HISTORY OF BEER IN PORTUGAL

The first references to beer in Lusitania (the future Portuguese territory) were written by Strabo. This Latin author wrote: “The Lusitanians drink a kind of beer made with barley. The wine is rare and it is drunk only in banquets.”(Geography, Book III, Chapter 3). This information is confirmed by Pliny the Elder (23-79), which also refers the current consumption of beer among the Lusitanians and the weak consumption of wine. (Historia Naturalis, Book IV). But it must be said that these habits were shared by the Celts all over ancient Europe.

We have no evidence of the history of beer until the 15th / 16th century .During these two centuries some documents refer the importation of beer from northern Europe. To the ports of Lisbon and Oporto arrived several quantities of beer coming from cities of the Hanseatic League, such as Danzig (now Gdansk). We know that only from the German city of Stralsund came more than 166 tons of beer between 1575 and 1605. Presumably this imported beer was a strong one, able to withstand the hard conditions of the travels by sea.

In the late 17th century we find in Lisbon a yard called Yard of Beer, near the river Tagus. Was it a place for the production of beer? Was it a place of sale and consumption? We do not know…What we do know is that in this period  the complaints of winemakers against beer began. In a report to the king, in 1689, they wrote: "A huge ruin threatens the wine (...) if the country continues to import beer and if our citizens continue to sale and drink it. In those alleys near the river there are six taverns of beer, and the beer is drunk by the common people and workers. In the quarter of Campo Grande there is a large brewery. And we also know that there are some more taverns and small breweries all over Lisbon." (a demand to the King Peter II - July 6, 1689)

 

By a royal law dated from November 24, 1689, the king responds to the complaint. The production and consumption of beer was therefore forbidden, except for foreigners. Beer could only be imported. It could not be produced. But in 1710, King John V also banned the importation of beer, because this drink was considered harmful to the national economy. "It is known to me the damage that results from the importation of wines, liquors, beers and other beverages (...) This importation damages the economy and the trade of our kingdom (...) So I order that no one from Portugal or even a foreigner may hereafter bring (...) these drinks to the kingdom under penalty of confiscation”.

The banning of beer must have lasted during the entire 18th century, but all thought the obstacles, the beer industry was growing. In the early 19th century there were taverns in the center of Lisbon. There, strangers drank imported beer as described by the Swedish citizen Carl Ruders in 1802:"... There is a  kind of brewery [in Corpo Santo Square] where at night we can meet a large number of Germans, mostly traders, chatting, drinking black beer and smoking tobacco ..."

The first news of a real important brewery in Portugal dates back to 1819. It was the Royal Factory at Valle Pereiro, in S. Mamede quarter (Lisbon), with a warehouse near the river. A dozen of bottles of “white” beer costed 960 reis. In 1833 there was another brewery in central Lisbon (in Flor da Murta Street). Here each bottle was sold by 90 reis, This brewery belonged to Jacques Maillard, a French citizen. By that time, the Head Physician of the Kingdom praised the quality of Lisbon water to make beer.

In the first half of this century several new breweries rose in Lisbon, Oporto and Funchal. It must be referred the Trindade Brewery, founded in 1836 in Lisbon by Manuel Moreira in a former convent of Trinitarian friars. In his first years this brewery was installed in barracks with a balcony for the public. Later the brewery grew to a place nearby and began distributing to the entire town. In 1865 the Trindade grew more and more and began selling beer to the Royal House. In 1935 Trindade was merged into the new Central Society of Beers.

 

In Funchal the first breweries date back to 1840 and in 1872 appears the Madeira Beer Company. In Azores, in 1892, we had Melo Brewery in the town of Ponta Delgada. The breweries were a new bourgeois space, more select than the popular taverns where wine prevailed.

Let's jump in time and we come to the 20th century . In the 1960’s the increasing of consumption led to an increase of the brewing industry. In this year the annual consumption per capita among us was about 5 liters. TheHistory of Portuguese beer is largely the history of its producers. Today, these producers are associated in APCV (Portuguese Association of Beer Producers): Central Society of Beers, Unicer, Melo Abreu Madeira Beer Company, Font Salem, Sumol+Compal.