When speaking with people like Arturo it is easy to reach the conclusion that Hunter S. Thompson's famous quote "Good people drink good beer" is quite accurate. And most definitely in his case. Arturo Ruiz, in addition to being a great person and craft beer fan, has been one of the protagonists of our beer landscape for a few years now. All this from his center of operation: Mikkeller Barcelona, where he works as Bar Manager.
Born in Venezuela, and after several years of residing in Miami, he decided to pack his suitcase and establish a life in Barcelona. Including Arturo in the POURTRAITS series of C R A F T E D is a privilege, as well as having the opportunity to chat and share a few beers with him in one of the most stylish bars in the city.
Ø: How did it all start? Where does your enthusiasm for the craft beer culture come from?
Arturo: When I moved to Barcelona more than 11 years ago, I only knew the big companies that produce lager beers that I could find in the American supermarkets. I always wanted to try something different, but what I didn't know is that I was always having the same style, just different brands ... And let’s not mention the quality!
When I arrived here I tried some Belgian classic beers (a special mention here to Chimay). At that time I lived in Llucmajor and on my route home I passed by 2D2Dspuma, where I drank my first IPA around 8 or 9 years ago, a "Punk IPA" to be more precise. Diego, who was the bartender at this bar (and maybe still is, I have not visited them for several years!) reminded me that the last time I was there I loved the Punk, so he recommended a hoppy classic local brew at that time, "Sang de Gossa" by ZULOGAARDEN. From that point I was hooked to craft beer, and 2D2Dspuma became my usual hang out.
On a separate occasion, when I was accompanying a friend who came from Norway (more skilled in craft beer than myself), we were doing a bit of sightseeing around the city and came across the Cerveteca. I loved that place and for many years it was reference point. Coincidentally 6 years ago my wife and I opened a bakery just two minutes away.
The business did not go as well as we hoped so we decided to close it. At that moment Mikkeller opened, and I decided to give it a go. Thomas Rohde gave me an opportunity and since then I have been working here.
Ø: A question to the home brewer inside of you: do you consider it important to know about the ingredients and the brewing process to be able to appreciate a good craft beer and enjoy it to the fullest?
Arturo: I don't think it's completely necessary, but it helps to understand why a specific beer can become so sublime. Just the interaction between the ingredients … But there’s one thing I can not stand: people who are only concerned in finding flaws in beers. For me a beer is made to be enjoyed.
Ø: How long have you been the Bar Manager of Mikkeller Barcelona?
Arturo: Since May 2016.
Ø: Although nowadays it seems impossible, at least for me, to imagine Barcelona’s beer scene without the presence of Mikkeller Barcelona, this month (November) it has only been three years since the Danish microbrewery landed in the city. What do you think, looking back, the arrival of a brewery of such prestige has meant for Barcelona, and vice versa?
Arturo: I think it's an added value to the strong local beer scene. We arrived in a second wave. Places like 2D2Dspuma, La Cerveteca, Ale & Hop, George & Dragon, Jazz Brewery, Freiburg, etc. did the hard work providing the base where places like Biercab, Garage and us, among others, are present now.
On the other hand we have to say that Barcelona is internationally renowned, and I think more than one beer brand would like to be present here.
Ø: Mikkeller has an increasing number of locations around the world that all share the design and the cool, minimalist aesthetic that we love. Everything is well thought through, to the detail, and I think it is something that we associate with the brewery. But it is also true that in each of the locations I have visited I have perceived a unique identity. Is it important for you that those who visit Mikkeller Barcelona feel that they are in a bar in Barcelona and not just in another Mikkeller that is identical to the ones they can visit in any other country?
Arturo: As you say there is a common thread within the brand, but there is something beyond the design: the people who work there. I think that the Mikkeller Barcelona team is friendly and we like to share the experience with the people who come to the bar. Not only with the staff, but also with other people in the bar.
Ø: In addition to having Mikkeller beers on tap, you also have guest breweries on your blackboard, local and international. Do you have customers interested in trying beers from other brands?
Arturo: This question really makes me laugh. I have had complaints that there are many Mikkeller beers on the board and that we do not have enough guest beers. I have to admit that at first it bothered me a little. But then I started ignoring the criticisms and I always try to have as much variety as possible with a couple of local beers in the mix.
Ø: In the bar, in addition to your 24 taps, you have an extensive bottle menu that includes true gems. If you had to choose three bottles from that list to celebrate a bottle share with fellow beer geeks what would they be?
Arturo: We would start with the SPONTANCHERRY FREDERIKSAL, then from there we would continue with the 2012 SANTA'S LITTLE HELPER aged in white wine barrels, and we would end with "Amandio" from WARPIGS, an Imperial Stout aged in Porto barrels.
Ø: Another one of your beer projects is the craft beer importer and distributor Ola Chica. Could you tell me a little more about what it is? What beers are included in your portfolio and what areas do you cover with your distribution?
Arturo: Well, more than being my project I would say I help out, since the work at the bar takes up most of my time. In general terms, it is the importer and distributor of Mikkeller and Warpigs for Spain.
We are in a process of improving the quality and the delivery time from Copenhagen to the arrival at each bar. We have barely been functioning 2 months at 100%, but it is quite exciting to see the interest that exists throughout the territory for the brand.
Ø: According to your experience and as a professional in the craft beer sector field, can you tell us your opinion on the evolution of knowledge and the growing interest in beer in restaurants and other establishments around the country that are not specialized in craft beer?
Arturo: It's a process that's evolving, and it's been hard. But you can already see the results. The great example is that the big brands are betting on making styles that they did not brew before (this does not mean that they do it well), which brings consumers closer to and more aware of quality beer. Also the biggest craft breweries in the country have increasingly more international recognition, and this creates more attention when attracting new customers.
Ø: What styles of beer could you never be without in the fridge of a bar or a restaurant that seeks to differentiate itself from the rest, including quality craft beer?
Arturo: IPA, IPA, IPA ... it is the style that opens the doors to the world of craft beer. Although a good Kriek never did hurt anyone, hehehe..!
Ø: Finally: High, low, mixed or spontaneous fermentation?
Arturo: They all have their place, but if you would twist my arm I’d choose mixed or spontaneous fermentation. The "Saison Brett" by TROIS MOUSQUETAIRES or the "Arctic Saison" by GRASSROOTS BREWING (HILL FARMSTEAD BREWERY), for example. Or any classic Lambic. As for local beers, I’d choose anything from LA CALAVERA BREWING COOP. and CYCLIC BEER FARM.
Mikkeller Barcelona. Calle Valencia, 202, 08011 Barcelona