If there are those who think that a good business has to beat the competition, the Lisbon Beer Department (LBD) proves the opposite. In the increasingly trendy neighborhood of Marvila, four breweries came together, initially by chance, attracted by the moderate cost of the spacious places they acquired and the culture of neighborhood. Dois Corvos, Musa, Lince and Bolina are neighbors and act together to conquer the market. To fight against the coronavirus crisis, they got together and created online sales packs that included beers from the four brands, and one they called Desconfinada, because it fermented during the confinement period. In this story, I identified four “ingredients”, one from each brewer.
1. Humor in a “bubbly” panorama in Portugal
Tiago Lopes from Dois Corvos assumes as fundamental the attempt to reach new markets, humor is the ingredient in which he bets.The independent podcast “Quem bebe por gosto” takes the world of beer further, giving voice to those who wear the shirt of this craft drink, teaching and stimulating the taste for it. Tiago calls the panorama of beer in Portugal “bubbly” because it seems to arouse more and more curiosity in the Portuguese consumers, whose profile goes through the “taste for gastronomic experiences”.
There is an increasing desire to taste, and what started as a niche market, of people with an alternative culture who appreciate music and yearn to try new flavors, tends to expand to a larger audience. Tiago reinforces that the challenge is “to make beer reach more and more people”. The large supermarkets help to fulfill this goal, so “it is necessary to bet on distributors.”
He says that “a brewer is a creative person who designs a recipe that evolves.” When visiting the factories, one perceives the complexity of the process, in which microbiologists make the quality control of the product.
In just five years, Dois Corvos has already created more than 140 beers. The challenge “is continue to improve production, volume and consistency.”
2. Creativity and Musicality
Through the hands of its founder Bruno Carrilho, Musa presents itself as a brand with creativity and musicality in their DNA. The names of their beers are a creative process of inspirational puns with the names of great performers, bands or songs: Mick Lager, Red Zepplin and Twist & Stout, are example of this. Bruno says that “the challenge is a less hermetic education and communication.”There is a bet on a musical concept because “beer is often drunk while listening to music and watching concerts.”
He says that is necessary to “open the world of craft beer”, which must be easy to drink and accessible to all tastes, in order to reach more audiences. “If before it was a niche market, now you have to look to the future.” And he reinforces: “We want Musa in the refrigerators not for special occasions, but for everyday life.” And it is with bright eyes set on the future that Bruno says that brewers are alchemists. “Just change the pH of the water and the beer taste is different”. Musa has already fermented beer in whiskey barrels and it was a success, so they want to repeat the experience, this time in Port wine barrels.
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3. More than competitors, friends
António Carriço from Lince, started making beer at home four years ago with a friend and an investment of 100 euros. That’s how many brewers start. He says with some emotion in his voice that “more than competitors we are friends”. And he adds happily: “Of course, each one acts for himself, but there are more and more points of union.”
In addition, he proudly states that the LBD is the only place where there are four breweries making beer together.” Innovation is a point that he considers fundamental, it must always exist, and perhaps that is why new brewers are appearing. António adds that “the challenge is closed places, due to the pandemic”, and “the secret to success will be to maintain a different personality for craft beer.” In this way, you can increase your market share, reinforcing that want to bet on “vitality, exuberance and innovation.”
4. Taking risks in a pandemic time: The bet on the open-air
Rui Bento, is the brewer from Bolina, the last of the breweries to “arrive” to Marvila. In the middle of a pandemic period, Bolina had the courage to move from Azambuja to Marvila. They found a fantastic space with an outside area with 350 square meters, reflected in a wonderful cozy terrace, ideal for parties, with a large bar and restaurant, inspired in industrial decoration.
He says he intends to do “brand consolidation and exportation”, as well as betting on the online market. He further states that in Portugal “they skipped steps” towards quality, as it was the last country in Europe to have craft beer. Rui aims to improve and stabilize its beer recipes, and as soon as the pandemic ends, he wants to “create live music shows and sunsets parties.” Even in a time of pandemic, he doesn’t stop dreaming because he’s considering a beer tour in LBD. He says: “even those who think that don’t like beer can learn to like it, because there are more than 100 styles of beer.” Therefore, a beer for all tastes.
In conclusion, humor, creativity, friendship and the freedom of an incredible open space, should serve as inspiration for the recipe that I leave to LBD. Create a beer in their own image, because humor tastes like raspberry, creativity smells like hibiscus, friendship has the poetry of basil and freedom is felt in the tropical notes of passion fruit. Ingredients that each brewer attributed to the characteristics that I identified and that make each one unique and unrepeatable, even moving as a team. These are the ingredients that lead to success. An example of healthy competition and a lot of joy at work.