#Beerbuddies – Joan Birraire talking about the Barcelona beer Festival 2015

This week the 2015 Barcelona Beer Festival will take place and in the build up to the big start on Friday I was lucky enough to ask a few questions with Joan Villar-i-Martí aka Joan Birraire, one of the hard working organisers of the festival. Having bought the pre sale tickets quite a while ago I have been looking forward to this beer festival more and more as the time gets closer to the start! So if you are on your way to the festival this week then sit back and check out my latest #Beerbuddies interview with Joan Birraire and make sure to also check out his brilliant blog at Birraire

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1. The Barcelona Beer Festival 2015 is nearly here, a lot of work must have gone into getting it prepared. How has the preparation been going for organising such a hugely popular beer festival?

Lots of work, indeed! But with a big smile on our faces. We are a very small team, and we all have other occupations apart from organising the Festival. It is a year-round job, but specially from 3 months until D day you keep skipping hours of sleep. Is it worth it? Just stroll around the main room during the Festival, look at the happy faces of our attendees and you have your answer. It definitely pays off.

2. Throughout the festival there are many different demonstrations and lectures, how did you organise all these? Which lectures are you looking forward to the most?

That’s something we have been working on since the very first day. We firmly believe that a Festival like ours, with two years in a row with > 25.000 attendees, needs to have not only a good selection of beer but also interesting activities to take a break and learn. Our beer scene is very young, so people are curious and open-minded to learn new things about. We try to schedule interesting lectures and gastronomic events, as well as short “Meet the Brewer” sessions for visitors to have the opportunity to talk with some of their favourite brewers.

We are very pleased to have Garrett Oliver visiting the Festival this year, so his lecture would surely be one of them. Then there’s Steve Saldana (Bexar County) talking about Cask Beer, or Boris de Mesones about homebrewing. We also have Bert Van Hecke (Bom Brewery) talking about malting, or Tom Lowe (FourPure) about the use of tins to store beer. And of course, André Janssens, talking about Flanders and pairing his awesome beers with Belgian delices. Apart from that, local businesses are involved to bring a fine offer of gastronomic events. So I guess you can see that it is hard to choose! The one thing we want is to promote discussion and debate between professionals and visitors, so the offer has to be both varied and interesting.

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3. The beer list is massive and is also very impressive. What beers stand out for you on that list? Which Spanish breweries would you recommend for us beer travellers coming from abroad to try?

Every year there’s something new we want to bring to our attendees. Two years ago we introduced Lambic beer, and now we have a “spontaneous-only” tap during the whole weekend. Last year our bet was American beer thanks to our collaboration with BA. And while this year we will still have the freshest IPAs coming from the States, our newness is Cask Beer. I’m personally excited about it: British session ales are my thing.

We choose every beer that is poured from our taps, so every beer offered during the Festival should be really good. Having said that, I guess everyone should try Naparbier: they’ve been touring Europe and the States and their beers are very popular for a whole lot of reasons. I also have to mention two brewers from where I live: Guineu and La Pirata. Leaving apart my friendship with them, their beers are top-notch. And it would be unfair not saying Ales Agullons: a great family with fantastic plain simple Pale Ales and deliciously complex Wild Ales, some of them being a special blend of Pale Ale with young Cantillon Lambic.

4. What are your favourite beer bars around Barcelona? Have you had a chance to check out the new Brewdog Bar in Barcelona?

Luckily, there’s plenty of bars to choose from now! I don’t live in Barcelona city, so most of the times it depends more on where I am than my choice. Still, I have a soft spot for BierCab, specially for the people running it (and the vintage menu, okay), a new brewpub called Garage Beer Co or Cara B, which offers 10 taps of good beer and live music. But there are lots of them: La Cerveteca, Homo Sibaris, 2d2dspuma, La Cervecita, L’Espumossa, Chivuo’s… and an excellent restaurant like El Racó d’en Cesc, the first to offer a menu with food and beer pairings.

I have checked out the Brewdog Bar Barcelona. It is a great place to visit, with fresh Brewdog beer on tap, as well as some other international brews and local treats. They’ve built up a fabulous bar that I’m sure will help create a bigger beer-loving community in Barcelona. So it is great news for those of us who want all this stuff to keep on growing.

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5. So many countries are now seeing a big difference in their beer scenes, how would you describe the Spanish Craft Beer scene and its progression over the last few years?

The answer to this question differs everytime somebody asks me :-). It all started 10 years ago, humbly and in slow motion. I guess it wasn’t until 2011 that one could see that there was something else going on apart from the curiosity of small companies brewing their own beer. Since then, it has been like a great foamy Big Bang in which an invasion of beer-related businesses and events has taken place. Every year, you look back and feel dizzy at the speed that this is evolving.

But then you grab a stool, sit at the bar and down a couple of locally brewed pints and realise that this is real: exactly the thing you were really longing for as a beer buff when there was nothing else than the typical imported beers on some supermarkets. Lots of people have been working hard to grow their business during this severe economic downturn, making their wishes come true while making consumers happy. But we can’t be conservative with what we have already achieved: we must keep working together.

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Thanks again to Joan for sparing some time during this mad rush before the Barcelona Beer Festival. Make sure to say hello if you see him at the festival and also check out his blog at Birraire. I cant wait for the end of the week and look forward to sampling the great Spanish beers Barcelona has to offer! Salud!

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