Showing posts from 2017

A differential factor...

The other day I received a remarkably big shipment, corresponding to my reward for contributing to the crowdfunding project organised by Cervesa Montseny. Coinciding with its tenth anniversary, they wanted to take another step forward by presenting some of their beers canned, and to finance the whole thing they resorted to their followers. I was enjoying one Lupulus can -by the way, big change eh?- when I began pondering about everything that has happened during all this time, so that I could be at home drinking that specific variety of beer so utterly fresh; in that format that a few years before was associated with cheap, poorly tasting beer; and in a glass with a relevant symbolic charge. I took a picture, and then I started writing.

“Specialised bars make a huge mistake: moving away from local beer”

One in a hundred...

This morning, the Gremi d'Elaboradors de Cervesa Artesana i Natural de Catalunya -Union of Craft and Natural Beer Producers from Catalonia, known as GECAN- and the Barcelona Beer Festival have presented the report Estat de la Cervesa Artesana a Catalunya 2016 -State of Craft Beer in Catalonia 2016-, a study that compiles and talks about data collected from a survey of eighty-two questions, asked to 95 of the breweries in the territory. The key aspects of the report relate to the location of the companies, the production in volume and variety, the size of the businesses and the occupation generated, distribution of the sales or lines of action for the future.

"The 1% threshold has been exceeded: one of every hundred beers consumed in Catalonia is craft"

Best Beers

There are many circumstances that cause my rate of publication on the blog to be irregular: from family matters to work peaks, as well as the effective distribution of my spare time in cultural activities, sports and other projects. Today, I am pleased to present the result of a few hours devoted to this last category early this year.
The Pocket Beer Book 3rd Edition -Best Beers, in America-, by Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb, was published by Mitchell Beazley -Octopus Publishing- a few weeks ago, on November 2nd. In a format that, as the title itself suggests, is indeed compact, the work includes an extensive collection of beers from more than 60 countries around the world. All of them are briefly reviewed, while those 'iconic', 'must-try' and 'to watch' breweries that a beer enthusiast can find are conveniently highlighted.

Price and specialty

When we learned of the acquisition of a stake in Nómada Brewing Co by Grupo Mahou-San Miguel, it was not difficult to imagine that a new scenario for the entire local brewing industry was about to start. As expected by some of us, it was a matter of time until we knew of further acquisitions by the big guys -La Virgen by ABI, Sagra by MolsonCoors- but possibly one of the side effects that has immediately begun to be noticeable is a decrease in the price of beer.

"Who benefits from the new margin created by the drop of wholesale prices in beer?"

A historical tick

Let's do an exercise. Let's say that we are going back 15 years in the calendar, in that time space in which Messenger was the ultimate tool to 'socialise' online, and in which the closest thing to today's smartphones were HP's iPAQs. You had tried something more than the typical Lagers thanks to Belgian and German imported beers, to be found in supermarkets and a few select bars run by genuine beer activists, as well as in pseudo-Irish pubs, some with more grace than others, who were in their peak of popularity. In this past context, think about what your response would have been to the following wording.

List, in order of priority, those five beer experiences you want to have throughout your life

Madrid 2017 - Day 2 - Embajadores & Cortes

Another good and productive day of work was preceded, again, by a more than interesting beery evening and night, visiting different bars of the city of Madrid. On this occasion, the route drawn contemplated six stops, from which one was dismissed at the very start. However, a glorious, unplanned bonus track would eventually make it to the list.

“Some of the bars visited on this second night are called to lead a paradigm shift in Madrid”

Madrid 2017 - Day 1 - Universidad

It was a hectic start of a day: by circumstances beyond my control, I lost the 7:04 AVE train from Lleida to Madrid. I had never lost it before, and at that moment it affected me symbolically. When I changed my ticket, it also affected me economically. But that first part of day was developed without further incidents, after a placid trip and a productive day of work.

The protagonism of the scene has moved south of Glorieta de Bilbao, even beyond Universidad” 

Madrid 2017 - Intro

I had been looking for the opportunity to return for a long time, and that moment came no more than the last few days before enjoying a three week vacation. With my women already having fun in the heat of summer, on the beach, the incentive to get back home at night was clearly smaller, so I set my professional agenda to spend four days and three nights in the capital of Spain.

"It may look the same, but beerwise Madrid has changed forever"

The Shelf #2 - Brew

There comes a time in the life of a beer lover, in general shortly after discovering that beer is something more than what he had been taught, in which one feels an irremediable impulse to create. Suddenly, it seems that drinking and discovering the new flavours brought by great brewers from here and there is no longer enough, and there is a further step to take. That is how, more or less consciously, one enters the wonderful world of homebrewing.

