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Jim Dykstra's picture

Craft Brewing in Brazil with Cervejaria Colorado

The city of Riberão Preto was a hub of Brazilian beer production in the early 20th Century because it hosted large scale brewing facilities, which in turn spawned numerous smaller beer operations, including one renowned house called the Pinguim. Locals would liken going to Riberao Preto and not having a pint at the Pinguim to going to Rome and not visiting the Pope.

These days there is a new Pope of Preto whose pints are surely revered.

Marcelo Carneiro da Rocha, whose family is in the orange growing business, founded Cervejaria Colorado in 1996 after falling in love with brewing as a hobby.  His love affair with Riberão Preto, an inland city in the state of Sao Paulo, was well established and the decision to build a brewery there was easy.

De Rocha is not ashamed to get crafty. In fact, Colorado's labels proudly proclaim it as "Brazil's Craftiest Brewery." (Photo Credit: Cervejaria Wäls)

“We chose Ribeirão Preto because it already had a brewing tradition,” said da Rocha. “Many little breweries were closed but a very powerful mainstream brewery, Antarctica, was still operating.”

The initial consumer response to Colorado was frigid. In the words of da Rocha, “It was a very tough beginning. All the locals perceived Antarctica as the pride of the city and that only started to change when the corporation that owned the brand closed that brewery and created unemployment. It was a self-esteem blow to everybody. Then they started to support the little guy who was keeping the flame alive.”

The flame fired passion and over the next ten years Colorado grew from a small brewpub into one of the premier craft breweries in Brazil. Demand led da Rocha to expand and rebrand into a production brewery.

He contacted graphic designer Randy Mosher, an American authority on all things beer, and asked for help in the rebranding effort.

"Marcelo wanted me to do something in the style of an 'authentic label of American craft beer,’" Mosher said. "I had come across some early 20th Century beer labels from Brazil, and they had this wild naiveté  and sense of exuberance that struck me as really Brazilian." Da Rocha agreed that was the right sensibility and Mosher created new labels for Colorado.

At first da Rocha planned on calling his operation Cervejaria California, but at the last minute changed the name to Colorado, because it better represented the “quality of water, and the craft culture.” Plus, he had bought some brewing equipment in the U.S. state of Colorado.

The Colorado brewery’s symbol is a spectacled bear, the only bear native to South America. In essence, it's a nod to the inspiration the North American craft scene provided, where bears are far more common, and also a declaration of sorts.

The spectacled bear is an endangered and largely unprotected species, facing an uncertain future due to loss of habitat. While craft is on the upswing in Brazil, certain parallels can be drawn between the lack of governmental assistance for both the bears and craft breweries.

The Brazilian craft movement faces a mountain of red tape and a virtual monopoly of the beer market by four major conglomerates accounting for 99 percent of market share and da Rocha speaks for the growing numbers of small breweries, which have grown to around 350 in the past decade.


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