What do Boulder (Colorado), Brooklyn (New York), Brussels (Belgium), and Barcelona (Spain) all have in common? Aside from starting with the letter 'B' and being neat destinations, they each host cultural movements vis-a-vis craft beer. This beer craze is currently taking the world by storm, and just like political revolutions of the past, few predicted its success.Let's get down to the bottom of this revolution...Microbreweries are founded every day, it seems. It's all out mayhem with this ever-changing market and the territory for new refreshments is changing. Some set strict guidelines for ingredients allowed in beer-making, while others test the boundaries and invent new flavors. It's a wonderful time to be a brewmaster, and an even better time as a fan of beer or a beer-a-holic. We're spoiled by choices in this free market, surely if that's the biggest complaint we have, all is well.Here's a little sip of the craft beer epidemic, and just like every story, it begins at the beginning.
First, it's important to answer, "What is craft beer?"The Brewer's Association defines it as ''beer made by a brewer that is small, independent, and traditional". This is a relatively new phenomenon, especially given the scope of alcohol consumption in human history. We certainly do enjoy our share of booze.Here's a little timeline of beer's history that may be of interest. An intriguing, fun fact to accompany this is that beer's origins date back to over 6,000 years ago in Mesopotamia!For those looking to sink their teeth further into the matter, BeerGifts.com compiled an incredible synopsis of beer's history from its inception to the current market.It's pretty incredible that this commodity has been mastered generation after generation. After that Magic School Bus moment, let's flash forward to modern times. If you don't know what The Magic School Bus is, here's a link to an amazing episode.You're welcome. :)
Where were we? Ah yes...Presently, the big beer companies, such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, account for over 70% of the market in the US alone. These behemoths laughed when microbreweries boasted they could chip away at their share many years ago. They're doing a bit of damage, but can still go a long way in the big picture. It is a good sign that the big wigs are a) trying to buy up microbreweries left-and-right, and b) marketing their products as if they are created more locally. Budweiser's most recent ads show that they have many brewmasters scattered around the USA, for example.Perception goes a long way.
While the new rise of microbreweries traces its roots to the United States, the infectious influence expanded to Europe, inevitably. In fact, Craft Brewing Business predicts an 11% increase in Europe alone! Low and behold, craft beer is carving a niche in the foundation of drinkers' palates everywhere. There are so many styles out there, and seemingly countless ingredients that change the outcome of the product.
While Europe is part of this shift, Barcelona is leading the way as a bastion of beer. How?A combination of craft breweries, beer festivals (such as the Barcelona Beer Challenge), and beer halls (like CocoVail) are contributing to this spark. Barcelona is known as a popular destination for its exquisite gastronomy. There are restaurants virtually on every block and tucked away throughout the city. It's truly a buyers market in this regard. This culinary influence paired with the amazing Catalan culture peppered around, such as: Gaudí, Picasso, Miró, and Dalí (which are only 4 of the many influences in the region) make it a paradise to live in and visit. It would only be fitting for a strong craft beer presence to accompany what it already offers to tourists and citizens alike.
AC, co-founder of CocoVail, believes that the sky is the limit for this industry in The City of Counts. AC comments: "In the past 5 years, the craft beer industry grew aggressively to become a national reference. It is exciting to see fellow beer lovers join the club by opening places specialized in craft beer. This predominantly includes brewpubs or retail stores. Producers, however, have bigger challenges as they clearly exceed in numbers compared to the amount of bars. To differentiate from each other, I think brewers are forced to constantly improve quality by brewing better, more sophisticated beers, while maintaining competitive prices. Such healthy competition benefits the industry not only in offering a better product, but also in increasing the final experience of the consumer."
CocoVail provides 24 beers on tap with a majority of them from Barcelona and surrounding areas. AC sheds some light on this matter. "In CocoVail, we feature many regional beers, as we believe in supporting a growing, highly passionate industry. It is important to have fresh, local ingredients that are delivered right after production and don't suffer from long transportation journeys. For instance, we have close relationships with Edge Brewing in Poblenou or La Espiga in Vilafranca del Penedès. Beers such as Hoptimista from Edge or the Espiga Blonde are currently featured at the hall."AC believes in creating a firm community not just for the visitors coming to enjoy some beverages, but also with the many microbreweries in the region. This is an opportunity to contribute to the craft beer revolution happening now in Barcelona, Europe, and around the world.
What does the future craft beer hold in Barcelona? Well, if the rest of the world is any indication there is a lot of room to grow. Just like the United States, Spain possesses major players (Estrella Damm, San Miguel, etc.) that occupy much of the market share; however, consumers are only getting more savvy and always looking for new tastes and flavors. Check out this list of the 13 Strangest Beers on Earth for a little idea of what people creatively brew. Have you ever tried a beer from a local or small brewery?There are so many out there, surely there is at least one out there that you will enjoy. If you are looking for a bolder kick in the tastebuds, an IPA (Indian Pale Ale) will be your best bet. If you are more into smooth, rich beverages, a stout with coffee or chocolate accents is right up your alley. Perhaps you like the sweet & sour sensation, like Sour Patch Kids or Warheads? If so, a sour beer will cleanse your palate.
Now is an excellent moment to go and enjoy a fresh, craft beer. The revolution has already started, it will be quite interesting to see where it goes from here. Pick your poison. In this case "poison" is a delicious, cold brew made by an artist who put a lot of time into his or her craft... beer.Check out Part 2- The Revolution Continues on craft beer in Barcelona.