Tuesday, 26 April 2016

On the Edge

In Barcelona, new breweries are getting kind of thick on the ground, but one of the biggest and best equipped is Edge Brewing, which just happened to be on the same (very long) street as our hotel, so being well prepared we - well one of our friends - arranged a visit. Also attending were some sundry Swedes, a small number of Scots including a very young brewer from Stewart Brewing in Edinburgh and a lone Geordie.

The brewery itself is set in a very anonymous building in, the part in which the brewery is located at least, a very anonymous street.  But once inside it is all somewhat different. It's industrial heritage is clear, but it has been put to sensible use with a warehouse and cold room at the front and behind, a tasting room and the brewery itself protected behind a glass wall.  It is a veritable cathedral (well more  a church) of stainless steel, which, at the time of our visit was being obsessively cleaned.  They take great care of such things here.  The brewery was immaculate and has rather a good back story, having been designed, built and shipped from the USA, together with its American owners. This is very much an American brewery, transposed to Catalonia.

Our tasting session consisted of around 20cl of six different beers (it is usually four) but in my usual feckless way, I neglected to write them down as I was enjoying talking about them to my friends and the tour guide. This is I admit a bad habit for a beer writer, but then again I was out to enjoy myself, so hey ho, sorry if my memories are a little hazy. First up was a hefe-weizen which had been "improved" in its refreshingness - is that a word? - by the addition of lime - which I personally found a little overdone, but I can see how, on a hot Barcelona day, you'd gulp one down. A saison was next but with little saison character to speak of, with an odd "Old English Spangles" taste (you need to be old to remember them). The main characteristics were mint, pear drop, aniseed and treacle.  Not at all unpleasant, but I feel it needed more work to bring it into style.  We all liked Hoptimista a lot better. Described as an American IPA, it ticked most of the boxes with pine resin, caramel and a good bitter finish. I could have drunk a pint of that one even at 6.6%.

We followed these up with an amber ale with oats, honey and oranges which was pretty good, American Rye Pale Ale and a Porter with vanilla.  Well I think we did - not that I was drunk on 3 x 20cl - but because I didn't write it down.  We also were given as a treat, an experimental beer which should stay just as that.  Nobody liked it much at all.  The brewery tour, which split the tasting into two, was interesting just to see how they worked. They even have one of these giant hop gun thingies that batter hops into the beer, though really you couldn't tell from the ones the ones we had.  The brewery produces a large number of styles and looking though them, there are many I'd rather have tried than the ones we did, but that's just the luck of the draw. You get what you are given and certainly none of the beers, the experimental one apart, were bad by any means, but none really stood out either, though as always, it is the joy of talking to beer people about beer that really gave me the most pleasure.

Of equal interest to me is that around 90% of Edge Brewery's production is sent overseas, mostly to Scandinavia and the USA. Yes American brewers in Spain sell a lot of their beer back to America where they mimic the styles produced there. That's an odd juxtaposition, but explained by the fact that the market for craft beer in Barcelona while growing, is tiny.  It seems export is the only way to keep it all on the rails in the hope of a more widespread Spanish craft beer breakthrough and to repay the cost of the operation. Somewhat "coals to Newcastle" you might think and you'd be right.

At the end of the day this is a good brewery, with interesting beer, ambition, great kit and branding, produced by nice beery people.  It was a good evening out.

It is also of note that Edge Brewing was named the top new brewer in the world, as well as top brewer in Spain in 2014. Hoptimista, part of the Edge core line up, was also voted a top 50 new beer in the world out of 60,000 beers.

Edge also have barrel aged beer. Seems somewhat de rigeur these days.The top photo show the Hop Blaster.


Paul Bailey said...

It sounds like you had a good time in Barcelona, Peter. I managed to sample a couple of Edge Brewing beers at last month’s Barcelona Beer Festival. The company were one of four brewers who gave a presentation on the Friday evening, about the four, limited-edition beers produced specially for the festival. Each beer was brewed to represent one of the four main ingredients used to produce beer; namely water, malt, hops and yeast, allowing people to appreciate the importance of each individual ingredient, and its place in the overall picture.

The Edge Brewing presentation was the most interesting, largely because it was given in English, rather than Catalan. The person giving the presentation was an amiable, ex-pat Englishman. I can’t tell you his name as I lost the business card he gave me, but the notes I took fit in well with your report – proving I wasn’t totally pissed that evening!

We tasted two of their beers; a 5.0% Bavarian-style Hefeweizen and a 4.5% American IPA. The Hefeweizen represented “yeast”, and had a touch of lemon juice added to counteract the phenolic banana and clove notes normally associated with Bavarian Wheat Beers. The IPA had been hopped with Cascade hops throughout the brewing process, and had also been dry-hopped.

Fellow blogger, Martin Voigt, who produces the excellent proBIER site, was with me at the presentation, managed to get a look round the brewery, the following day. I was rather more restrained, and went site-seeing including a pre-booked tour of Gaudi’s magnificent basilica, La Sagrada Familia.

We must catch up for a beer sometime! Paul

Sue B said...

Paul, I was also at the Barcelona Beer Festival. We rather enjoyed it, there are some ideas on the running of the festival which are worth taking up over here, other aspects need improvement. Peter, we didn't get out to Edge but loved Black Lab even though it was a bit American-y. We also enjoyed Mikkeller bar (were the only people in there!), Garage, Biercab, Ale & Hop, La Cerveteca, and Kaeldercold. We even went in Brewdog (oh the shame) and it was just like being at home! First time visit to Barcelona, loved it, need to go again to see all the cultural stuff next time. Bought one of the Beer Maps, but it's already out of date as Ceres has closed and been replaced by a wine bar.

Tandleman said...

Cheers Paul. A pint would be good. There will be an opportunity soon I'm sure.

Sue. Look out for my thoughts on some - well all - of the craft beer bars you mention very soon. Clue? Samey!

Paul Bailey said...

I was really impressed with Black Lab, Sue. After a stroll around the harbour, and then along the beach, it provided the perfect lunch stop, before heading off to the Beer Festival in the afternoon.

I agree there were definitely some good ideas at BBF, especially the token machines, the glass-rinsing station and the holes cut into the bar tops to allow bar staff to recycle the tokens. Not so good was the complete randomness of when the various beers were on, coupled with the presence of too many young, and very loud Americans, describing everything as “awesome”!

This was my second visit to Barcelona, but the first one to the beer festival. The family are all clamouring to go next year!

critch said...

ahhhh edge brewing.....

the 'merican backed bunch who threatened to sue exit33 brewery in shefield because they were then called skys edge....

bit harsh imo but it didn't do the exit lot much harm I well prefer their branding now, their beers pretty good too

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