A fun way to spend some time if you like beer is to go for a brewery tour. One thing that I’ve realized over the years is that no brewery is the same, even if the system has been designed to the same layout it will still not be the same as the brewers using them will make different beers and add their own twists to make the whole system their own.
Not too long ago I was fortunate enough to get an introduction to a brewer in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, via Facebook from another Brazilian brewer I met at Mondial de la Biere in Montreal last June. It just so happened work was sending me there and we arranged to meet at the brewery on the day we landed.
My co-worker Rafael and I took a cab to meet José Carneiro at his brewery, Wåls. I have no idea where it is in the city but fortunately Rafa is a local and managed to direct the cab. José took us in and showed us around.
The actual brewhouse is not too big but looks to be an efficient setup. The rest of the building is a bar and restaurant on two floors with a beautiful open patio like arrangement on the main floor.
One room in the basement is his riddling and cold storage room for his Brut beers. These are extremely special beers that are created using the methode champenoise, just like Champagne.
There is an 18-month waiting list for these beers and the one I saw in a store was priced at $100 for one 750 ml bottle. No, I did not pony up, but I sure wanted to.
One of the nicest things about a brewery tour is the chance to taste some of the beers that the brewery makes and in this case José, the owner and Brewmaster, shared 11 of his with Rafael and myself.
There were only the three of us and it was very kind of him to take the time not only to taste but to give us the backstory for each of the beers.
One was a collaboration with Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery who was the man behind the “Oxford Companion to Beer” and the “Brewmasters Table.” Togehter they made an incredible Saison called Caipira.
What about a collaboration with Google? It was another Saison called “42.” Fans of the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” might recognize that.
There was a Quadruppel brewed with a yeast he propagated himself from a blend of Trappist Rochefort 10 and Westvleteren 12 yeasts. Amazing!
As if that afternoon spent sipping on beer and listening to José describe them and the inspiration behind them weren’t far more than we expected already our day did not end there, José then gave us a ride to his pub, Stadt Jever, where we ate pork knee on his recommendation and drank a few more Caipira’s than were good for us on a work night.
Good beer seems to attract good people and I’ve had the good fortune to meet many in my travels. I think everyone should be so lucky.
You can take your own first step close to home by going to check out Quidi Vidi Brewery and taking advantage of the brewery tours they offer. I’ve been there and it makes for a lovely afternoon. Cheers.
Mike Buhler is a certified cicerone.
Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or check out beerthief.ca
for information on beer club offerings.