2 May 2011

Tasting in Ávila

I'm back home from a well deserved and great family holiday in Ávila, Spain. We had a wonderful time and the break and the change of air were more than welcome.

I thought I would be able to leave my Pivní Filosof side in Prague, but the stubborn bastard followed me and caught me just when we were shopping in the local Carrefour. I didn't have another choice, then, than to follow him to the beer aisle, where I was surprised to find such variety in a relatively small town.

Of course, I didn't leave empty handed. I took a bottle of Cruzcampo Gran Reserva, which I had long wanted to taste, a four bottle pack of Alhambra Mezquita, which I had liked a lot three years ago and wanted to drink again, two bottles of Santa Margarida Trigo and one of Santa Margarida Fuerte, both from Cerveses Dedues, a micro from Catalunya about which I had no references.

I started with Gran Reserva. I'm very interested in the attempts from macros to get into the "special beer" segment. Many beer geeks aren't too happy with them. I see them differently, as products that aim at the average drinker, that who buys the brand and not the beverage, and that's why you can't expect anything earth shattering from them. At the same time, they give a glimpse of what the brew masters would be able to do if the accountants let them.
In that sense, Gran Reserva doesn't disappoint. It's a bit thin, short and boring, but despite of that, it's well balanced and goes down pretty nicely, even without chilling it too much. As someone commented on my Facebook page, it shows they allowed it to lager for a decent time. I don't think I would buy it again, but I would gladly drink it if someone offered. In other words, a good try by the Spanish subsidiary of Heineken to offer the average drinker something different without scaring the shit out of them.

But enough with the macroindustrial, it was time to taste something "artisan" and "natural" and with my dad we opened the bottles of Santa Margarida Trigo, brewed, according to their web page, with pale malts and raw wheat grown in their valley.
How to say it politely? This beer is crap, utter crap. My notes say "baker's yeast dissolved in dishwater" and I can't think of a better way to describe it. It must be the worst beer I've had this year and one of the worst in my life. The contents of both bottles ended up where it belonged, the drain.

Needless to say, mi expectations for Santa Margarida Fuerte weren't too high anymore. But still, the corked 0.75l bottle offered some hope.
Almost as bad as the other one. The only difference were the caramel malts that that managed to cover some of the "dishwater+yeast" signature character. The rest was all the same, flat, no head, really awful, and all for the sweet price of almost 5EU.

The only good thing I can say about these two beers from DeDues is that they have a nice presentation. Very functional, you can see it from a hundred metres away, which is useful when you want to know what to avoid.

Fortunately, my parents had some Mahou 5 Estrellas in the fridge to rinse my mouth and I had Mezquite to restore my faith in Spanish brewers.

The "Craft Beers" are booming right now in Spain, specially in Catalunya. Much has been discussed about their quality. I've been lucky to have come across some truly wonderful beers from Spanish micros, stuff I would gladly buy if it was available. Unfortunately, and since most people buy their beers at supermarkets like Carrefour, it is very likely that, at least in Ávila, Santa Margarida is the first impression they will get from the so hyped "Cervezas Artesanales" and it won't be a very good one.

But there's more from my Spanish holiday, stay tuned.

Na Zdraví!

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4 comments:

  1. I am visiting Spain in 3 weeks for the first time. It's good to know what to avoid :-) I hope I will see more recomendations, till then.

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  2. Pavel, you can check the "Spain" label for more reviews. Otherwise, Boak&Bailey wrote in their blog about their trip to Spain last year.

    You'll also need to keep in mind that the availability of some beers will greatly depend on what part of Spain you'll be visiting.

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  3. Well I will be visiting Madrid and only for few days. I won't have much time, so I guess I will just jump into a supermarket nearby my stay. Hopefully there will be some variety in the beer section. Is there any brand which is generally available and a good choice (like Svijany in Prague)?

    Thanks for the tips, I will look it up.

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  4. There are a couple of brewpubs in Madrid, and there is at least one shop like Pivkupectví. Look them up in Ratebeer.

    ReplyDelete