Madeira is a jewel of an emerald isle set equidistant from Portugal (the territory that it’s part of) and Morocco. It’s famous for its fortified wine, most of which is sweet and sticky. It’s generally not a particularly palatable desert wine, although if you look hard enough there are some very pleasant semi-sweet ones, which are of course more expensive.
You would imagine that a place famous for its wine would not be able to yield forth good beer. How wrong you would be. There is a large brewery on the island, Coral, that makes some very acceptable beer. They brew a golden lager and a tonic (a sort of porter or stout) plus some light and low alcohol beers as well. The taste of both their lager and tonic are infinitely much more pleasing that mainland beers like Sagres and the insipid Super Bock - which is neither super or bock. To top that, the capital Funchal, sports a very fine brewpub "Beerhouse – Madeira".
We knew the brewpub existed, but the foray out on our first full day drew a blank. We didn't mind, as there were plenty of other sites to see. On the second day we identified where it was on the map and set off "hot foot" to track it down. It turns out that we had walked straight passed it on the previous day. Bugger! I’m not sure what a brewpub should look like, but this one looked nothing like a brewpub. It looked more like an amusement arcade from one of England’s tackier seaside towns. Despite this we ventured in.
It looks more like a restaurant inside than a pub, but I suppose that’s the way with the rest of Europe, as opposed to the British and the Irish, they like you to sit down while they come to serve you. The tables were set out in quite a regimented fashion, the bar is to the right towards the back as you go in, with the brew kettles tucked further back beyond the bar. It has large glass windows on all sides, which is no accident as this pub is on a jetty that juts out into the harbour making the views from all around most pleasing to the eye.
They only had one of their own beers available when we were there. I’m assuming that they brew others but perhaps I’m wrong, so don’t quote me on that. A golden slightly cloudy rye beer. It didn’t matter that it was the singular choice, as it tasted fantastic. I'd only every tasted German rye beer before, out of bottles, and always a dark brown colour and a very nutty flavour. This golden rye was not too dissimilar from German Weiss beers I have tried, a little less cloudy and less of the citrus zing that you get with a number of them. There was still a hint of nuttiness there; contributing to its well rounded flavour. It was an altogether very quaffable beer and one of the many reasons why I’d like to return to Madeira. They claim that they brew their beer adhering to the Bavarian purity law. I have no reason to doubt his.
Despite its exterior this brewpub has a lot going for it, great beer, great views, and pleasant staff. And just how many pubs do you know where a replica of the Santa Maria and a German cruise ship pass by a few yards from the front door?