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Wine Lovers, Listen up! I Love Beer!

lupulus.gif

I love beer. I really do. I remember my first Rolling Rock in Taos, New Mexico, after the last ski run of my senior year Spring Break. Cool crisp and my very first. I didn’t really drink in High School, as I was “straight edge” and too cool to get wasted. But after I turned 18, I said, “That’s enough! Time to drink.” From that first Rolling Rock, up until about the year 2000, beer for me was a cool, wet beverage that gave me a nice buzz. Beer was the party beverage, while wine was the sophisticated drink. I studied wine, while I studied the bottom of beer bottles. Nothing new here, as most of you can relate, or at least a few of you.

However, around 2000-2001, I discovered beer in its true form, a beverage with historic roots, complicated ingredients and myriad flavors. It’s also when I discovered the beer site www.ratebeer.com. I still have over 500 beer ratings stored over there. You see what happened when I discovered Rate Beer was an awakening that few wine lovers will ever fully grasp. Beer and wine have more in common than most would expect. 99% of wine should be drunk tomorrow, and so should 99% of beer, but the best wines and best beers both age and transform into drinks that are worth the wait.

If I still lived in the US, Catavino, apart from being named something else, would be a beverage blog. Plain and simple. I love complex and beautiful flavors, and for me, wine, beer and several other liquors offer this. But as a result of living in Spain, we are in the middle of a non-exsistent beer culture, a suds wasteland. Granted, I realize that I’m a beer snob, and I’m proud to admit it. I know that there are palatable macro brews here, and I’m happy at this point to have a small glass at the bar when out with friends, but I don’t enjoy it. Sure you can head to a Irish Pub and sometimes find a nice British bitter, or something else off the beaten path. We even have a decent Belgium selection at one or two places I frequent. Our neighborhood grocery holds a handful of Belgium treats on its shelf, including the almighty Chimay, but seriously, who wants to drink this everday. To give context to the boredom, consider this: when I left my store in MN, we had 1400 or so different labels in stock from over 40 countries. If you don’t believe it, let’s ask one of my ex-customers to verify this in the comments below. We had styles of beer that claimed to only have one producer of that specific style left in the world. We carried: beer brewed with Merlot grapes from Bordeaux; beer made with seaweed, elderberry and any fruit that you could imagine; beer even brewed with almost any spice/herb you could imagine. To clairfy, these were not “fad beers” made to entice the youth, or a special demographic, but rather beers that had history, tradition and long stories. Many of these treats are still cellared in my house back in Minnesota today.

So why am I talking about beer? Well, because I found one worth talking about, a real beer made here in Spain. It has hop character, is full of body and incredibly perfumey. It made me want to take another sip, and I’ve even considered buying every bottle from my local shop. The beer is made by a local Catalan bewery, Cervesera Montseny, and the label is called Íber Ale + lupulus. Full of spicy hop character and malty goodness, along with a delicious big body and bold flavor, this beer is worth picking up! They make a few other brews that I’ll be checking out this week, but I’m feeling hopeful after the first one. I do know of one brew pub in Barcelona that makes a so-so IPA, which lacks a bit in body. On the other hand, the bar does offer free nuts, a major plus, and their stout is not too shabby.

The saying goes, “It takes a lot of beer to make a little wine…”, and I know here in Spain, they drink many canas (beers) during the harvest. But why not try to improve the quality, while you’re at it so that enjoying this great beverage comes easier?!

Cheers,
Ryan Opaz

If you are a brewer here in Spain and want to prove that your beers are worth my time, please contact me @ ryan[at]catavino{dot}net

  • Carol

    I, too, love beer. And while I don't consider myself a wine snob, I would consider myself a beer snob (especially spoiled by my talented brother's amazing homebrew). Looking forward to reading about some Spanish beers in the near future!

  • Anna

    Great Ryan, I am pleased to know that you drink beer as well. I know exactly what you mean about the diversity of beers. I used to live in Holland, and not only do they have very nice wine shops but also the diversity of beer that each little restaurant, pizza place or cafe is carrying is amazing. It used to take me a long time to order because of this enormous variety. It was great. Looking forward to join you for a beer tasting sometime in the future.

  • http://www.pourmore.com Carol

    I, too, love beer. And while I don’t consider myself a wine snob, I would consider myself a beer snob (especially spoiled by my talented brother’s amazing homebrew). Looking forward to reading about some Spanish beers in the near future!

  • Chris

    Great post, man. Living in Prague is exactly the opposite: great beer culture, emerging but still relatively underdeveloped wine industry. We need to work out some kind of annual exchange program. :)

  • http://www.excelwines.com Anna

    Great Ryan, I am pleased to know that you drink beer as well. I know exactly what you mean about the diversity of beers. I used to live in Holland, and not only do they have very nice wine shops but also the diversity of beer that each little restaurant, pizza place or cafe is carrying is amazing. It used to take me a long time to order because of this enormous variety. It was great. Looking forward to join you for a beer tasting sometime in the future.

