But at the turn of the 21st century, craft beer changed the game, spurring brewers to create new recipes that shook the city’s drinking scene for good.
After decades of repression, beer made a cultural breakthrough
Portugal’s first official brewery appeared around the 19th century. Up until then, beer was mostly imported – local wine producers saw it as a threat, and in 1689, they even appealed to the king to prevent it from entering the market.
Between 1932 and 1968, during his nearly four decades in power, dictator António de Oliveira Salazar excluded foreign businesses to push national brands, and for a long time, Sagres and Super Bock held the monopoly on beer. This initiative came to an end with the Carnation Revolution in 1974, opening doors to a new generation of brewers.
Lisbon's modern-day beer scene is rapidly changing
In recent times, drinking habits in the Portuguese capital have undergone a remarkable shift. "Five years ago, when we launched our beer, few people knew what an IPA was. They pulled a face when they drank it, and many glasses were left half full," says Bárbara Simões, communications manager for Lisbon brewery Cerveja Musa.
"Today whenever we host events, you see a clear difference. People know what they’re coming for. They arrive, ask for a specific beer and drink the whole thing to the end," Simões continues. "What was our role in it? We don’t exactly know, but we’re certain that starting this has helped expand this new category that we now call Portuguese craft beer."
The best breweries in the City of Seven Hills
In 2015, Dois Corvos was the first brewery to land in Marvila, a spark that led fellow brewers to move in and turn this forgotten neighborhood into the city’s craft-beer hub. The on-site taproom is just inches away from the fermentation tanks (part of the brewery-tour route). You can count on earlier creations like the Creature IPA, mixed with barrel-aged stouts and wild beers.
Favorite beer: Imagine an imperial stout with a touch of pastel de nata (egg-custard tart) and you’ve got the Casamentos & Baptizados.
Music is the heart and soul of Musa. It’s in the beer names, with puns like Red Zeppelin or Eye of the Lager, but also in the regular live gigs hosted at their Marvila brewery. What started as a three-beer selection has quickly grown into the dozens, including collaborations with beloved Lisbon bakery Gleba. The brewery might be changing location soon, but in the meantime, you can grab a pint downtown at their taproom in Bica.
Favorite beer: Try the Born in the IPA, a hoppy concoction with hints of citrus and tropical fruits, like mango and melon.
Lince founders António Carriço and Pedro Vieira left careers in tech and postponed retirement to become full-time brewers. Blonde, IPA and porter are the standard trio on tap, but the crew often brings out new brews made with their Marvila neighbors. It's a beer with a cause: a portion of the company's profits support the Iberian lynx, the brewery's namesake and an endangered species from the Iberian Peninsula.
Favorite beer: Don’t miss the Quad, a Belgian-style brew with a strong body and a few spicy notes.
After years brewing in Azambuja, Bolina joined the Marvila crew in 2020. (Brewery crawl, here we go!) They’ve got entry beers like a blonde ale, but they also mix things up with anything from stouts to low-alcohol blends. Plus, they make some mean burgers too. On a summer evening, the beer garden is the best seat in the house.
Favorite beer: Keep an eye out for the Rebel Rebel, a red ale with a sweet taste of rooibos.
At his eponymous brewery, owner Gustavo Gallas brings a taste of his Rio hometown to Portuguese shores. It's all about IPAs with a Brazilian twist: coffee, chocolate and piri-piri enter the pot, alongside tropical flavors like mango and passion fruit. Everything is brewed below the 21 Gallas Brewpub, so you can ask for a tour if you’re really digging the beer.
Favorite beer: For a beer with a spicy kick, try Extremadura, made with generous amounts of habanero. You’ve been warned!
Oitava Colina has its roots in Graça, Lisbon’s eighth hill, and many of its brews nod to places in the neighborhood, like Vila Berta. These guys also make Urraca, one of Portugal’s signature IPAs. The taproom in Graça draws young folks with its castle views, but for a behind-the-scenes tour, you're best off heading to the brewery in Cabo Ruivo.
Favorite beer: The pastry stout Regalo is a sweet treat made with queijadas de Sintra, a traditional cheese tart.
Margaret Orlowski is the founder of this nano-brewery in Arroios. Originally from Canada, she started home-brewing as a hobby, and in 2016 she took the plunge and opened AMO. The place may look tiny, but there’s room for seven taps here, and every week there’s a different selection, plus fresh-baked pretzels to pair with the beer. Feel like getting in on the action? Orlowski often hosts beer-making workshops around the back.
Favorite beer: Enjoy notes of dark chocolate in the roasted-malt-infused Javali porter.
In 2014, Gonçalo Sant’Ana created Lisbon’s first craft beer. Running from the taps at the LX Brewery are punchy rye IPAs (blond and dark), as well as experimental limited editions. The brewery shares the space with the shop Oficina da Cerveja, which provides toolkits and workshops for aspiring home brewers.
Favorite beer: Made with ginger, the Fresh Pale Ale is a refreshing choice in the summer.
The 18th-century tunnel that once led the Royal Cavalry to Palácio das Necessidades is now a beer-lovers den. On draft are in-house crafts, such as sours and the ever-present NAFIPA (Not Another Fucking IPA), plus other local brews. Everything is handpicked by American owner Adam Heller, who’s also behind Quimera’s delicious New York–style deli sandwiches.
Favorite beer: Aged in oak barrels for 20 months, the Bloody Mary Sour is a light acidic beer inspired by the classic tomatoey cocktail.
Four craft-beer bars to try in Lisbon
As the city’s first craft-beer bar, Cerveteca is where many lager drinkers first converted to artisanal brews. At the original spot in Príncipe Real, there are 14 taps (two with hand pumps) rotating between small international brews and Portuguese staples like Dois Corvos and Musa. In 2021, a second branch opened in Avenida de Paris.
Halfway up a stairway, Duque is the perfect place to recharge from Lisbon’s arduous hills. Portuguese beers fill the 12 taps here, including some brewed on site like the White Stout or the hoppy Pale Ale. Grab a seat by the terrace, and order one of the house toasties while you’re at it.
After drawing late-night revelers in Cais do Sodré, Crafty Corner has moved over to Alfama, trading lofty space for a medieval-style setting, complete with stone walls and long wooden tables. But the Lisbon crafts remain the priority.
Asia and Abdo took the reins of the former Lisbeer in 2018 and gave it a much-needed upgrade. More than redecorating the old dingy rooms, the Egyptian-Polish couple shook things up at the bar, bringing forth brews from Europe and North America, plus an enviable bottle collection from hard-to-find breweries.