"The author accompanies the homebrewer along the process, as if he was beside him"


It is always pleasant to attend a beer festival in Barcelona, ​​especially if you can relax since you are not the organiser. After a long period of promotion, this past weekend came the Mash Craft Beer Festival, an event with a remarkably different format from those that until now we have seen here. Its peculiarity: to be organised by four distinct brewers, two locals -Edge Brewing and Garage- and two from abroad -Brewski and What's Brewing-; the installation was the organisers' responsibility, limiting the offer to two taps for each participating brewery; and, very relevant, it was the first fair -not festival- * to have a greater percentage of international companies.

"We must be grateful to the organisation for being able to attract so much beer talent to our city"

August 27 -2017-

I had not written this post for two years. I suppose it is a faithful reflection of the personal and professional bustle of all this time, translated in a period of little activity in the blog. But 2017 is for me a transitional year that is allowing me to regain strength and sensations. The numbers do not deceive: at this time of year, I have written three times more entries than in the whole of last year.

Packaging #17 - Label in a can

With the expansion of craft cans, we get a new type of finish for cans. If the industry had us accustomed to cans with a homogeneous look, with a print on the same metal -sometimes better than in others-, the world of craft beer and its inexhaustible thirst for new daily recipes has brought us a new element that obviously seeks to cheapen costs.

Packaging #16 - 360 End

When I set the standard of packaging for cans I commented that the gap through which the beer flows out could be of greater or lesser amplitude. One of the variations that comes out of this 'normality' is that in which the upper part of the can gets completely uncovered, with the gap as wide as the container itself. A great invention, from a California packaging solutions company -Crown-, which has the graphic name 360 ​​End.

Packaging #15 - Widget

After reviewing an external element to cans, let's see one that rests within it. A small device that came to market in the middle of the last century, which has a certain function that has not always been well understood by the final consumer, some of which having even expressed their surprise and disgust by saying 'there is something in my beer'. It's true.

Packaging #14 - Protective lid

After the previous post, it is time to leave behind -for now- the bottles and explore the cans, a packaging format for which we will review up to four different presentation elements. And to begin with a very useful one, which to some extent gives continuity to the obsession for hygiene that every brewer should have when it comes to brewing.

Packaging #13 - Cold indicator

After eight different posts reviewing caps, unless I'm wrong I think we have covered all the varieties which I have come across during my life as a drinker. It is thus the perfect moment to move on and see other elements of presentation. And today's widget will play a transition, since it can be found in both bottles and cans.

Packaging #12 - Wood-aged cap

At this point, it might seem that in the previous entries we have already covered all the possible caps to be found in a bottle of beer. But to think so would show a lack of knowledge and consideration to craft breweries, which always surprise us with novelties in every possible flank, such as a gadget that gives a touch of wood aging to bottled beer.

Packaging #11 - Reusable cap (2)

Yesterday I expressed that I could not understand why someone might find it interesting to want to cover a bottle of individual capacity -less than 50 cl-, but there can always be exceptions in this life, as shown by the second alternative of reusable cap to explore: the mythical Tactical Nuclear Penguin by Brewdog.

Packaging #10 - Reusable cap (1)

Sometimes we are faced with the following situation: we have a bottle of beer ready to be enjoyed, and we want to uncap it. But for whatever reason, we are aware that we will not be able to drink the whole beer, or that if we do it will be at the cost of getting us minimally intoxicated.

Packaging #09 - Cork cap

Here is a presentation element much more associated with wine than beer; although it has been there for a long time in brewing traditions like the Belgian, and to this day it is very widespread with the irruption of the craft scene in different countries. The cork cap is usually found in 75 cl bottles -37.5 cl, alternatively- something marvelous in neophytes' eyes who, delighted, indeed say that with that presentation it looks more like a wine than a beer.

Packaging #08 - Ring pull cap

Today's packaging element is relatively new in our local market and, yet again, has practicality as its best bet. Although, unlike the one we saw in the previous post, it achieves its purpose with no problems.

Packaging #07 - Twist cap

Let's now review an element that clearly demonstrates that, at the very least, one must be suspicious of marketing. It is best not to confuse today's element, the twist cap, with the screw cap we saw yesterday: while the latter is a great ally for fun and outdoor life, the former can become the worst of your enemies.

