Having ‘a pint’ (of Guinness) in Belo Horizonte

When I came to Belo Horizonte, I really didn’t mind that there were no Irish bars. In fact I was quite happy. Foreign bars, especially Irish ones are a magnet for the gringos, not that I have anything against my fellow gringos, but I just didn’t want to be sucked into an ex-pat society, I’ve been there, done that and worn the t-shirts.  

That’s all very well and good, but there is one small tiny problem; I’m a Guinness drinker, and I love a pint!, even more so if its in a good auld traditional Irish pub, but just every now and again mind you, just to whet the appetite, make you feel like home for a minute. Specially during those winter months, there is simply nothing better than sitting in a cosy bar in front of a fire, sipping on a pint and having some banter with your mates, it’s a gorgeous feeling. Although that can be the problem – it can be too nice.  All this combined with the fear of facing the cold outside, and the pressure from your mates to “have one for the road” can make it a very long night indeed. Your original plan just to pass by and have a quick one goes just as quickly out the window. Before you know it, you’re in a club dancing on the tables, your tie is around the barmaid, and your nice pressed office shirt is now hanging out in front and covered in beer stains. And worse of all – it’s only a Monday!

Here in BH, we don’t really have any of the aforementioned ingredients to make it feel like home-home. Ok, a couple of Irish bars have opened up in the last few months, but they’re missing that cosiness that Irish bars have, and to be honest, can you imagine the Brazilians lads in Rio cuddling up to an open fire in their Speedos?. The weather is the real issue here. At the moment in Brazil, it’s officially winter. The shops are selling jackets, gloves, scarf’s and hats, and the girlies are wearing jeans with leather boots right up to their bellies. Last week, I stumbled out of bed in my boxers and into the kitchen to prepare the breakfast, my wife was there in the kitchen wrapped up a duvet, dancing from side to side trying to get warm, she was freezing, I thought she was going to light the cooker she was that cold. Seemingly it was one of the coldest mornings ever in Belo Horizonte – it was 14ºC! For God’s sake, that’s a summer’s day in Ireland! There’d be people walking around St. Stephen’s Green half-naked, and having to call-in sick to work the next day due to their sunburnt shoulders. Brazilians have no idea what a winter is. The best way to describe June, July and August is…The not-so-scorching-months. Winter? me arse!

But lastly and more to the point, the main reason I haven’t had such a need for that lovely pint of Guinness is not because of the bars, nor the weather, or the general lack of Irish people in BH. The real reason is the cost; to have a pint in a pub here will set you back around R$20 (more than €8). In the shops, it was costing R$11 (€5). I don’t understand the reason for the ridiculous high price, but I would assume it’s the fault of the distributors. But also, a contributing factor might be the Brazilians culture of drinking beer. You see they love love love cold beer, but not just standard cold, if the bottle doesn’t take off half your skin, send it back, it’s just too warm!. Guinness can be served cold, but not at -10ºC! In Brazil, Brahma and Skol are the beer kings. In bars they come in litre bottles, the custom being to serve it with these tiny little classes (they’re kind of cute), thus sharing the litre bottle of beer between you, i.e. you don’t drink it yourself – this is what we’d do in Ireland!. On the Emerald Isle, it’s a very much “don’t touch my beer” policy, especially if it’s a Guinness, you’d get your hand cut off by your mother! I’ve seen fights break out over guys just looking at another man’s pint. To sum up, I love Guinness but there’s not much of demand for it here, thus, it’s expensive, and charging over R$20 in a bar or even R$11 is simply a rip off.  I just can’t do it folks.

So tell me this, after all my whining, why are there 24 cans of real Guinness sitting in my fridge? Well, I’ll tell you. There I was, walking around Verdemar, making my purchases as we do every fortnight. I don’t buy beer, so there’s no need to walk down the aisle that’s stacked floor to ceiling with every cerveja from around the world. There’s no need to crucify myself by seeing the Guinness knowing well that I won’t buy it. But I do it anyway. I’d always walk up to where the Guinness is, stand there and just look at them. Sometimes I’d take a can down and run my thumb over the harp logo, and sometimes I’d even close my eyes, and be transported to that cosy little bar with the fire. But that particular day, I didn’t. My eyes were too busy darting from the can to the price, the price to the can. There was something wrong! The price was …wrong. My heart stopped for a second. I got that little excited feeling you get inside that makes you chuckle a bit to yourself. “It can’t be”. I quickly took a can over to the nearest price checker; I put the bar code in front of it waiting to hear the beep sound. R$6.59 flashed up in red, nearly 50% off! I stared at the can. I ran the bar code over the price checker again, no mistake. I noticed I had stopped breathing. I quickly motioned myself to the shelf, I checked the use by date – October 2011, no problem, I can drink a lot of Guinness before October. But it still has to be a mistake, surely, a manager is going to come around now, and fuck it all up for me, change the price right there before I can get away with my stash. I needed to act fast. I started to offload the milk, the bread, the eggs, and the veg, even the frozen pão de queijo got chucked. I was like mad man. It was like, ‘the end of the world was nigh’, and I had decided to go out with a Guinness bang!

All I can say is thank you Verdemar, thank you so much. You’ve given me a little bit of my real home, in my new home. Maybe now, the bars can lower the price of a pint, and maybe even stick in an open fire. Sure why not? isn’t it winter?, it’s freezing for God’s sake!

Thank you Verdemar, thank you!

I love you Verdemar, I love you!!

One week later……..

Feck you Verdemar, feck you!.

I hate you Verdemar, I feckin hate you!!

3 Responses to “Having ‘a pint’ (of Guinness) in Belo Horizonte”
  1. AodhanK says:

    hahaha, this happened me once in my local pakistani store in Born, they were pricing pint bottles of Magners at around 1.50. A blazing hot day it was too, I got 4 and left only to return looking for a couple of boxes which triggered the entrepreneur in the young pakistani chap who checked the prices to see if he could make any more money from me, thats when I got rumbled. Enjoy those tinnies Keef, strike a balance between clearning the shelves and not triggering an alarm with an unusual spike in Guinness sales. Would love to join you for a few someday soon my friend, miss ya! A

  2. jimbo says:

    jaysus is that like 4.50 euro for a 440mil can? is that irish brewed stuff?

    • Hi Shane,

      My God, well bettter late than never as we say. My apologies for the super late reply and thanks for taking the time to read the dribble!
      Regarding the price of Guinness, yeah yeah, unfortunately it is like that, 4 Euros. And in the bar its double that, 8 quid, fuckn shite. I’m dying over here.
      Where are you Shane? In Ireland?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: