Ø: You are one of the co-organizers of the Barcelona Beer Festival, the pride of our city that breaks attendance records year after year. Also you are in charge of coordinating and directing one of the parts that I personally enjoy the most and await with great enthusiasm: the agenda of parallel activities that include tastings, pairings, presentations, meet the brewers, conferences and debates led by great professionals in the sector.
In your experience during all these years, have you noticed an increase in the interest of the general public for this type of activities offered within the framework of the festival? Do you feel that people, besides drinking, sharing the moment with friends and having fun, are increasingly looking to learn about beer culture?
Joan: Every year the activities of the Barcelona Beer Festival has had a faithful audience, more or less quantifiable, with many familiar faces that edition after edition were paraded through several of the different scheduled sessions. Although in the 2018 edition, the seventh, there was an unexpected wave of interest in the parallel activities that exceeded any forecast, to the point that several of the scheduled sessions were sold out within hours of going on sale, with full occupation during the Festival.
The interest in these parallel activities has been growing, especially since there are bars in the city that remind you of a small beer festival every weekend. However, the attendants of the activities are in 80% or 90% of the cases already initiated, specialized and professionals: the challenge is to better reach the general public as a Festival; also in the Activities.
Ø: Of all the personalities of the beer world that you have had the opportunity to meet, present or interview, who is the person who has inspired you the most?
Joan: I could give you at least one name in each area of the different aspects of beer. To guide the answer in some concrete direction, I will focus on my facet as a writer.
Although when forming my editorial style I have taken inspiration from many people, both inside and outside the beer industry. Surely the largest influence I have had is from the journalist, writer and beer historian Martyn Cornell. I was lucky to be sitting at the same table as him in a conference for beer bloggers held in Dublin in 2014, and since then we have met several times.
He is a first class communicator, with a pleasant style despite the large amount of content immersed in each line he writes, detail-obsessed and rigorous, who pays a lot of attention to history but also to the present. He is also a great person and a great beer drinker (in the best sense possible), with such knowledge and capacity for reflection that it is a pleasure to hear him talk about beer, either live, in his publications, in different media, or in each of his books.
Ø: Besides writing about beer, host tastings, leading debates, making interviews and being a beer evaluator, another of your passions is reading. What three books would you recommend to these three different profiles: beginner - medium - expert?
Joan: I do not like to think of the readers in terms of beginner or expert: there are books that cover the previous profiles transversally, such as my first recommendation, the essential ‘Tasting Beer’ by Randy Mosher.
In my opinion, the recommendations are more in line with the preferences, reading formats and obsessions of each person. For someone who is looking for a format away from technical manuals such as prose, and a highly entertaining and informative style I would suggest any book by the English writer Pete Brown, although I prefer ‘Man Walks Into to Pub’ for discovering the more social side of the drink.
To combine history and brewing tradition, and in line with my tendencies towards beers of British origin, I cannot leave out the book that for me is the best beer book in my collection: ‘Amber, Gold & Black’, by Martyn Cornell.
Ø: Regarding styles: I remember that the last time we met you told me about a majestic Cask Ale that you tried during a recent stay in the United Kingdom. I know that this question is not easy, but if you had to opt for a style, would you go more towards the classic or would the scale lean towards the latest styles?
Joan: When it comes to beer I am a person with classic tastes, and I have no doubt that I would stay with traditional styles. Within the traditional, despite my passion for Belgian beer, the passing of time and the social side of beer have taught me to appreciate classic British beers above all others.
They are beers so full of flavor and nuance that in many cases barely exceed 4% ABV; they are designed to drink, to socialize with family, friends and neighbors; to share different moments and events. They are fragile beers that outside the ideal conditions spoil easily, but that have a cultural and social dimension so exciting that all we can do is respect, admire and enjoy them. My scale is clearly tipping in favor of those beers.
If within these I had to choose a family, I would surely stay with the Mild, that masterfully combine many of the things that I like to find in a beer, and that, unfortunately, have been ignored for years.