It's been called the solution to all problems, appreciated all over the place, a good friend to many, a wonderful taste—that's right, I'm talking about beer. Have you ever wondered, "how is beer made?" 

Beer is thought to have been around since the beginning of civilization. By 9000 BC, humans began to organize themselves in communities and develop agricultural activities, abandoning nomadic life. But the first record of beer was found in Sumerian clay tablets around 4000 BC.

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Amelia Weller

Beer was very important in ancient Iran, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It was probably discovered when the grains they grew for food got wet and fermented. Fermentation transformed water into a very appetizing drink. Fact: Beer was the most popular beverage because it was safer to drink than water, as Benjamin Franklin said: "In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria."

In the US, beer has been produced since the 16th century, with a strong beer drinking tradition coming from England. It has become one of the essential drinks for Americans and there are more than 5,000 breweries in the country. 

I had the chance to talk to a young entrepreneur who created his own beer brand and he told me everything about his exciting project! Meet Oriol, a Barcelona-based engineer, and enjoy his beer story.

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Spoon: How did you start your own beer brand?

Oriol: Everything started eight years ago. We had just discovered craft beer, at that time there were only around 10 crafted beers in Barcelona, and finding them was pretty hard. We decided to start this non-profit organization in a small town 40 km away from Barcelona. We opened once a month and sold craft beer to our friends and people from the area.

After a while I got my first "set" to produce. A camping cooler, a 1200-oz casserole, and a plastic fermentor. Together with Salvador, a beer master I had met before, we created the first recipe and tried it at my place. The beer tasted terrible! But we loved it. So we decided to repeat. We planned an event with our friends and they all loved it, which inspired us to continue.

We kept producing beers, getting better and better every day, until we could produce our first IPA Chinook batch. I will always remember that moment, when we tried our first bottle, we were crying of joy! It was perfect. That’s when we decided to start our own brand: La Barraca. 

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Spoon: Where did you get the knowledge from?

Oriol: My friend Salvador taught me the basics: milling the grain, mash conversion, boiling, wort separation, and cooling, fermentation, etc.—enough to be able to produce beer, but I wanted more. I wanted to understand it, to get why you would use each and every ingredient and proportions. I started to devour books. My recommendations from beginner to pro level are: The Joy of Homebrewing, The Brewer’s Companion, Brewing Classic Styles, Designing Great Beers and finally Yeast.

But definitely, the best way to learn is to try over and over again, until you reach that flavor you were looking for, until you feel your creation is right. 

Spoon: What were your biggest challenges?

Oriol: When we started, there weren’t much ingredient distributors. We had to drive for an hour to get the hop. And they didn’t always have the one we needed. At the beginning, we had a lot of stock problems. We produced twice a month, but our beer would be sold out so fast that we started to produce weekly, even twice a week. We were students, so we could only produce on the weekends. We had to organize ourselves and update our equipment.  

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Spoon: We're all wondering how beer is made...

Oriol: It is a very simple process, but you need neatness, time, and patience. I will summarize it for you, but you can check out books and websites for step-by-step instructions. First of all, the malt is milled. Malted barley is soaked in hot water to release the malt sugars. The wort is boiled with hops to give the beer its distinctive bitterness.

The hopped wort is cooled and yeast is added to begin fermentation. The yeast ferments, releasing CO2 and alcohol. When the fermentation is complete (two weeks), the beer is ready to be bottled, but you would have to wait for an extra month before tasting it, as it has to carbonate. Great things come out of patience!

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Spoon: What is the most common myth about beer?¨

Oriol: I think that the temperature myth. Beer should be taken at room temperature. Barcelona is a Mediterranean, sunny and warm city. When we talk about the room temperature, Barcelona’s is 68 degrees while Munich’s is 44!

The best temperature to taste a beer is 46.5. Anything under that prevents fragrances from evaporating. It is very hard to notice the different ingredients (that is why industrialized beer is served so cold!).

Spoon: Have you worked with alternative ingredients?

Oriol: Yes, in fact, that’s what I’ve specialized in. Once you know how beer is made and have practiced enough, you can play with different ingredients. Spain is one of the European countries with the best fruits and wines. Nevertheless, the breweries that specialize in fruity beers are mainly in Belgium, one of the countries that buy wooden barricades used by Spanish bodegas.

When I realized this, I started to try recipes with local ingredients. IPA with apple, Imperial Stout with green apricots, Belgian Blonde with Valencian oranges. Without a doubt, the most original ingredient that I’ve used was Ibizan salt. But my favorite one is grapes. 

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Spoon: What do your friends say about your beer?

Oriol: Reviews from friends are a little tricky. They tell me it's great! What else would they say? They're my friends! My recommendation is to always be critical. You cannot think your beers are perfect, you would be deceiving yourself. There is always something to improve. The best reviews always come from other brewers. Oh, and also, don't forget to enjoy it! You are creating a product for other people to savor and love the consumption experience. 

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Has your inner brewer woken up yet? Now that you have an idea of how beer is made, you know what you would be getting yourself into! If you happen to be in Barcelona and want to do a craft beer tasting with Oriol, he offers a very cool tour that's 100% in English. You can learn more about beer and also taste many different styles. For more information on his tours, check out this link.