Portuguese Breweries
styles - history - beers

Portugal is not a country particularly noted for its beer. This page details what breweries there are and the products they brew.

Mass-produced pale lager dominates, though every brewery produces dark lager, too. The only real alternative is provided by Lusitana, the country's sole brewpub/microbrewery.

Portuguese brewing industry
Portuguese beer styles
Portuguese beer statistics
Portuguese Breweries

The Portuguese brewing industry
Brewing in Portugal was long dominated by two companies - Unicer and and Centralcer. They were created after the 1974 revolution when the brewing industry was nationlised. Both were privatised in the 1990's. Between them they control more than 90% of the Portuguese beer market.

As in most European countries, the last decade has seen new entrants to the brewing sector. However, in contrast to elsewhere, the newcomers have not been tiny microbrewery or brewpub operations. Two, Cereuro and Cintra, are the ventures of established companies. The third, Lusitana, though technically a microbrewery, brews an impressive 12,000 hl a year, more than many family breweries in Germany.

There have only been two newcomers: one brewpub/microbrewery (which has since closed) and Cereuro, a venture of an established soft drinks company. There are 8 breweries in all:

Brewery No. Details
Unicer 3 The market leader with a 55% share.
Centralcer 1 Owned by Scottish and Newcastle. Number 2 with 39% of the market.
Independents 4 One of these is on Madeira, another on the Azores.
Brewpubs 0 Lusitana no longer brews.
Microbreweries 0 Though you could call the Lusitana brewpub a micro. It just depends on your definition.

Brewers' Organisation

Associação Portuguesa dos Produtores se Cerveja
Edificio EE3, 2º andar,
Polo Tecnológico de Lisboa,
Lote 3,
1600-546 Lisbon.
Tel: 217 101 777
Fax 217 101 795
Beer Drinkers' Organisation

Portuguese Beer styles
Portugal has no indigenous beer styles. Everything is bottom-fermented, except for German-style wheat beers. The overwhelming majority of beer sold is pale lager.

None of the beers - even ones in styles like pilsener where you might expect it - are very hoppy. Some Preta/Stouts demonstrate a firm roastiness.

Strengths vary between 4.3%, for Preta, to 6.6% for one of the fancilly-labelled amber lagers.

Style alc. description
Pilsner 4.6-5% The standard very pale, slightly hoppy sort of crap sold everywhere. Portuguese interpreations are sweetish rather than dry. Only the better ones display traces of hops.
Cerveja Branca 5-5.6% Pale lagers vaguely in the Helles or Export style. The commonest style of beer. Sweetish and not very hoppy. Pretty bland, especially the big sellers.
Cerveja Preta 4.2-5% Dark lagers, usually sweet interpreations of the Schwarzbier style rather than Münchners, despite what the label may say. There is a good deal of overlap in terms of flavour between these beers and those labelled as stout. Usually the brewery's best beer.
Stout 4-5% Black and roasty. It's not clear if any of these beers are top-fermented. The pick of the bunch.
Weiss 5% Pale, spicy, unfiltered wheat beers in the German style. A recent development and currently made by two breweries.
Amber lager 6-6.6% Amber lagers with some caramelly maltiness. Less interesting than they seem. Examples are Sagres Bohemia and Super Bock Abbadia.

Portuguese Breweries
Portuguese Beer Statistics

  1976 1980 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Production - 3,557a 4,128# 4,977# 5,619# 6,874# 6,919# - 6,874 6,568 6,637 6,928a 6,713a 6,623a 6,784a 6,760a 6,881a 6,554a 7,129 7,350c 7,436b
Consumption                               6,420b 6,453b 6,276b     6,267b
Exports                               504b 688b 775b     1,261b
Imports                               200b 256b 310b     119b
Consumption per capita   35a 38d             64e 62.3e 64.2f 61.9 63.6g 65.3g 64.3b 62.3b 61.3b     61.7b
No.of breweries                     8@         7         8*
(years 1997 - 2002) Brauwelt Brevier
# - United Nations Statistics Department
a The Brewers of Europe (2003)
b Associação Portuguesa dos Produtores se Cerveja website
c Brauwelt Brevier 2005, p.65, 66
d Larousse la bière
e The Confederation of Belgian Brewers.
f Economics Department, German Brewers' Association.
g Brauwelt Brevier 2000
@ Die Deutsche Brauwirtschaft in Zahlen, 1994
* my own calculation

Overview 2004
1,000 hl %age
<11º Plato 1,245 16.7%
>11º Plato 6,191 83.3%
Average gravity 11.8º Plato  
Pub consumption   66%
Home consumption   34%
Draught 1,511 20.3%
Returnable bottles 3,123 42%
Non-returnable bottles 2,097 28.2%
Cans 570 7.7%
7.9% 4.02 1.33
>10.6% 5.40 1.78
b Associação Portuguesa dos Produtores se Cerveja website

What do my scores mean?
< 25 positively unpleasant
25 - 40 has its faults
40-50 OK
50-60 reasonably good
60-70 above average - definitely worth trying
70-80 excellent - worth hunting for
80 > world class - you must try it

Portuguese Breweries

Cereuro - Cervejeira Europeia
Estrada da Portela nº 8,
2795-643 Carnaxide.
Tel: 214 543 467
Fax: 214 243 466

Founded: 2000
Annual production:

Beer alc Plato Description score (100)
Tagus 5.4%   Pale lager. 100% malt.
Very pale yellow colour, little head; lemon and hop aroma; sweetish taste with resin and malt aromas; bittereish finsh with resin and hop aromas.
An inoffensive, very clean beer. It would be nice if they dared make it more assertive.
Magna 4.8%   Dark beer - Schwarzbier? Stout?  

