Barcelona Beer Festival 2019 — Catalonian Artisanal Beer at its best

The eighth edition of a leading event on the European Beer Festival scene, Barcelona Beer Festival 2019 goes from strength to strength.  Not only in the quality of beer, food, music, cultural and gastronomic lectures, but also in the representation of beer-industry professionals and their wares or services in the BBFPRO area.  Over three days, more than 650-beers are offered to beer-connoisseurs from 120-taps, a combination of both rotating taps and permanent ‘always on’ taps from a selection of the finest local, national and international breweries.

The highlight of each day is the tapping of a new beer, the moment when the ever-anticipated and much-applauded ring of a bell on the beer-list gantry signifies an excited hubbub on the beer-floor that sees a sizable portion of the anticipant crowd make its way towards to newly tapped beer.

And yet, for those drinkers who prefer less of a queue, there is always an easily-accessible “Beer Informer” on-hand to give suitable recommendations based on a person’s preference for beer style and taste.

These volunteers are somewhat unique, and their presence ought to be applauded.  The beer offered by the many Iberian and international breweries at the Barcelona Beer Festival 2019 is categorised into seven ‘Beer Families’, so guiding the occasional or novice beer drinker through the myriad of styles and variants thereof is an excellent touch.  The beers are listed as being a European Classic, having a ‘lot of malt’, having a dark-side, being barrel-aged, one for the ‘hop-heads’, being acidic or one for the miscellaneous category when it fails to comfortably fit elsewhere.

For those who enjoy finding the rare, the special edition and the limited batch, there are enough BBF-only beers and collaborations (including those produced with other international beer festivals) to keep everybody happy.  Moreover, the presence of the Costa Rica Brewers Consortium, Big Craft Day (Russia), Festival Bières et Saveurs de Chambly (an artisanal beer festival in Québec), Polish Craft Breweries (how is it possible to choose only five breweries to represent Poland?), and Finland Craft Beer Perkele, ensures much choice of high-quality, rare and international beers.

However, most visible and widespread is the presence of GECAN, the Association of Craft and Natural Beer Brewers that represents Catalonia’s craft breweries.  Its “som artesana, som local” campaign (we are artisanal, we are local) that goes to great lengths to promote local Craft Beer — and there are some well-known breweries operating under the GECAN name.

Beer-lovers have the option of a standard tasting glass — a half-pint — or deciding on the BBF Experience, part of which is the Royal Leerdam AnDer 1.0 Beer Glass.

Whether its spending one, two or three days enjoying some great beer-tasting, or casually sipping a beer with friends and conversation over some great gastronomic delights, Barcelona Beer Festival satisfies the full gamut of beer-festival needs.  All of which come with an added dose of party.  It is the street music of Los Boozan Dukes that captures the mood of the event, as they wander around entertaining the masses with their infectious voodoo blues vibe, a mix of stomp-creole, swing and calypso rhythm — the perfect summary of Barcelona Beer Festival 2019.


An angel gets its wings at Barcelona Beer Festival — it’s a wonderful life

(Published on 13 March 2019)

It’s all about the bell.  Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings, according to Frank Capra’s teacher.  Yet the bell at the Barcelona Beer Festival signifies a new beer has been tapped.  And the bell rings often.  For there is a row of taps spread across the entire width of La Farga, the vast venue in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, located to the southwest of the city, to which beer lovers from across the world flock each March for 3-days of great beer, beer industry trade / commerce, and meeting old or new beer friends.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

The Barcelona Beer Festival is unlike any other.  And it would not be possible without an army of volunteers to keep the beers flowing and the thirsty visitors happy.  The sheer scale of the event makes its approach both feasible and enjoyable.  Many smaller events have tried to emulate this approach — replace the dedicated brewery bars for generic, ever-changing taps — yet it can be a disastrous tactic if not managed in a way that captivates and enthrals visitors.  Barcelona manages to find the perfect balance between generic and continually changing taps, permanent brewery taps, brewery bars and a trade event.

