Madrid's Cervecera Península
Saturday 10 April 2021
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Almost four years ago in Alcobendas, a town about half an hour away from the busy centre of Madrid, is Cervecera Península. Whatever you expect a brewery from suburban mid-Spain to be like, you’re probably wrong about this one. Here, it’s not only juicy hazebombs that roll off the canning line; at CP, the West Coast IPA reigns supreme.
“We’re very happy that West Coast is making a comeback,” says Arturo Ruiz, the brewery’s general manager. “We make a lot of hazy IPAs, but we’re moving back into more drinkable bitter beers, that’s what we like to drink and we feel a bit validated that this is what people like to drink now.”
Arturo admits that it’s probably easier for English drinkers to access decent beer.
“We have rabid fans here but there is a middle ground - in England it’s easier for them to jump into craft beer than it is in Spain. I guess in England you have different beers in every pub, even made in the pub, here Mahou is everywhere. It’s very hard for us to sell lagers here at a decent price.”
However, those “rabid fans” are driving a change.
“People in Madrid like murky hazy beer, but there is a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. I’d say about 80% of people here are into hazy IPAs. The bright side is that this means there are 20% who just love crisp, bitter beers. That’s great, because about two years ago that number was only about 5% of people.”
Where does this obsession with West Coast IPAs come from? Owner Roman Jove toured the West Coast of the US while he was studying a Master Brewers Programme at the University of California in Berkeley. After this, he lived and worked in Fort Collins, Colarado brewing beers inspired by those he found on his travels. As we all know, Fort Collins is an absolute craft beer paradise.
“When he was young his father was into beer,” Arturo explains, “And when he was older he got into beer and studied in Venezuela, and then honed the skill in the US.” Bringing back those skills to Spain, he wanted to show that beer doesn’t have to be macro, or boring.
Cervecera Península wasn’t always destined for Spain’s capital, however. Roman and his father tried looking into moving to Barcelona and Miami to build their brewery. The whole time, they had in their minds that they wanted to make beer like Sierra Nevada wherever they went.
Arturo says that attitudes towards beer have been changing all over Spain, slowly but surely. “The scene here in Madrid has been growing steadily, especially over the past two years.
“Before the pandemic people were putting craft beer on their restaurant menus which is awesome. People in Madrid in general like to eat and they like to drink; they like to have good stuff. It’s been a work in progress but it’s been growing steadily and breweries popping up all over - there are a few gypsy brewers here too bringing the best of Europe to the city.”
In particular, Arturo mentioned the bar Doppelgänger, based in Antón Martin Market (not too far from the botanical garden or the Crystal Palace, if you’re doing the tourist thing). The creation of top chef Samy Ali Rando, formerly of La Candela Restó where beer was on the menu alongside wine, and where he was awarded a Michelin Star.
“He got a Michelin star and then he closed his place because he was like “I don’t give a fuck about a star” and he went to travel for a year around Asia and South America. When he came back he opened up in the market; all fairly priced and everyone can go. Natural wines and an awesome list of always-changing beers, including ours. There are a lot of places in Spain that are really into beer and food pairing. Doppelgänger is one of the best.”
“La Canébal in Madrid has a brilliant selection too. It has 10 taps for beer, 10 taps for natural wine. Speciality cheeses, and a huge fridge with beers and wine. And El Celler de Can Roca in Girona? Extensive beer and food pairing.” Can Roca holds three Michelin stars and among a lengthy beer selection, Mikkeller brewed a beer especially for them.
Of course, the pandemic hasn’t made it easy for Madrid to continue gearing itself up as a craft beer destination to rival the likes of Barcelona and Bilbao. But it’s had a bit of a different pandemic experience on the whole, compared to the rest of the world.
“In Madrid we’ve been open pretty much the whole time,” says Arturo, adding that while restaurants have mostly remained open, they’ve had curfews or time restrictions on when they have to close.
“The whole of Spain was closed for two months at the start of the problems, but we never stopped making beer. The government decided that beer was a main necessity. And strangely it gave us a little platform to reach other people who didn’t know about us because we were one of the first to be selling online. A lot of people were bored at home thinking “ah, I’d like to try some beers”, so that was a positive, actually.”
Will Madrillenians decide to keep buying online once the pandemic is over?
“People love to be in a bar here, they love to go out to eat and drink, and they like to do it late. At the moment because of the closing time restrictions, habits are changing a bit, and people are maybe eating a bit earlier. But they’ll never stop going out.”
Hop On American Pale Ale was conceived as a love-song to old school west coast pales – in the vein of Sierra Nevada Pale – which Arturo feels have been unfairly overlooked since the haze craze swept the world. The idea came from another beer on their roster called Guilty, an even more bitter West Coast IPA.
“The label is really fun — we think that the West Coast IPA has been wrongfully accused of being divisive, and that built a wall that put people off trying that style of beer. The haze trend was good, it lowered that wall and made it easier for someone to try the beer because it was less bitter and fruitier, but the old school heads missed the bitterness, the dryness and the drinkability. And we’re glad it’s coming back!”
“All our beers have a story. We have some beers coming out called What, Why and How? It’s to explain all about why we do what we do and how we do it, and how we all come together in the brewery to make every beer.”
Does brewing as a collective create perfect beers?
“Perfection is really hard to achieve, but we at least try to be better than we were six months ago, and then in six months, brew a better beer than we brewed today. That’s our goal.”
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