Trans-Iberian

Trans-Iberian

Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Madrid: Craft Beer O'Clock

Por: | 25 de julio de 2012

Thor_pedal

North of Madrid, in the town of Colmenar Viejo, a German man and his Cuban wife are brewing beer. I visited their craft brewery a few weeks back, with a hiking group, after a walk in the mountains. Stefan and Lena – the founders of Cervezas Lest – gave us beer to drink and told us about the burgeoning craft beer scene in Madrid.

“I like the northern gods,” says Stefan as he hands out bottles of Thor, one of his three beers (the other two are Odin and Freya). While we sip the dark, smoky-flavoured brew, he talks about the state of Spanish beer. The country remains largely in the grip of a handful of industrial brewers, and has been left a little in the dust when it comes to the internationally-flourishing craft beer movement. Catalonia does have a ten-year-old craft beer scene, with a number of local breweries and a string of craft beer bars. Valencia also has a clutch of small-batch breweries.

But Madrid, despite posing as a cosmopolitan powerhouse, hasn’t kept pace. Apart from a couple of small brewers, the capital has remained stubbornly soaked in Mahou.

Finally that’s changing. Stefan and Lena launched Lest in November. And they’re part of a rising tide of craft breweries, shops and bars opening up throughout the city.

“There are thousands of rumours of local breweries that are going to start up,” says Juanma, co-owner of La Buena Pinta, a new craft beer shop in Lavapiés’ San Fernando market. The shop's shelves are a kaleidoscope of different brews – pale ales, lagers, lambics, Trappists, Belgians, stouts, porters – from Madrid, Spain and the world. And Juanma keeps a few in the fridge in case you feel like a drink and a chat.

A telecommunications engineer by trade and a beer lover from way back, he was laid off two and half years ago. “I was forty-six and unemployed, in the middle of an economic crisis.” The time was ripe for personal reinvention, hence La Buena Pinta. And therein lies a curious rub – Spain’s economic armageddon is helping bring good beer to Madrid. The two guys who last year opened Cervezorama, a craft beer shop near Metro Bilbao, were also out of work. As was Javi, who runs El Pedal, a craft beer bar on Calle Argumosa. He lost his job as a photographer in 2008 and opened El Pedal last September.

“What gets me is there’s no proper beer culture here,” says Javi, as he mops the bar five minutes before opening. Behind him one hundred and thirty craft beers line the wall. “People in Madrid just aren’t used to drinking different beers.” I ask him if the economic crisis is the right time to try to open Madrilenians’ minds, as well as their wallets (small brewers by their very nature can’t compete with the big guys on price). He says as the beer culture develops, people will spend the extra money. “Little by little, we’re creating a market.” In the meantime, a fair few customers still sit down and order a caña of Mahou. And Javi abides, sort of. “I’m no beer Nazi. If people ask for Mahou, I’ve got Alhambra.”

Unimaginative beer drinkers are shown less leniency at Irreale, a beer bar that just opened in triBall. Behind the burnished-brass bar top there are six (soon to be nine) beers on tap, all of them craft. The selection is curated by Iacopo, an effusive Roman beer aficionado. “Most customers start with a lager or a blonde and then go from there,” he says. Beside me, a craft beer virgin peers at the menu and says in a hushed, apologetic tone that he knows nothing about beer. That’s exactly what Iacopo wants to hear. He asks the man his likes, his dislikes and slowly leads him into a brave new world of Indian pale ales and chocolate stouts.

Still to come is Fábrica Maravillas, a Malasaña brewpub being set up by six Malasaña locals. I met two of them – Thierry, a Frenchman, and his Spanish wife Estefanía. Their pub is still being fitted out and, once done, they’ll be brewing several varieties on-site – to drink in the bar or take away in six packs. They hope to turn on the taps in a couple of months.

“We believe beer consumption can go back to what it was 100 years ago, when it was truly local,” says Thierry. Back in his native Brittany, he says the Bretons imbibe – for the most part – local, independent brews. And that’s the culture they want to create in Madrid.

What does Mahou think of all of this? Are they anxious about the capital’s craft beer rumblings? No, says Thierry. He adds with a laugh that Spain’s big industrial brewers control 99% of the national market. But small breweries are thriving overseas and Thierry believes craft beer will take root in Madrid, despite the city’s caña culture. “The beer revolution is happening and once you’ve tried good beer, it’s very hard to go back.”

We drank to that.

James is a Madrid-based travel writer (www.jamesblick.com, @jamesblick78)

Hay 9 Comentarios

I see Domus in the picture, and I just want to say it's my absolute favorite! http://www.cervezadomus.com/

What gets me is there’s no proper beer culture here,” says Javi, as he mopsbarrels the bar five minutes before opening.

What gets me is there’s no proper beer culture here,” says Javi, as he mopsbarrels the bar five minutes before opening.

hi very nice blog and so cool products.“What gets me is there’s no proper beer culture here,” says Javi, as he mops the bar five minutes before opening.

hi very nice blog and so cool products.“What gets me is there’s no proper beer culture here,” says Javi, as he mops the bar five minutes before opening.

ITS ABOUT TIME CONSUMERS ENJOYED MORE CHOICE IN SPAIN. IT PROVES AN ARGUMENT FOR ME TOO AS MY BUSINESS ASSOCIATE THAT THERE IS ROOM FOR MANY MORE ALES AND THERE IS MORE DEMAND THAN CRUZCAMPO IN SPAIN!

ITS ABOUT TIME CONSUMERS ENJOYED MORE CHOICE IN SPAIN. IT PROVES AN ARGUMENT FOR ME TOO AS MY BUSINESS ASSOCIATE THAT THERE IS ROOM FOR MANY MORE ALES AND THERE IS MORE DEMAND THAN CRUZCAMPO IN SPAIN!

Glad to hear that Madird begins to catch-up with the craft beer movement. Nothing good with drinking a Mahou caña once in a while, but its just the same as having vanilla ice cream all the time. Variety is what its all about!!

Personally I have tasted all three beers produced by Lest and let me tell you, all three are great tasting. Each with their own special touch! LEST DRINK TO THAT!

Craft beer is fighting back all over the world! The US, with its ubiquitous global brands, was the last place I expected to find it but small breweries and even chains of home-brew pubs, such as BJ's, are everywhere. I stay in Wood County, Texas, which is 'dry' and recently voted remain so. Fortunately, there's a strong DIY tradition and my domestic brewery has made me very popular, with one of my recipies reaching number 34 in the Bay Area Mashtronauts http://mashtronauts.pbworks.com/w/page/20456439/FrontPage hall of fame.
¡Cheers!

Publicar un comentario

Si tienes una cuenta en TypePad o TypeKey, por favor Inicia sesión.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

El País

EDICIONES EL PAIS, S.L. - Miguel Yuste 40 – 28037 – Madrid [España] | Aviso Legal