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Wine Lovers, Listen up! I Love Beer!

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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

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