Craft beer production is all the rage right now. A phenomenon that is starting to make major inroads in the gourmet food market. Bearing little resemblance to the customary traditional selection of beers, craft beers offer more complex nuances, pleasing the more discerning palate and forming part of any in vogue gastro route worth its salt. They have also attracted a legion of loyal fans, both amateur and professional, eager to discover, enjoy and celebrate them.
Our love of beer goes way back. Born out by the discovery of archaeological remains, found in the Can Sadurní cave (Begues, Barcelona), which indicate that beer has been around in Europe since as early as 3000 BC. After extensive historical wanderings, Charles V did the rest prior to his coronation by bringing his master brewers with him to Spain and thereby importing a taste for beer that had already taken hold in Flanders. And so it developed, in ebbs and flows as time went by, bringing us to the situation we find in Spain today, standing firm as Europe’s fourth largest beer manufacturer and a place where, according to Cerveceros de España (the Spanish Brewers’ Association), of the 35 million hectolitres forecast to be produced by the end of 2015, craft beer will account for 100,000, an area predicted to increase its market share to 33% this year.
Catalonia is the most active Spanish region in this sector, home to 200 brands and some 70 microbreweries. As a rule, craft beer production is an initiative attributed to the small businessman, someone for whom a love of the drink has seen a hobby turn into a business and a way of life.
Barcelona Beer Festival co-organizer and secondary school teacher, Mikel Rius, is an example of just that. “Brewer’s yeast fermented an overwhelming passion for craft beer in me many years ago, over which time I have been making it as a hobby and demonstrating that passion by taking part in numerous projects”, he reveals. Culturally, says Mikel, we are still light years away from the rest of Europe, where it is common that almost every village has its own microbrewery. “It’s exciting to see whole families coming to beer festivals. Grandparents teaching their grandchildren about beer-making. Yes, we are lagging behind because of that, but we are on the right track – the craft beer movement is an unstoppable force”.
At the moment, he is committed to promoting the rich diversity of this sector through initiatives such as the Degusta Beer Festiva at Barcelona Degusta, which brings a selection of over 300 types of beer from all around the world to Barcelona, in addition to showcasing some dozen styles of brewery.
An opportunity to inspire interest in people of all tastes: “We must steer clear of intellectual elitism. Some are happy to stick to drinking the traditional beers they’ve always enjoyed, pure and simple, while others are interested in exploring different flavours, aromas and nuances. All are welcome! No doctrine – just pleasure”, he concludes.