April is now behind us and the Mostra de Vins i Aliments de la Comunidad Valenciana has closed its doors once again. Valencia´s famous wine and food fair will be measured by its successes such as increased visitor numbers, the increased number of wines submitted for the Concurso de Vinos and a number of other factors.
This year saw a number of increased initiatives by Proava, the organising body, such as the concentration of the craft ale brewers into a single area in the fair. It is this we concentrate on in this report.
That craft ales are popular in Valencia is not in doubt. It is four years since we first wrote a blog about the breweries in which we listed some 18 from the Valencian Community. Since then one or two have closed, some new ones have opened. For the last three years Las Provincias newspaper through its `Comer and Beber´column have held a craft ale competition each September and several of the breweries have opened bars in Valencia. They regularly attend the other gastronomy fairs closer to their home premises.
With help from Proava, this year 16 breweries came together, took a large covered area in the centre of the gardens in the fairs dry-riverbed location and showed…and sold… their beers! The breweries were Tyris, Abadia, Alegria, Antiga Artesana, Altura de Vuelo, Badum, Birra y Blues, Espiga, Galana, Genesis, Isanbeer, Ophidian, Socarrada, Tercer Tiempo, Valentium and Zeta.
The beers, all made from barley, water, yeast and hops and with fermentation in the bottle are real ales. They come in a range of styles such as the German weissbier, Pale and Indian Pale ales, Red ales, Porters, Stouts and Tostadas with an incredible and original range of flavours. The beers also have their local ingredients such as orange and rice from Genesis, artichokes or pumpkin from Badum, apricot from Galana, chufa from Birra y Blues and seawater from Socarrada.
Neither is there any doubt that it was a success. Marketed as `Valencia Beer Week´the beer tent was rarely quiet, seeing peak attendance on the Saturday evening and Monday and has received its own press coverage. There was even a competition to send a pair of lucky winners to a weekend beer fest in Belgium!
We spoke to three of the organisers to judge their response to the event and plans for the future ( Gonzalo Diaz, Tyris; Rob Craig, Ophidian and Toni Galvez, Antiga Artesana.
The consensus from them and their discussions with their colleagues was that the help from Proava and the concentrated format in one area had been very successful. The beer drinkers had been able to locate the facility and focus on the one area. They all spoke of experienced beer drinkers and the un-initiated having enjoyed themselves.
Gonzalo told us whilst there had been one or two teething problems, all the breweries had covered the costs of their participation, and whilst there is still the lack of a formal association to organise the event and represent the brewers there was a general feeling that the concept needs to be taken forward. It was also the first time the brewers had come together in such an event.
Australian born Rob was very pleased with the sales of his Blue Serpent and Taipan ales, estimating his Naquera brewery would have sold 360 litres of draft Taipan and 1600 bottles over the four and a half days of the fair. Multiply that by 16 and you have an idea of just how successful the `beer week´ had been.
Toni confirmed much the same satisfaction and a willingness to participate in future events.
Talking individually to Rob and Gonzalo it is not entirely clear how this will be taken forward, although there are several substantial ideas being floated for discussion and agreement amongst the brewers. First is to separate the event from the Mostra and concentrate on a beer related event. This would not aim to compete with the well established Barcelona Beer Fair with its exhibitions by manufacturers of brewing equipment, but would be more focused on the product. A new location would also need to be found more suited to a beer festival and with space where live music might also be played and where substantial meals can be cooked, sold and eaten.
The beer producers need to quickly sort out an Association to represent them , then identify a promoter to identify a location once the event has been defined and organise the event, catering, music etc. None of these are rocket science and we identified much more positivity amongst the brewers this year to make it happen.
There is undoubtedly scope for such an event to be part of Valencia´s tourism promotion. Craft ales are already being sold in top restaurants as they match well with some Valencian Gastronomy. This sort of event could prove just as popular as the imported German `Oktoberfest´ held in the bull ring every year but with Valencian produce. And there is scope to tie into it the Annual Craft Ale competition as well! We wish the organisers well and look forward to seeing a new Valencia Beer Week soon! Cheers!