Independent brewery. Part of Grupo Sumol, a soft drinks manufacturer. They also market Grolsch in Portugal.

Drinkin - Companhia de Indústria de Bebidas e Alimentação S.A.
Quinta da Mafarra - Várzea,
2000-816 Santarém.
Tel: 243 008 900
Fax: 243 008 991

Founded: 2002
Annual production:

Beer alc Plato Description score (100)
Cintra Cerveja Preta 4.3% 10.8º Dark lager - Schwarzbier.
Dark brown colour, even tan head; cream, caramel, toffee and dates aroma; sweetish taste with cream, toffee and roast aromas; bitterish finish with burnt, liquorice and cream aromas.
Has an excellent dark malt aroma. A little less impressive in the mouth, but with a strong roasty finish. Really not bad at all. I don't understand why the brewery call it a Münchner. It's way too roasty and much more like a sweetish Schwarzbier.
Cintra Cerveja Pilsen 4.8% 10.8º Pils.
Very pale yellow colour, little head; resin and tobacco aroma; sweetish tast with a tobacco aroma; bitterish finish with hop and resin aromas.
Thin but not too offensive. Has some hoppiness. If they upped the gravity half a degree or so it might be quite good.
Cintra Mulata 5.2% 12º Amber lager.
Pale amber colour, little head; malt, dust and roast aroma; sweetish taste with caramel and malt aromas; neutral finish with burnt and roast aromas.
A beer with some good roastiness, but a little bland.

Drinkin is 100% owned by Mr. Cintra.

The Cintra Group entered brewing in Brazil in 1998. It has breweries in Mogi Mirin and Piraí with a combined annual capacity of 7.2 million hectilitres. Both also produce soft drinks. It also operates in Spain.

I like Cintra the best of the Portuguese beers I've tried.

Empresa Cerveja da Madeira
Parque Industrial Zona Oeste,
Ribeira dos Socorridos,
9300 Camara de Lobos.
Tel: 291 911100
Fax: 291 9417777

Founded: 1934
Annual production:

Beer alc Plato Description score (100)
Coral 5.3% 12° Pale lager.  
Coral Tonica 5.1% 11.8° Stout.  

Independent brewery. Available at Snack bar O Amigo, Estrada Ponta da Piedade, Lagos.

Sociedade Central De Cervejas (Centralcer)
Estrada da Alfarrobeira - Apartado 15,
2626-851 Vialonga
Tel: 21 - 9520 611
Fax: 21 - 9520 838
Email: scc@centralcervejas.pt

Founded: 1968
Annual production: 2,900,000 hl (2004), 4,800,000 hl (capacity)

Beer alc Plato Description score (100)
Sagres Preta 4.3%   Dark lager.
Dark brown colour with a thin tan head; metal, liquorice and fruit aroma; sweetish/bitterish taste with liquorice, metal and roast aromas; bitterish finish with liquorice and burnt aromas.
A little metallic and thin, but with some roastiness.
Sagres Branca 5.1%   Pale lager.
Pale yellow colour, small even head; metallic aroma; neutral taste with a grass aroma; bitterish finish with grass aroma.
One of the blandest beers I've ever tasted. It makes Super Bock seem exciting.
Sagres Bohemia 6.2%   Amber lager.
Amber colour, thin even head; fruit and caramel aroma; sweet taste with boiled sweets, caramel and nuts aromas; bitterish finish with bread and caramel aromas.
Some sort of Märzen. Has some OK caramelly malt flavours.
Sagres Bohemia 1835 6.6%   Amber lager.
Dark amber colour, even head; dust and malt aroma; sweetish taste with caramel and fruit aromas; bitterish finish with caramel and cream aromas.
Bland appears to be the Sagres house style.
Imperial 5.1%   Pale lager.
Pale yellow colour, little head; urine and hop aroma; sweetish taste with metal and malt aromas bitterish finish with hop and resin aromas.
Very poor aroma - it really does smell like piss. The finish is far better, with some trace of hops.
Foster´s     Pale lager. Crappy Australian lager brewed under licence.  
Topazio     Pale Lager.  
Onix     Pale Lager.  
Onix Preta 4.4%   Dark lager.  
Cergal 4.7%   Pale Lager.  

Large brewery. Scottish & Newcastle bought 49% in 2000 and the remaining 51% in 2003.

