Route: Diary of the visit to Gabarrera (Author: Natalie – partner 2D)
Can I tell you a secret… don’t worry; I’m not going to ask you to keep it. In fact, the opposite, I want you to share it, share it with your friends, your family, shout it from the rooftops, if you like.
About 40 minutes drive out of Madrid, as the epic sierra begins to envelop you and the stress and worries of Spain’s capital city are beginning to be just a distant memory, is the sleepy village of Mataelpino. At first look it’s just another of the little villages hidden in the mountains surrounding the city but on closer inspection there is something different in the air here.
The village of Mataelpino is the birthplace of the Gabarrera artisan microbrewery, brainchild of Javi Terrón and Monica Somacarrerra. This is not just your average microbrewery that has popped up as the artisan beer craze has swept up the hipsters of the world, the roots of this project run much deeper. Gabarrera is the first and only organic CAM certified beer to be made under the criteria of fair-trade, not just in the province of Madrid but in the whole of Spain. It is a social project that works with the community, and groups within it, that are at risk of social exclusion.
Hidden back from the road up a small hill the Gabarrera artisan brewery is small and perfectly formed.
On the day of our visit Monica starts off by sharing with us a little of the history of beer in Spain. She is a captivating storyteller with an infectious passion. Spain, she tells us, the country generally thought of as the land of wine, actually it turns out has a history of beer production dating back at least 5000 years. The original brewers being woman, with the familial recipes being passed down, mother to daughter.
Spain in fact did not become the land of wine, in the way we know it today, until after the romans invaded with their grapes.
Back to today, and we get down to the important business of sampling the beer. Javi, with his infinite knowledge, takes us through a tasting of 3 very different but equally delicious creations.
He talks us through the tastes and flavours that make each beer complex and individual. The process of production, and the all-important temperature at which each beer should be imbibed.
We discuss the concept of beer as a living organism, that continues to develop (ferment) in the bottle and that should be allowed to breath for a moment once opened before it is consumed, as well as about the health benefits of drinking organic beer (in moderation). How it works with your body and digestive system, and the contraindications of mas produced beer with all of its chemicals and unnatural processes.
Monica and Javi are an amazing team, you can see from their enthusiasm and dedication that this is more than a job, it is a calling, a way of life. Born in 2014 after 4 years of hard graft, they are getting to a point where they are becoming known in the industry and are working everyday to increase their community driven distribution network, but it has not always been plain sailing.
The beer sector in Spain is very much a monopoly of the big players, they sell a lot and they sell it cheap, but like many of the world’s big businesses based on a capitalist business model, organic and sustainable practices are not high up on their list of priorities. This became very apparent to Monica and Javi when trying to source their ingredients like organic malt and organic hops there was a resounding NO ‘that doesn’t exist in Spain’ NO ‘It’s not possible’ NO ‘you have to import’. For Monica it was a little like banging your head against a brick wall full of No’s, but not one to give up easily (ever) she kept going, kept searching, until one day there was a YES.
Gabarrra is not just about beer, it’s a way of life, it’s about changing peoples habits, educating people about the importance of ingredients, of inclusion, and of community. Producing something to benefit all – not just the beer connoisseur, but by working with the land in a sustainable way, working with local people, creating jobs, building stronger community connections and last but by no means least producing a natural product that helps and does not harm.
A big thanks to 2D for organizing this excursion to the mountains and for doing what they do by finding their amazing producers and bringing their products to us in the city to enjoy.
Also, a big thanks to Monica and Javi, for their generosity and for taking the time to share their story, their beer and for showing us there is another way, a way made with love and passion. Looking forward to our next visit!!