Monday, September 16, 2013

Mega, Mega Micro: Mallorca's beer-making

Shouting lager, lager, lager; shouting mega, mega white thing. Shouting lager, lager, lager; shouting mega, mega beer park.

Underworld's frenetic, drum-driven techno anthem may be too frenetic for even Arenal's Mega Park when the annual bierfest gets underway and drinks itself into a month-long binge from 20 September. Schlagermusik may be more the order of the month or perhaps it will be Peter Wackel's insane "Scheiss drauf (Mallorca ist nur einmal im Jahr)".

It's that time of the year again. When September pretends it is October (or "Oktober" to be Germanically correct), attaches the suffix "fest" to the tenth month of the year and Germans get astonishingly drunk. Not one, not two but three fests - Arenal, Palma and Santa Ponsa - and all in the name of beer. A great deal of it. Palma gets lagered up from 26 September, while Santa Ponsa will have to wait until it really is October (the tenth day of the tenth month) for it to celebrate browny liquid with a white froth in a Masskrug. (There may also be one in Cala Millor; there was last year, but I can't confirm that it is taking place again this year.)

Arenal starts it all off, its poster for the event showing a suitably blonde, pigtailed Mädchen wearing a Dirndl, thrusting out a large glass of cold drink and sporting a welcoming smile. The image of a beer-holding girl in traditional Bavarian dress is synonymous with the bierfest wherever it might be held, and she is always beaming except on the occasions when she might not be. Fortunately, I don't recall the full impact of a cuff that was delivered at Munich's Hofbräu house many years ago.

Say beer to the Brit tourist and the names Tetley, Fosters and Guinness will come to mind. The more cosmopolitan of Britain's human exports will think San Miguel, Estrella or Cruzcampo (other Spanish branded beers are available). The German tourist will have his own imported brands, but the limited supply of German beers around and about on the island disguises the sheer volume of beers available back in Deutschland.

Go to pretty much any town or even village in Germany and you will find a brewery. The beer-making tradition of Germany partly stemmed from the belief (a not entirely unjustified belief) that beer was a vital form of sustenance. Beer-drinking may long ago have also become a means of getting drunk but it remains a part of the rhythm of a German healthy lifestyle. Every bit as important in warding of the crankiness of "Krankheit" as driving on motorways without speed limits, consuming industrial quantities of red meat, and nudism.

The German town brewery is not a microbrewery. There is a trend towards this miniaturisation of beer manufacture, as there is in other countries, and the microbrewery has increasingly come into its own in places where there isn't an obvious tradition of brewing. Places like Mallorca.

The first brewery in Mallorca was founded in 1905 and it was to become, in 1927, the Rosa Blanca brewery. In 1971 Rosa Blanca was sold to Pripps Española, a brewing company which had arrived on the island in the 1960s. Further acquisition - by Damm - eventually led to the brewery being closed in 1998.

A positive consequence of economic crisis has been the revival of artisan cottage industries and one of these has been the emergence in Mallorca of the microbrewery. At Palma's beer festival last year, four Mallorcan breweries were represented, one of them, the Tramuntana Cerveza Artesanal de Mallorca in Selva, being the microbrewery which has perhaps attracted most attention. The developing interest in beer and the growth of this artisan business has inspired events dedicated to beer which is "made in Mallorca". The fiesta in Maria de la Salut a couple of years back made artisan beer a part of the celebrations, and in Mancor de la Vall there was a beer show last weekend with fifteen brands and thirty types of beer, one of the breweries represented having been Beer Lovers, based in Alcúdia old town and launched in May this year.

The bierfests that are about to take place on the island will predominantly be corporate in style. The well-known brands will conceal what is a small but growing industry in Mallorca. Lager, lager, lager may be shouted at Mega Park, and the unwary may slip on beer slopped from a Masskrug, but elsewhere, born out of a craft revival, is a sort of beer underworld, now being discovered and coming into the light, that of the Mallorcan microbrewery.

Any comments to please.

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