It has 39% of the Portuguese beer market. It distributes the Scottish & Newcastle brands Kronenbourg 1664, John Smith’s, Grimbergen and Foster’s in Portugal.

Nationalised in 1974, it was privatised in 1990. It used to also run a brewery in Coimbra.

The company was formed in 1934 by the merger of Companhia Produtora de Malte e Cerveja Portugália, Companhia de Cervejas Estrela, Companhia de Cervejas Coimbra and Companhia da Fábrica de Cerveja Jansen. In 1977 there was a merger with Cergal - Cervejas de Portugal.

Fabrica de Cervejas e Refrigerantes Joao Melo Abreu Lda.
Av. Roberto Ivens, 10,
Ponta Delgada,
9500 Azores Archipelago.
Tel: 296 201 660
Fax: 296 286 126

Annual production:

Beer alc Plato Description score (100)
Especial     Pale lager.  
Munich     Dark lager.  
Preta Doce     Dark lager.  

Independent brewery.

Cervejeira Lusitana
Av. do Forte no. 9,
2795-505 Carnaxide - Oeiras.
Tel: 21425 9300
Fax: 21425 9380

Founded: 1999
Annual production: 12,000 hl

Beer alc Plato Description score (100)
Pils     Pils.  
Stout     Stout.  
Weiss     Pale wheat beer.  

Brewpub. There is a chain of restaurants which also sells the beers. No longer brews but takes its beer from Unicer.

Uniao Cervejeira (Unicer)
Mosteiro- Leça do Balio- Apartado 1044,
S. Mamede de Infesta 4466-9555.
Tel: 229 052 100
Fax: 229 052 300
Email: info@superbock.pt

Annual production: 2,400,000 hl

Beer alc Plato Description score (100)
Super Bock Green 4%   Pils flavoured with lemon.  
Super Bock 5.6%   Pale lager.
Pale yellow colour, even head; metal and grass aroma; sweetish taste with metal and grass aromas; bitterish finish with resin and grass aromas.
Very bland for it strength. Totally dull.
Super Bock Stout 5%   Stout.
Near black colour, thin head; roast, metal, burnt and cream aroma; sweetish taste with roast, cream and liquorice aromas; bitterish finish with cream and burnt aromas.
Not such a bad try at a stout for a mega lager brewery. Has a pleasant roastiness.
Super Bock Abadia 6.5%   Amber lager. Some sort of abbey beer, I guess. Supposedly Portugal´s first craft beer.
Pale amber colour, little head; caramel aroma; sweetish taste with caramel and fruit aromas; neutral finish with caramel and milk aromas.
Another amazingly bland beer. Like watered-down, cheap brandy.
Cerveja Cristal Pilsener 5.1%   Pils.
Pale yellow colour, thin uneven head; dust aroma; sweetish taste with vegetable aroma; neutral finish with a vegetable aroma.
Almost totally tasteles. No trace of malt or hops. Thinking back, my marking was perhaps over-generous.
Cerveja Cristal Preta 4.2%   Dark lager.
Dark brown colour, small-bubbled tan head; toffee, cream and caramel aroma; sweet taste with roast, caramel and coffee aromas; sweetish finish with burnt, cream and coffee aromas.
Not that bad. Like a sweet Schwarzbier, with a good deal of roastiness.
Cerveja Cristal Weiss 5%   Unfiltered pale wheat beer. In the German style.  
Marina 5%   Pale lager. Brewed for distributor SONAE and sold in Continente and Modelo supermarkets.
Very pale yellow colour, lots of head; hop, smoke and metal aromas: sweetish taste with grass aroma; bitterish finish with grass and hop aroma.
Bland and a little metallic.

Large Brewery. Portugal´s largest brewer.

Runs a couple of brewpub-like establishments (I don´t believe they brew on premises) with a more intersting range of beers:

Republica da Cerveja
Cais de Gaia,
4400-161 Vila Nova de Gaia.
Tel: 22 374 74 0
Fax: 22 374 74 09

Republica da Cerveja
Parque das Nações,
Passeio das Tágides, Pav. SS – 04,
1990–280 Lisboa.
Tel: 21 892 25 90
Fax: 21 892 25 99

Beer alc Plato Description score (100)
Cerveja Puro Malte 5.2%   Pale lager. 100% malt.  
Cerveja Artesenal 5.2%   Pale lager. Unpasteurised.  
Stout 5%   Stout.  
Pilsener 4.5%   Pils.  
Spring 5%   Pale lager. Seasonal - spring.  
Malte de Whisky 8%   Brewed from whisky malt. Seasonal.  
Natal 8%   Seasonal - christmas.  
Weiss 5%   Pale wheat beer. Seasonal.  

Uniao Cervejeira (Unicer)
Apartado 52,
8100-909 Loule.
Tel: 289 410400
Fax: 289 410460

Annual production: 500,000 hl

Part of Unicer.

Uniao Cervejeira (Unicer)
Qta. do Mocho - Varzea,
2000-832 Santarem.
Tel: 243 359600

Annual production: 1,200,000 hl

Part of Unicer.

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