Last autumn, for the second year in a row, I was fortunate to visit Spain and experience, up close, the growth of the country’s beer industry.

The Feria Internacional “El Arte de la Cerveza Artesana” was held in the culinary city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, where the locals embrace excellent food and are quickly appreciating good beer. During my days in the city, I was fortunate to try many of the beers being produced in the country, from innovative twists on a Helles lager from Zeta Brewing, to inspiring sours by the Sesma Brewery. Other standout breweries include Falken Brewing Co., which won a consumer preference award.

Spanish Beer TripWhat was most evident from my last visit was 1) the overall use of hops has increased. Brewers are less afraid, it seems to include moderate, sometimes generous amount of hops in their ales. This reflects both a brewer’s willingness to use the ingredient and consumer’s acceptance. 2) Fewer infected beers. My first visit to Spain was full of clearly infected beers. They were difficult to drink. Better education, higher standards, and brewer pride has led to cleaner beers coming to market.

Seeing protocols and the facilities of breweries like Mateo & Bernabe and Naparbier show the standards that are in place in other countries are coming to prominence in Spain.

spanish beer boothI can’t imagine that anyone left this year’s”El Arte de la Cerveza Artesana” unhappy. Not only was there an excellent selection of beer, but the food options were delicious and filling and the general sense of camaraderie between the attendees and the brewers was fun to watch. Watching the families, couples, friends dance, drink and eat in what is truly a unique setting is what made the event memorable for me. The organizers went to great lengths to present a safe, friendly, and educational experience for everyone who walked through the door. Because of beer’s great influence on food, this year’s location made sense and people clearly responded.

I suspect this was just the first of what will be many years of successful beer and food festivals.