Updated: Jan 6
"When you try these beers there is no turning back!"
Craft beer has exploded! Quenching the world's thirst for beer in an endless variety of new, interesting and often adventurous brews. In 2016 the number of global breweries reached 19,000 of these 17,732 (94%) were classed as craft breweries. In Spain the beer revolution has just begun, the frontline recently reaching Zaragoza, Aragon where a small group of friends and brewers have combined forces to bring quality craft beer to the land of grapes.
In 2013 three brothers in beer Carlos Suárez, Santiago Del Rey and Alberto Felipe opened Hoppy one of Zaragoza's first craft beer bars, in a region renowned for its stubborn and fiercely loyal market. Surrounded by wine and tapas bars, a handful of local beer enthusiasts and the English prayed they would keep their doors open through turbulent economic times. Five years later, after continued growth and support from the beer drinking community, especially the Bulldog patriots, the trio have formed a coalition with local brewer Populus.
Cierzo brewing Co named for the strong wind 'Cierzo' that characterizes the region, has modest objectives of national domination, co-owner Alberto Felipe tells us "we want to boost the craft beer movement nationwide, especially in Aragon; as well as bringing Zaragoza the novel concept of the "brewpub." The brewpub, scheduled to open in October, will brew onsite with fresh beer directly to the tap, as well as a brewing and distribution operation in the region.
Spain, the land of the grape and red sausage has a different relationship with beer, in fact, you might say they don't know how to drink. However, Alberto seems confident craft beer is setting deep roots "it's a worldwide movement that's spread like a virus and those of us who have a good nose for food and drink are not going to get left behind."
But will the Spanish be converted so easily?
"We undoubtedly have some wines of enormous quality, but now we also have craft beers of a level comparable to the best wines." This is certainly true, production in Spain has gone from 30,00 hectolitres per annum in 2013 to 200,000 in 2017, with new breweries releasing new styles every month. Alberto continues "we believe we are following the same steps as the United States several decades ago. Already within Europe, the Nordic countries and England are years ahead of us, but we know that the 1% of craft beer in our country (vs. 99% industrial) will continue to grow. The thing is...when you try these beers there is no turning back!"
Cierzo brewing is launching with a very attractive range of six varieties, demonstrating their brewing flexibility.
"We have started with two IPAs, a stout with nori seaweed, a Weissbier, a Golden ale and a Strong Ale, but many more will be added soon. Our intention is to produce new beers every month. In addition to the barrel, we've opted for cans instead of bottles, because, unlike what everyone believes; it allows better conservation of the beer, as well as easier distribution and recycling." It also allows for sales online, giving the Spanish brewers a presence on the national and international scene as well as beer lovers being able to enjoy quality craft beer at home, on a park bench or other space outside the brewpub.
However, the biggest challenge is surely teaching the Spanish to not FREEZE anything that is liquid?
"Hahaha! It must be the weather" says Alberto, using what can only be described as a 'very' British excuse "we also consume massive amounts of sodas and coffee with ice, and it is something unimaginable in other countries. In relation to beer, we have always been a lager country and it shows, but it is also true that thanks to the craft beer boom a lot of consumers are becoming aware that each style has an ideal temperature."
Education, education *hic* educamation. So, what do these brave explorers of beer enjoy drinking when they're not creating new master brews?
"In Cierzo we are almost all fans of the British extremely hoppy bottled beers of Kernel, Brew By Numbers or Wylam, of the dark beers of Omnipollo or Les Trois Mousquetaires, of the acidic nectars of Cantillon or Cascade and of the classic German styles that Ayinger brews."
Cierzo Brewing Co will be presenting their new brews at the Birragoza festival this weekend in the Centro de Historias, if you're local, Alberto's advice is to come down "try all the beers, styles and brewers possible throughout the weekend. Ah! And protect yourself from the potential heat ..." Maybe we'll see you there. Cheers!
Bulldog will certainly be in attendance, sampling new brews and stalking the crowd with our microphone. We will also be looking for recruits for our canal boat club race so bring your sea legs, and your drinking pockets!
For more information on the Beer Barrel Canal race click here