The Novo Brazil team accepts their bronze medal in the British-style imperial stout category at the 2016 World Beer Cup.
Technically, no breweries from Brazil earned a medal at this year's World Beer Cup. However, a Brazilian-owned brewery did, and it's based in Chula Vista. Novo Brazil nabbed a bronze medal in the British-style imperial stout category, besting 50 other beers with its Corvo Negro — Portuguese for black crow.
Novo Brazil translates to New Brazil. Partners Morise Gusmao and Miguel Carneiro launched the south bay brewery in April of last year, but neither were new to the brewing business. Gusmao previously started a Brazilian brewery called Cervejaria Norden; Carneiro started Cervejaria Wäls. After several years of beer-making, the two brewers sold their respective businesses to start anew. "The business environment in Brazil," Gusmao notes, "was very challenging, so we decided to join forces, get a local group together, and build Novo Brazil in this mecca beer city of the world."
Gusmao has lived in San Diego off and on going back 23 years, and lives here now, operaing the brewhouse in Chula Vista. Carneiro remains in Brazil for the most part, working on research and development. "To keep us true to our origins, we have a 'beer lab' program in Brazil," Gusmao explains, "sort of like a beer recipe incubator, so we can still capture that 'Brazilian touch.'
Carneiro gets together with Brazilian homebrewer friends, exchanging ideas and trying out different recipes — he sends his favorites to Novo Brazil. "I make sure I get these inspirations up here," says Gusmao, "throw in a few touches of West [Coast] love, and make it happen. You never know when another world-winning beer will surface."
He adds that these recipes undergo fine-tuning when they reach Chula Vista. He estimates only about 40 percent of the original recipe from Brazil remains in the final product marketed to San Diego. The recipe for Corvo Negro was derived from this process, resulting in a distinctly rich stout with more overtly complex flavors than most brewed locally. Gusmao says he refined the beer "to bring a recipe of what's successful in Brazil to more worldly tastes," he says. "We have to adapt the beer to the current market."
He continues, "Beer drinkers here in San Diego know their beers well. Being around so many great beers forces us to work much harder…we have a very unforgiving audience out there, especially being a 'new kid on the block.'"
Gusmao says that in a town replete with award-winning breweries, there's little room for missteps, and a small amount of negative press can overshadow a young beer company's output on the whole. "The slightest oversight tends to go viral very fast on social media these days," he acknowledges, "much faster than positive feedback." However, he says Novo Brazil is dedicated to constant improvement, and hopes the prestigious medal will speak louder than any early slip-ups. "It's pretty awesome," he says, "a year-old brewery getting such an award."
That said, Novo didn't need medals to invest in its beers — it began bottling several releases in March, including its Corvo stout.