Packaging #06 - Screw cap

The litre bottle cap, so that we get it clear. That element that you playfully throw to your friends when you are in the field or on a BBQ, or with which you entertain yourself at the table when you are drinking a shandy with your family in summer.

Packaging #05 - Hanging label

An interesting category of elements are those labels that accompany a bottle but, instead of being attached to it, are hanging with a thread or ribbon around the neck, with more or less taste and harmony with the whole set, depending on each case .

Packaging #04 - Wrapping

Today's packaging element could have easily fallen into the category of 'adornments', if not for a small aspect that disallows it to enter the most useless category of all. And it is that the paper does have at least a remarkable utility, beyond beautifying.

Packaging #03 - Adornments

I was unsure about how to name this category. But since these are very different elements among them, with the only common aspect of having no practical use beyond decorating, 'adornments' seemed to fit more or less.
And what kind of elements fall into adornments? Especially, we find elements that wrap the top: from the easy-open plastic -that, we all know, sometimes it can lead to desperation- to glued aluminium foil. The latter are quite common in traditional breweries, and are constantly agressed by breweriana collectors who want to check whether or not the crown cap underneath is customised.

Packaging #02 - Flip top

One of the variations on the standard of packaging that brings more elegance to beer is, no doubt, the flip top. With a simple mechanism based on a rigid wire, it manages to close the container tightly with a top that, historically, was mostly made of light coloured ceramic. But time has relegated it to a cheap, simple piece of plastic.

Packaging #01 - Standard

To begin with, let's briefly review the baseline scenario. What we might call a 'normal' or 'standard' presentation for a beer.

When we drink bottled beer, what we usually find is a glass bottle ranging between 20 cl and 75 cl: either transparent, green, brown or almost black, with a label that provides some information and a metal top covered with a plastic or rubber inside part -previously cork-. The label -that can even be textured if they spend extra money... and allocate it back to the consumer, of course- is usually presented in one piece, or with a front label and another on the back. A small, additional one can be found in the collar, indicating that a brewery earns its dough.

Packaging #00 - Intro

For the present month, I thought of developing a series of mini posts: with a common background topic, and brief in content. While also looking for a certain degree of reflection, the idea was to make lighter publications: session posts, to give it an absurd name, in line with what we do with certain beers.

Pilot Plant

I suppose it is not hard to guess that the great brewers do not produce their new recipes with their usual equipment. One of the things I saw from afar, which was not much emphasised during my visit to the facilities of Damm back in 2011, was a 10 Hl microbrewing plant -so huge at that time- in which they produced experimental batches for the development of recipes. I asked about that small facility, but it was far from the elevated catwalk through which the whole visiting group was moving , and I got little information about it. It was not until December 2016 that I was able to get my nose into a similar facility of another large Iberian brewing holding, such as Mahou-San Miguel (MSM).

“Ater the visit to the Pilot Plant, I understood that Nómada are still gypsy brewers”

2016, data on the sector

Article by Mikel Rius - Director of the Barcelona Beer Festival Translation from Spanish by Joan Villar-i-Martí
For the second consecutive year, I am glad to return to this blog to share a few thoughts on the publication of the Socioeconomic Report of Cerveceros de España for 2016. If you feel like it, you can review the notes published last year in this same blog, or even an article written in the distant 2012 and published in Cerveriana blog.

It has been a good year for industrial brewers: a 4.3% increase in production -up to 3,650 million litres- is undoubtedly an excellent figure. The main reason reported is the growth of tourism, together with a really curious fact: 99.5% of foreign visitors over the age of 18, almost the entirety, consume beer during their holidays in Spain. Worthy of a Trivial Pursuit question.

"The study falls short, it lacks data in many areas. This is a job that we have to do from within the craft sector"

The year of the can

It was Arriaca who last year came out with the first cans of craft beer from the Iberian Peninsula. There were bets, talks and rumors of all kinds around which would be the first microbrewery to do it, and finally it was this brewery from Guadalajara to hit first, contrary to forescasts.

The visibility and availability of the brand has grown exponentially, as well as its reputation thanks to the quality of their beers. In turn, once the pole position of the craft cans was obtained, the sector relaxed, and those projects that sounded more imminent seem to have taken more time to plan this relevant change in their processes.