  • http://chriskottom.com Chris

    Great post, man. Living in Prague is exactly the opposite: great beer culture, emerging but still relatively underdeveloped wine industry. We need to work out some kind of annual exchange program. :)

  • Erika

    I love beer too. Been tasting a lot in NY as lots of bars have been opening lately that boast thirty something different brews on tap. And I don't think it's uncommon for wine drinkers to love beer as well. Appreciating good quality can transcend all beverages and foods. I'm sad to hear that you're a bit deprived in that aspect, over there across the ocean!

  • http://www.StrumErika.com Erika

    I love beer too. Been tasting a lot in NY as lots of bars have been opening lately that boast thirty something different brews on tap. And I don’t think it’s uncommon for wine drinkers to love beer as well. Appreciating good quality can transcend all beverages and foods. I’m sad to hear that you’re a bit deprived in that aspect, over there across the ocean!

  • Ryan

    Erika you guys have some great beers in NY, and I miss them all! Chris we do need to figure out how to exchange beer/wine – hmmm we need to get that pipeline set up Carol – I hope to find some Spanish beers to talk about Anna – Anytime you want to taste just let me know!

  • Ane Miren

    Ryan, please – you do NOT go to an Irish pub for a "nice British bitter"!!. You go to an Irish pub for something Irish, like Guinness. Incidentally, my British, bitter beer-loving husband calls all Spanish beers "eurofizz".

  • http://www.obiscoito.com Ryan

    Erika you guys have some great beers in NY, and I miss them all!

    Chris we do need to figure out how to exchange beer/wine – hmmm we need to get that pipeline set up

    Carol – I hope to find some Spanish beers to talk about

    Anna – Anytime you want to taste just let me know!

  • http://www.excelwines.com Ane Miren

    Ryan, please – you do NOT go to an Irish pub for a “nice British bitter”!!. You go to an Irish pub for something Irish, like Guinness.

    Incidentally, my British, bitter beer-loving husband calls all Spanish beers “eurofizz”.

  • AllAboutAlavesa

    What, no love for the almighty Spanish "beer" Cruzcampo?? The best warm/flat/old tasting beer in all of Spain, I wouldn't have made it through all those festivals if it weren't for that red canned beauty! While I have become more of an enophile in recent years, I still consider myself a beer man. I'm not sure where I get it from, maybe my Irish heritage, growing up Catholic in Mormon Utah, or probably more surprising for people not familiar with the Beehive State, the amazing small breweries we have here! Yes it's true, we have breweries here (with real beer!) and most are top notch, one of my local faves, Redrock Brewing, won "Large Brewpub of the Year" at the 2007 Great American Brew Festival, and most recently picked up a silver medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup for their nut brown ale. While wine has quickly won over my heart, there really isn't anything better that a good beer after a long day mountain biking the Wasatch Mountains. Bottoms Up!!

  • http://www.prgrisley.com AllAboutAlavesa

    What, no love for the almighty Spanish “beer” Cruzcampo?? The best warm/flat/old tasting beer in all of Spain, I wouldn’t have made it through all those festivals if it weren’t for that red canned beauty! While I have become more of an enophile in recent years, I still consider myself a beer man. I’m not sure where I get it from, maybe my Irish heritage, growing up Catholic in Mormon Utah, or probably more surprising for people not familiar with the Beehive State, the amazing small breweries we have here! Yes it’s true, we have breweries here (with real beer!) and most are top notch, one of my local faves, Redrock Brewing, won “Large Brewpub of the Year” at the 2007 Great American Brew Festival, and most recently picked up a silver medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup for their nut brown ale. While wine has quickly won over my heart, there really isn’t anything better that a good beer after a long day mountain biking the Wasatch Mountains. Bottoms Up!!

  • Cornell

    I will vouch for Ryan's store with it's 1,000 beers but I only got to 134 so I will have to take his word for the remaining 1266. However, there is an article in the May issue of All About Beer that pits a wine drinker – Marnie Olds – vs. a bee man – Sam Calagione to a debate about which – beer or wine – is best and which goes best with food. A fun article with both scoring points – thought the beer lovers of Catavino might find this of interest. Also, they have a listing of the 125 Places to Have a Beer before you die (from all over the world). Based on the contents and comments found in this post this will not come as a surprise but with what seems like every country on globe getting at least one "Place" mentioned, Spain does not show up even one time on this lengthy list . Why even Zanzibar, Moscow and the Happy Gnome from St. Paul, MN (close to Ryan's home town) even makes the list!! Sounds like a business opportunity exists in Spain.

  • Cornell

    I will vouch for Ryan’s store with it’s 1,000 beers but I only got to 134 so I will have to take his word for the remaining 1266. However, there is an article in the May issue of All About Beer that pits a wine drinker – Marnie Olds – vs. a bee man – Sam Calagione to a debate about which – beer or wine – is best and which goes best with food. A fun article with both scoring points – thought the beer lovers of Catavino might find this of interest.

