IT’S styled on brown ale, a bevvy that reminds me of Newcastle and working mens’ clubs ‘up north’ but Gran de Select’s Vintage dark ale has greater ambitions than to be supped from a mug at a bar.
This is a craft beer to be opened with a champagne pop and sipped from long-stemmed glasses in fine dining restaurants to complement dessert or the cheese course.
Every artisan ale hailing from this boutique brewery is produced by the champagne method. Each undergoes a second fermentation in an elegant Italian glass bottle fitted with a cork made from the trees in neighbouring Los Alcornocales Natural Park.
There’s golden Pilsner – a match for white meat, sushi and seafood; amber Reserva, a pale ale partner for red meat and spicy foods; and limited editions with drink-me names like Passion, Spice and Wild to make it a party. Brewed by Danes, probably the best beer makers in the world, co-founder Mads Sorenson’s grandfather had a lifetime job with Carlsberg and pioneered one of the world’s first microbreweries.
You can try some on the house at an Open Day (see their Facebook page). Their microbrewery in the hills is within spitting distance – only, with beer you don’t spit – of the sulphur springs where Julius Caesar took a bath circa 60BC. Added to Manilva’s award-winning wines, the town is becoming quite the watering hole!
The mineral-rich water also makes great ale, one of the reasons this family of master brewers came here to create a worthy competitor for the new gastro sport of beer pairing.
Not so long ago, if you sat down in a posh restaurant and ordered a pint of ale, you would have been shown the wine list or even the door. Now it’s quite the thing Stateside, where ‘beer sommeliers’ are suddenly in big demand. Gran de Select is endorsed by Martin Berasategui, Spain’s most Michelin-starred chef and beer corks are starting to pop in swanky restaurants along the Costa.
We sampled Spice, a wicked little winter warmer with orange notes and a hint of fizz. It came with an artisan beer-infused burger slathered in artisan onion jam, which you can also buy on the premises – a warehouse on an industrial estate accessed by a road Caesar himself might have travelled on, judging from the profusion of weeds and potholes.
But you get to see the shiny brew kettles, smell the barley and hops, visit the cellars and sample the finished product. Commercial sessions in a bijou tasting room can also be arranged for companies and groups. And after a fair bit of extra sampling ourselves, at discounted prices, we clanked out with enough bubbly-shaped bottles to launch a fleet of ships.
I’m not sure how Newcastle Brown bros will take to champagne ales at cava prices, or purists who like their craft beers on tap from oak casks. But with restaurants under pressure to roll out ever more avant garde gastronomic offerings, who knows – brown ale and tiramisu could be a maridaje made in heaven!