This year’s meat feast in Manlleu, some 80 km north of Barcelona, was a perfect platform for the new generation of Catalan craft beer brewers and a testament to the lasting appeal of traditional gastronomy.
After having thoroughly enjoyed last year’s Festa del Porc i de la Cervesa I wasn’t going to miss a second helping. Unfortunately, the limited accommodation had long since sold out in Manlleu so we set out on an early train from Barcelona on Saturday, looking forward to at least one full day of the three-day festival.
The train track to Manlleu seems to have been laid by someone with a disdain for conventional land surveying or a deep-seated hatred of spirit-levels. As a result, the train lurches wildly from side to side for an hour and a half and feels more like a rodeo bronc ride than a relaxing rumble through the countryside.
So it was with knuckles slowly un-whitening that we walked into town to find that everything was much the same as 2013’s festival: a hog roast, butchery demonstrations, children’s activities, beer-related tastings and workshops, local restaurants and food producers selling their wares from stalls, and lots of cultural and musical performances by local residents.
The air was already thick with the smell of woodsmoke and roasting pork from where two pigs slowly rotated over embers for the evening’s feast.
It was a real pleasure to attend presentations and tastings from passionate Catalan craft beer producers like La Calavera, Tribal and Terra. There was no such thing as a quality local beer when I arrived in Catalonia in the late 90s; now there are dozens. It made me extremely happy to see my fellow (adopted) countrymen’s eyes light up when they discussed (and tried to pronounce) dry-hopping and the like. I never thought I’d see the day, but I love it.
My only (minor) criticism was of the wide glasses used for the tastings. I’m not sure why the official festival beer glasses, which were widely available elsewhere, weren’t used because they would have been much more suitable.
Local gastronomy magazine Cuina had sponsored the event and Saturday was officially ‘Día Cuina’. Following an interesting presentation from Gepork about the R&D steps involved in creating and bringing to market their BerVic pork, Cuina director Josep Sucarrats presented some delighted bloggers with goody bags of pork products as prizes for winning a recipe competition.
I was devastated to discover that the hog roast and butchery demo, advertised for 5.30pm, would not be actually serving the delicious, slow-smoked meat until 9pm. The last train left at 8.30pm. I was stuffed full of wild boar stew, pork meatballs and clams, butifarras, fuets, llonganissas and all manner of other pork products by that point but I was still very disappointed.
Apart from that down note, the day was a happy one full of blazing sunshine and great things to eat and drink. Manlleu’s a handsome town and the festival’s extremely well-organized. Vegetarians and tee-totallers might want to give it a miss but I highly recommend it to everyone else.