As you may have read in our blog post last week, our brewer Jim and myself have recently been over to Barcelona to brew with the team at Instituto de la Cerveza Artesana (ICA), following on from ICA’s trip to us in February where we created our own interpretation of their renowned Encantada beer.
One of the main purposes of our trip was to celebrate this first collaboration, and learn more about the history of Encantada. As part of this, we were honoured to be able to visit the Cova de Can Sadurni, where the original remains of the oldest beer in Europe, the inspiration behind Encantada, were found. We took with us a few litres of our version of the brew, and the limited edition that we have barrel aged here at Abbeydale, for the team working on the excavations to try. I studied history at uni, so the history geek in me was SO excited for this trip!
The cave itself is located in the picturesque mountain municipality of Begues, about a 40 minute drive from the centre of Barcelona. The journey there was beautiful, (if a little hairy at times, not the widest of roads!) winding up through the mountains with stunning sea views and Barcelona city stretching out behind us. There was a short walk up to the cave once at the site, where we did some foraging for the berries that go into the beer!
The site is managed by Archaeological Collective CIPAG, who have worked at the site since 1978. Since then, they have found over 30,000 fragments of prehistoric material at the cave, including numerous human burials and the vessel which the oldest evidence of fermentation was found upon, which we were actually allowed to hold (inner history geek in massive overdrive at this point!). The cave is absolutely awe-inspiring, cool and silent in contrast to the raging heat outside, and it sounds clichéd but you can really feel the impact of the passage of time in there. This year’s dig was imminent when we visited so the whole team, led by Manel and Pablo, had transformed the cave into a hive of reverent activity. We’ll definitely be watching out keenly for what they discover this year!
Our own version of Encantada went down well with the team – we were very pleased (and a tad relieved!) to discover that they felt we’d done their beer justice. Although the main batch of our Encantada is now sold out, we snuck some away into barrels back in March – the first of which was put into keg and sent to Abirradero – but the rest is still ageing in a variety of wood with carefully selected additions in each one. Look out for these super special releases coming later in the year!