"The emergence of new cans is nothing but proof of the continuous growth of the sector"

On boots, women and beer

It may have happened to many of you. Even without bad intention, it is recurrent to see sexist behaviours in our day to day, when we interact with other people. In fact, sexism is a phenomenon that is fully settled in our society. And as a social ecosystem, the beer scene of our country is also subject to of such attitudes. Advertising helped to create the collective idea that beer was a drink for men, relegating women to simple servants and decorative objects available for the enjoyment of the virile drinker. It mustn't have helped, either.
JC: 'The belief that the brewer is automatically a man, is like assuming that the CEO of a large company must be a man'


Article by Mikel Rius - Director of the Barcelona Beer Festival
Translation from Spanish by Joan Villar-i-Martí

Three out of three. We have had the privilege of living the three editions of the Leuven Innovation Beer Festival, the last of which just a few days ago. Again, it has been a success in terms of attendees, participants and, above all, dissemination of beer culture.

The festival is organised by local brewery Hof ten Dormaal, the Janssens family, which brings the concept of hospitality to an extraordinary level, making all the participating brewers feel literally at home. Every year, the Janssens select fifteen breweries under an Innovation criterion, gathering an impressive constellation of brewers in the old factory of Stella Artois -De Hoorn-.

On eagerness

There has been lots of writing and talking around the Mostra de Cervesa Artesana de Mediona, one of our oldest beer festivals. Not only for its twelve editions, but also because many of the attendees from all over this time regard it as a very special event. The Annual Celebration for local beer lovers. I have previously published several texts on it. The magic of Mediona is, in fact, difficult to explain if you don't experience it yourself, and it is something that gets you hooked: something that makes many people want to experience it edition after edition.

This year, the wedding of a good friend collided frontally with the appointment that is reserved earlier in my calendar each year. After the initial moan, I thought I would take the opportunity to live Mediona in an alternative way: looking for its magic in the previous day. Trying to understand what makes it so special.

"We all carry a bit of Mediona inside of us"

Knowing the territory...

At this point I cannot speak of 'pleasant surprise', but it was nice to find once again a remarkable selection of local beer in my trips around the territory.
From bars to restaurants, even also in hostels and hotels, the frequency with which one can find good beer, produced a few kilometers away by small brewers, is certainly good news for consumers. A sign that we are doing things right. Something that concerns the brewing establishment, as our industry news shows us lately.

“CTretze is a great example of how important is local produce, and to know the territory”

Mediterranean post-truth

Oxford University Press awarded it as the Word of the Year 2016. Indeed, since last year 'post-truth' has entered our lives, being a popular word to be found in press, gatherings and all kinds of conversations. Many people use it, but anyway let's see what they say about it in the Oxford dictionary:
Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief

New looks

With this post today, I launch the new design of Birraire. Taking advantage of Blogger's new templates, launched in March 2017, I finally found a satisfactory balance between modernity, functionality and speed. It's nothing out of the ordinary, but it will allow me to focus on content, which in the end shall be the relevant stuff for a blogger.

"Few changes had been made since its inception, and the beer scene and my involvement in it have really changed"

The redesign has also served as a means to clean up unnecessary archaic elements, as well as to sort the content in a new set of static pages. On the menu above, you can find some key aspects that I had neglected until now, such as a contact page -which some of you actually made me notice in numerous occasions-. Indeed, the blog had not changed substantially since it was registered at the end of 2010 as a simple pastime. And both the beer scene and my involvement in it have completely mutated during this time.
I lea…

Craft Brew

At this same time last year I had just finished a job that supposed a new and interesting challenge for me. I have been writing for years, not only about beer here on the blog and other media, but also stories and essays. And even poetry on occasion. Besides, my profession has required me to translate a remarkable number of documents, mostly on financial regulation and banking operative procedures. Never before, however, had I exercised professional translation: an opportunity which, linked to my passion for beer, I did not hesitate to take advantage of as it arose.

"For its content and quality, a good gift for Sant Jordi both for homebrewers and beer enthusiasts"

Pièrre Zuber, a memory

Right now it is that time of the year when one leaves the Barcelona Beer Festival behind and realises that the world has not stopped in the last few weeks. After the usual three weeks long mental disconnection with reality, I sadly come upon the bad news of the death of Pièrre Zuber, owner of Délices et Caprices in Brussels.

"People like Pièrre perform an essential work for the dissemination of beer culture"

Barcelona Beer Festival 2017 - Activities

5 days left! The sixth edition of the Barcelona Beer Festival is very close, and the whole organisation team is very busy with the late details to ensure that everything goes well again. The change of location adds an extra layer of difficulty, as it requires us to change the mental comfort of knowing the terrain beforehand and adapt to a new space: La Farga del Hospitalet. It is undoubtedly an ideal venue for the BBF thanks to the many additional facilities that we can offer to our public, specially an increase on capacity and the comfort associated with a place that was designed for large events –e.g. toilets, air-conditioning.