    Also, they have a listing of the 125 Places to Have a Beer before you die (from all over the world). Based on the contents and comments found in this post this will not come as a surprise but with what seems like every country on globe getting at least one “Place” mentioned, Spain does not show up even one time on this lengthy list . Why even Zanzibar, Moscow and the Happy Gnome from St. Paul, MN (close to Ryan’s home town) even makes the list!!

    Sounds like a business opportunity exists in Spain.

  • el

    I miss that beer cellar and that beer store. I'm here in the Pacific Northwest, but on a grad student budget and with no real beer lover to keep me company. Ryan and Gab, I'm still waiting for you to come visit so we can hit Bottleworks (<a href="http://www.bottleworks.com/beerlist.html) “>http://www.bottleworks.com/beerlist.html) and try out lots of regional and obscure beers. They only do beer. I'm not sure how many they have in their collection – maybe not as much as Cellars, but close. It's great that even the grocery stores here carry great beer. I didn't think I was an IPA girl until I had Stout's Ruination. So tasty.

  • el

    I miss that beer cellar and that beer store. I'm here in the Pacific Northwest, but on a grad student budget and with no real beer lover to keep me company. Ryan and Gab, I'm still waiting for you to come visit so we can hit Bottleworks (<a href="http://www.bottleworks.com/beerlist.html) “>http://www.bottleworks.com/beerlist.html) and try out lots of regional and obscure beers. They only do beer. I'm not sure how many they have in their collection – maybe not as much as Cellars, but close. It's great that even the grocery stores here carry great beer. I didn't think I was an IPA girl until I had Stout's Ruination. So tasty.

  • el

    I miss that beer cellar and that beer store. I'm here in the Pacific Northwest, but on a grad student budget and with no real beer lover to keep me company. Ryan and Gab, I'm still waiting for you to come visit so we can hit Bottleworks (<a href="http://www.bottleworks.com/beerlist.html) “>http://www.bottleworks.com/beerlist.html) and try out lots of regional and obscure beers. They only do beer. I'm not sure how many they have in their collection – maybe not as much as Cellars, but close. It's great that even the grocery stores here carry great beer. I didn't think I was an IPA girl until I had Stout's Ruination. So tasty.

  • el

    I miss that beer cellar and that beer store. I'm here in the Pacific Northwest, but on a grad student budget and with no real beer lover to keep me company. Ryan and Gab, I'm still waiting for you to come visit so we can hit Bottleworks (<a href="http://www.bottleworks.com/beerlist.html) “>http://www.bottleworks.com/beerlist.html) and try out lots of regional and obscure beers. They only do beer. I'm not sure how many they have in their collection – maybe not as much as Cellars, but close. It's great that even the grocery stores here carry great beer. I didn't think I was an IPA girl until I had Stout's Ruination. So tasty.

  • el

    I miss that beer cellar and that beer store. I’m here in the Pacific Northwest, but on a grad student budget and with no real beer lover to keep me company. Ryan and Gab, I’m still waiting for you to come visit so we can hit Bottleworks (http://www.bottleworks.com/beerlist.html) and try out lots of regional and obscure beers. They only do beer. I’m not sure how many they have in their collection – maybe not as much as Cellars, but close.

    It’s great that even the grocery stores here carry great beer. I didn’t think I was an IPA girl until I had Stout’s Ruination. So tasty.

  • Bill

    Trolling for beer now, eh? Can't say that I blame you. I will corroborate your father's assurance that your store held 1,400 different beers. A veritable cornucopia of beer. I especially liked the six pack special. Great way to experience a wide variety at a reasonable price. First place I tried Bell's, for one. And the only place I've ever seen a Belgian Single. You must really trust your folks with all that great beer. :-)

  • Bill

    Trolling for beer now, eh? Can’t say that I blame you. I will corroborate your father’s assurance that your store held 1,400 different beers. A veritable cornucopia of beer. I especially liked the six pack special. Great way to experience a wide variety at a reasonable price. First place I tried Bell’s, for one. And the only place I’ve ever seen a Belgian Single. You must really trust your folks with all that great beer. :-)

  • Jeff

    Uh, what's beer? Never heard of it. Since you left this beer-forsaken land full with only Summit and Grain Belt to its name, so many good, local beers have poured in. From Surly (which I'm sure you're familiar with), to Flat Earth, Tyranena, Rush River, Furthermore, etc. – the landscape has changed so much over the past few years. Let me know- I'll send you a "care package" sometime if you want. Hmmm, if only there were someone motivated enough to bring all those great beers to the people of Spain:) (Just a thought for you- with all that spare time and money you have hanging around).

  • http://www.acadiacafe.com Jeff

    Uh, what’s beer? Never heard of it. Since you left this beer-forsaken land full with only Summit and Grain Belt to its name, so many good, local beers have poured in. From Surly (which I’m sure you’re familiar with), to Flat Earth, Tyranena, Rush River, Furthermore, etc. – the landscape has changed so much over the past few years. Let me know- I’ll send you a “care package” sometime if you want. Hmmm, if only there were someone motivated enough to bring all those great beers to the people of Spain:) (Just a thought for you- with all that spare time and money you have hanging around).