From Dublin to London, and finally to Penedès in Barcelona. Meet Martina – Co-Owner of BeerCat Craft Beer Brewery Barcelona.
Born in Dublin into a family of hardened Dublin stout drinkers and occasional employees in St James´s Gate (also fond of a drop of Jameson´s on the side). On the maternal side were the Wexford revolutionaries, musicians and illicit poteen distillers (mountain moonshine). This gave me a love of song, stout and hard liquor – in a very ladylike way of course! This is my story, and how I became the Co-Owner of BeerCat Craft Beer Brewery Barcelona.
I spent a year in Catalonia post-university, teaching English and fell in love with the Mediterranean and all things Catalan and Spanish. Despite leaving after a year for new adventures in Bogotá, I vowed to return one day. Scroll forward (quite) a few years and I´ve married the boss! He tells me that I am the love of his life, after Arsenal FC and beer! We had two kids and I was working as a criminal defense solicitor. I remember feeling like there was something missing in my life – apart from natural light obviously… police cells and courtrooms don´t have windows! We realized that it was time for new adventures so we packed the kids and the dog into an estate car and headed for the sun! And of course, boldly go where no man has gone before – brewing beer in the Penedès.
When we arrived in Barcelona you couldn´t get a decent pint anywhere and so we set out to remedy that. Cue very very steep learning curve! Catalan classes, poultry keeping, jam-making, and brewing. Peter and I early on made a decision that he´d be the principal beer-maker as I was better at cooking than him. And of course, someone had to feed the kids. So for the first few years, I was the assistant brewer and general dogsbody, social media whizz kid, sales and delivery person. Living the dream?
Our ethos was from the beginning be local. We´d come from London where everything was industrial and faceless and the charm of the Penedès was the fact that everything was done on a small scale. It was by the person who was also your neighbor. We had to import hops and malt* but were determined that everything else should be local. Luckily Vilafranca del Penedès as the capital of the wine industry is the perfect place to find the necessary infrastructure.
Furthermore, we sourced local manufacturers of wine tanks who manufactured the brewery based on our designs and spec. Subsequently, they have now set up a separate business as a result of that, producing beer tanks! There were suppliers of bottles, labels, logistical support etc. We used local tradespeople to do the building work and installation of the brewery.
The logical conclusion of all this was to try to brew beer with a real local flavor and so we came up with the Penedès Series, a series of seasonal beers celebrating the bounty of the surrounding countryside. Bitter oranges grown by our neighbors for the winter El Taronger, loquats, again grown by neighbors for the spring beer, Loquatious. Finally, ordal peaches (special non irrigated peach) only grown in the Ordal region. This is the basis for our summer beer, Flor d’Ordal. These peaches are so exceptional they even have their own market festival! Now, many of our beers are made with fruits grown by a family business a couple of miles up the road.
Our brewery is in the bodega owned by the Mascaró wine, cava and brandy producers and they very kindly supplied us with brandy barrels to age the Penedès Series beers in. We are situated in the wine district of Vilafranca del Penedès. Here, with neighbors like Pinord and Torres, we hope that this marriage of the wine and beer industry will be, at least in Vilafranca, the future of craft beer.
We now have a bar & restaurant where we continue that local ethos. We make everything on the premises. These include sauces made from seasonal fruits and vegetables and buy local cheeses and charcuterie. We smoke our own meat and use only organic and high welfare meat. The bread is baked fresh every morning in Vilafranca and delivered to us by the baker himself. Likewise the ice-cream we buy. Desserts are all home-made – by me of course!
I thought I was a multi-tasker in London, looking after kids and having a demanding career but I was a novice in those days. I now run the bar/restaurant with help from the fabulous Elena. Not to mention I also do administration, deal with overseas sales etc. And, of course, I am also head honcho in the Grand Schemes Department.
So, yes we did it! We boldly did indeed go where no man has gone before – brewing beer in the Penedès!
*We import our Malt from Cork – Malting Company of Ireland. We are the only brewery in Spain using genuine Irish malt to produce a genuine Irish stout. We have a number of products available from crushed ale, lager and stout malts to wholegrain versions. We understand brewers and their needs so whether you’re an enthusiast home brewer or a major brewery contact us for competitive rates and prices.