. I won't know until I visit if the reality matches my expectations.
Fortunately I am going back for a seven month stint in January so I'll have plenty of time to figure it out. Unfortunately, life otherwise is hard on this NW hop head. Last night I cracked a Ninkasi Total Dom for my first beer back stateside and it was like the rapture - finally!
So for half a year, starting in January, this blog (sporadic as it is) will try to get a handle on both the economics of the Brazilian beer scene and the beer itself. Until then I can get excited about the Oregon winter ale season!