Stuart Forster reports from Portugal’s Beer Museum, the Museu da Cerveja, in Lisbon.
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The Museu da Cerveja is a beer museum in the centre of the Portuguese capital.
Portugal’s history, like that of all nations, is peppered with significant dates. The 1st November 1755, for example, is infamous as the day the Great Earthquake struck, resulting in fires and tidal waves that destroyed much of Lisbon and wreaked significant damage on a several other towns and cities. In Lisbon’s Beer Museum you can learn about what happened on 20th September 1710.
On that day King Joao V imposed a ban on the import of beer. On a warm summer’s day, the very idea of such a measure seems tragic.
Lisbon’s Museu da Cerveja
The terrace of the Beer Museum – the Museu da Cerveja, as this attraction is known in Portuguese – is just one of the places where the implications of that ban can be contemplated. Umbrella-shaded tables spill out onto the newly renovated north side of the Praça do Comércio, the grand public square originally built as part of Lisbon’s reconstruction following the earthquake of 1755.
The Beer Museum opened on 9th June 2012, providing an overview of the history of beer in Portugal plus the breweries of Portuguese speaking nations. The legends, written in both Portuguese and English, provide an opportunity to learn where and when brewing in Portugal began, plus how it developed subsequently.
More than Sagres and Super Bock
Visitors to Portugal often see just two main brands of beer, Sagres and Super Bock, in bars and restaurants. More breweries still exist but, unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find their products when you’re on the road in Portugal. In part, the reason for this is that a number of Portugal’s breweries disappeared in a wave of consolidation during the 1930s.
If you’re in Lisbon you may well see the name Portugalia, which is today often associated with a chain of beer serving restaurants. That name, you’ll learn here, came into existence in 1916, when the Germania brewery was renamed Portugalia; a reaction to Portugal’s entry into the war against Germany.
Monastic brewing and sampling beer
In addition to the exhibits you’d expect to see – such as bottles, posters, glasses and the like – the museum provides an opportunity to enter a lowly lit room in which a monastic brewery is recreated, complete with a beer brewing monk. This is the point where beer lovers have an opportunity to enjoy a sample.
You can sample a range of beers and traditional Portuguese cuisine in the bar-restaurant downstairs from the museum.
tip for beer lovers visiting Lisbon
If you want to enjoy a Portuguese beer in a good traditional setting why not wander up to the Cervejaria Trinidade in the Chiado district of the city (a ten minute walk from Praça do Comércio), This attractive pub-restaurant is marketed as ‘Portugal’s oldest beer house’ and has a lovely collection of scenes on painted azulejo tiles around its walls. It’s slightly more expensive than some restaurants but it serves good food. If you’re only in the city for a short while it’s certainly worth visiting. If you just want a beer then choose a table close to the bar on the way in; the thick walls make this a lovely spot to cool down on a hot summer’s afternoon.
The Museu da Cerveja is located at Terreiro do Paço – Ala Nascente – 62 a 65 in the heart of Lisbon’s Baixa district.
Find out more about Portugal on the Visit Portugal website.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers. He is available for travel and beer-related commissions.
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