But today there is something else to talk about. Less than a week away from hearing the bell tirelessly ringing whenever a new keg is tapped, it is high time for me to present the Parallel Activities Grid of the 2017 Barcelona Beer Festival here in the English version of the blog.

"In 2017 the activities offer grows, with three different rooms for an even…

The price of beer...

A year ago, Arriaca surprised us all with the launch of their beer in cans. Rubia, IPA and Vikingathor -a Boris Brew beer now made by San Frutos- were presented as the first canned Spanish craft beers, and gained much attention and praise: for the format, of course, but also for its quality. Nevertheless, I am bewildered to observe that the thing that seemed to me most revolutionary about it has been overlooked by most comments even one year later.

"The price of our beer is increasingly lower, even when it gives more likes and visits to say the opposite"

Barcelona Beer Challenge 2017

For one more year, the Barcelona Beer Challenge has held its evaluation weekend in the taproom of Edge Brewing, in the Poblenou neighbourhood. This is the second edition of the contest, which has experienced a 51% growth in terms of participation compared to 2016, with 756 beers from a total of 203 breweries: 'a huge success', says Àngel Tarriño, director of the contest. The most optimistic estimates foresaw an increase of about 20%. One can therefore take for granted a good competition to reach the individual awards of the different categories, and a tough battle to win the prize for best brewery, obtained by Cervesa Montseny last year, and best new brewery.

"The result of the contest will be presented on Saturday March 25th, at the Barcelona Beer Festival 2017"

A transparency exercise...

I read with interest about Tempest Brewing Co's future plans in The BeerCast. I met a good part of their team while preparing their Meet the Brewer session at the Barcelona Beer Festival in 2016, and I enjoyed some varieties of their beers. After all, it does not come as a surprise that they are doing well.

However, the thing that leads me to write the present post is the initial reflection by colleague writer Rich Taylor, and what actually reveals the disclosure of this information by the Scottish brewery: a growing tendency to communicate on internal affairs and strategies. A good transparency exercise.

"In these changing times of breweries controlled by investment funds, effective communication with the consumer is key"

'Dando la Lata'

As pointed out in the 2016 summary post, last year we witnessed how cans began to gain ground on the shelves and fridges of our favorite beer stores and bars. We even saw the first cans of Spanish craft beer.

Possibly one of the local actors that has placed a higher bet on cans until now is a distributor, Crusat, which currently has an extensive portfolio of beers in this format. That is why they have recently launched a campaign for the general public: 'Dando la Lata' -a set phrase in Spanish that would literally translate as 'Giving the Can', meaning hassling, or causing inconvenience-. Their aim is to get rid of certain widely popular beliefs about this kind of packaging, while praising its virtues. A good initiative that will certainly benefit them, but that will also benefit others. So good for it.

"For me, the main advantages of cans are comfort and conservation, in that specific order"

Barcelona Beer - Locals' Choice 2017

So here's the third instalment of this yearly post series, whose goal is to make good recommendations to people living in or coming to Barcelona with beer thirst. Since I have never liked to give my personal tastes too much importance when writing, I came up with the idea to make a selection of good local beer according to the taste of people I trust. Hence, two years ago the Barcelona Beer Locals' Choice was born -you can read more about how I organise the whole thing in the tab 'What to drink in Barcelona', from the menu above-.

"The list comprises a selection of 19 local beers, highlighted by distinguished Barcelona drinkers"

The battle is on...

Not even half a week after publishing, my previous post has already become obsolete. Just like last year, it seems we will keep reading the economy press, as AB In-Bev is still hungy and has recently launched a new message of ambition to the European market. In December 2016 they announced the landing of Goose Island pubs -at least in the UK-, but just yesterday we could read that their last move was the buyout of Cervezas La Virgen -Spain-, through the investment fund ZX Ventures.

"AB InBev has some work ahead. We can expect profound changes"

2016, a significant year...

Despite the almost absolute absence of posts during most of last year, I have been just as connected to the beer world as in previous years. That has allowed me to continue visiting places and talking with people, exchange opinions and experiences, drink lots of interesting beer and, of course, reflect on the industry, its direction and the evolution of our local scene.

The previous one has been a very complete year; full of everything. It is for this exact reason that I chose to start posting in 2017 with a review of all those events and trends we have witnessed. Which at the very least will make us remember 2016 as a significant year.

"Consumers enjoy a better quality and variety on their glasses; in the long run we will better assess what this concentration means for the industry"