Holding the event at the La Farga de L’Hospitalet is a stroke of genius.  Firstly, it’s indoors and consequently free from any reliance on fine weather in March.  It is extremely popular, and therefore there’s a pleasant and convivial social vibe that brings people together and establishes a human contact that is often lacking at events held in the sun, events at which everybody vies for their own private picnic space with maximum exposure to the sun.  The community spirit is evident too in the expansive and adequate seating areas, where sharing tables and facilities is not only welcomed but also positively encouraged.

Even at peak visitor times, the additional capacity at La Farga de L’Hospitalet ensures everybody is happy.  Whether it’s congregating around the bar areas to chat with and meet new friends or seated nearer the food trucks having a conversation with your neighbours, whether it’s listening to the music in the large stage / seating area or chilling in a quiet area away from the throng for a few minutes.

The generic tap area is watched over by the Keepers of the Beer List who stand high on the gantry, entering the details of each new beer as it is tapped down below — and giving an angel its wings each time, of course.  Each section of taps is split into a handful of beers in its own numbered bay, meaning finding a preselected chosen beer is as simple as wondering aimlessly along and selecting a beer on a whim.  Barcelona Beer Festival appears to be run entirely on KeyKeg, as on every piece of floor-space behind the bar are rows and rows of upcoming beers, all seemingly dispensed from KeyKeg.  It is an impressive sight.

Many of the more popular local, regional or national beer breweries have their own dedicated taps, pouring their own beers in a separate area throughout the event.  This area has a unique vibe, too.  As the volunteers and occasionally a brewer delight in serving their beers to large numbers of existing fans, new fans and intrepid beer explorers.

Elsewhere is the dedicated brewery bar area, where some of the larger names on the international scene pour their latest and / or greatest beers to a selection of drinkers who are always happy to reconnect with an established name after drinking two or three beers from unfamiliar breweries.  The balance and ability to unconditionally choice between established, local, national, international, up-and-coming and something new from overseas is another unique feature of the Barcelona Beer Festival.  And most importantly, it is clear to visitors what is what.

Everything is sufficiently labelled and consistent with the Barcelona Beer Festival theme; drinkers are presented with all the information needed without having to guess or surmise which brewery it is, what its beers are and what are the characteristics of each beer.  No need to waste time unnecessarily trawling through the brochure here if a drinker prefers to select in an ad-hoc manner — the information is clear and uniform.  (The brochure itself is almost a work of art, a mighty tome of beer, breweries and Barcelona life.)

Anybody who loves beer will be fascinated by the trade event.  Lightweight Containers (KeyKeg), brewhouse equipment manufacturers, the Cicerone Certification Program, malt suppliers, hop suppliers, brewing suppliers, industrial pumps, beer-glass suppliers, tap-handle art, marketing material, brewers, regional beer tourism…  It’s an impressive assortment of commerce that is essential to bring us the beer we love.

It’s a challenge at Barcelona Beer Festival to take a few steps in any direction without encountering somebody familiar: a Catalonian brewer, a Spanish brewer, an international brewer, anybody working in the Barcelona beer industry, fellow beer-lovers, friends and colleagues.  And even if you don’t know somebody, there are always plenty of ‘Meet the Brewer’ and other meet-the-beer-professional events and happenings occurring in all corners of the event throughout the three days.

And let’s not forget the Catalonian hospitality.  Making at least one new friend between beers could almost be guaranteed!  There are plenty of opportunity to make new friends.

“Remember, George: no man/woman is a failure who has friends.”

Mid-March is Barcelona-time.  Beer-lovers, brewers, suppliers, importers, exporters, beer professionals, beer semi-professionals and beer amateurs of all type.

Every time a bell rings either an angel gets its wings, or a dedicated beer-lover has the opportunity to sample something delightful from the world of beer.  One of the other.  It’s a Wonderful Life at the Barcelona Beer Festival on 15/16/17 March 2019 at La Farga de L’Hospitalet.