The Hop Dinner...

One week before our summer vacations my missus and I had an important date to attend. On July 25th the guys from Cooperativa La Barricona along with the owners of Microcervesera (a beer shop and distributor near Girona), celebrated the second edition of their beer festival Brewtast. It was held at the headquarters of the cooperative, in a tiny little town called Sant Joan de les Abadesses, at the northern part of Catalonia.

We had quite been looking forward this festival. Just last April, at the Barcelona Beer Festival, the parallel activity led by La Barricona was a stunning success according to the assistants, being both entertaining and delicious (they got to eat some really good stuff). Unfortunately, we had no time during that particular weekend, so we decided to go on Friday to have a closer look at their innovative work with food and beer. And, of course, to attend the inaugural event: El Sopar del Llúpol ("The Hop Dinner").

We arrived one hour before dinner and met some of the usual suspects. It began hailing hard and we found shelter in one of the buildings at the HQ of the La Barricona, a lovely stone country house. While waiting we could down some jars of Fuck the Agullons, a beer specially brewed for the festival by Ivan Bertrán (Microcervesera) and Carlos Rodríguez (one of the most celebrated local brewers, even internationally, from Ales Agullons). A plain Pale Ale like most of Carlos' stuff, but with a distinctive and deliciously fresh touch of Sorachi Ace, giving generous hints of ripe mandarin and coconut when swallowing.

Finally, they led us into the restaurant. The show was about to get started. We find ourselves in a small and cosy room, rural but modern, with nice custom hints that inevitably reminded of the crafted brand image from La Barricona. The table was covered with funny corporate individual table mats that provided a read to kill time before being served some brown bread baked with Simone, a Stout from La Calavera (the microbrewery that is part of the cooperative).

The menu started with a fresh oyster with hop foam. Fine quality shellfish contrasted with the aftertaste a pellet of American citrusy hops would leave in your mouth. There was a side to this dish, consisting of an awesome swordfish tartar with the right touch of mustard. Everyone was happy with that. A spontaneous ceviche (marinated with Lambic beer) was served afterwards, with bits of cucumber, berries and a mild spicy sauce.

The next dish was a real treat for hopheads. The IPA Noodles were the closest thing to literally eat an India Pale Ale. Its sensation in the mouth was similar to ingesting soy noodles, but jellier and with a straight citrusy hop flavour. The cheese cream that went with the plate gracefully matched the general hoppinness. The standard was high, but the next dish successfully succeeded it. The maigret tataki with Sour Ale was perfectly cooked: rear meat, crispy fat. Still, it was not in any case sour at all; it was pleasantly sweet. Before  the desserts, they brought as a big beetroot canellone with mellow beef & Stout. Both original and tasty.

During the dinner by the way we drank two different local beers, both of them good examples of what our young beer scene is capable of. Setembre, by Ales Agullons, which is a coupage between a plain Pale Ale and Cantillon Lambic; and Gato Negro, by Nómada Brewing Co., a refreshing and pretty balanced Black IPA with brettanomyces.

Moose Island was the last plate to be served. A Stout brownie with creamed Moose Islay (a beer by Nómada), ice cream and pistachio crunch. It was not a great effort to eat the dessert, but the creamed beer was a bit too alcoholic to my taste. The expected sweetness was quite overshadowed by the boozy feeling.

With out stomachs full, we retired as we had already run out of battery by that time on a Friday night. As much as we longed to spend some part of the weekend at the festival, we knew we had to say goodbye. We were satisfied to have been able to attend the event, though. The atmosphere was great at La Barricona, a young and innovative project with a special focus on work and quality food that already brings us beer geeks lots of fun and surprises. Keep up the good work, guys!

Salut i birra!


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