On the island of Lanzarote, and as we pass the house that Omar Sharif famously lost in a poker game, my pal tells me he has sadly passed away that week. When Im on holiday all comms are off, the closest I get to the outside world is helping my son write a postcard to send back to his nursery. And Lanzarote feels isolated, stuck out off the coast of Africa, far away from its Spanish roots. We then pass the large swirling Cesar Manrique statue which is twirling like billy-ho in the strongbreeze. We’re on the outskirts of Costa Teguise, not to be mistaken with the market town by the name of Teguise further inland. After asking a local restaurant for directions, we eventually find the little unobtrusive restaurant at the side of the road which was our goal. We wandered inside and again nothing out of the ordinary here. Just a nice little well-kept restaurant. However, head out the back of the restaurant and you discover a stunning volcanic crater which basks in glorious sunshine and provides shelter from the aforementioned breeze. On further inspection you notice the sunken warehouse next to the restaurant which houses several shiny stainless steel vessels and eureka, you’ve stumbled on lanzarotes first shoots of craft sprouting up from the volcanic landscape. This is Los Aljibes!
On arrival we discovered that the front of house spoke no English, but no matter we had with us my pal Steve who has lived in Lanzarote for 6 years now and while he hasn’t dropped his Geordie twang, he has picked up a fair bit of Spanish. So after a quick chat with the waitress we deciphered that they had two beers on, a Helles and an American pale ale. I was keen to chat to the brewer but sadly he wasn’t in so the waitress was grilled via my Spanish speaking compadre. That quickly led to us being taken to the brewhouse door and let loose to wander about as she got back to looking after her customers! As respectable folk, we didn’t touch a thing but had a good nose at the equipment, which I would reckon on being a 2 and a half barrel system? More educated readers may be able to tell me. The brewery area did reveal a hopback and a bottling plant as well as sweet little swing top bottles which seemed to only contain the American pale ale for now at least.
After a neb round the brewery we headed back to the sunshine and refreshment. We ordered three pints of helles and when it arrived it was brilliantly cold and crisp and very welcome. Light in colour, slight haze, brilliant white lasting head. First taste was biscuit, pilsner-esq, slight banana ester, good carbonation. Nice beer. Very Germanic.
Ive chatted with Steven for many years about beer. He’s a real beer fan and is himself a frustrated homebrewer. I say frustrated because he’s tried brewing on the island, but the price of delivery for the grains has gone through the roof making it not a realistic hobby to have. But interestingly the beers Ive had from him when he was able to get the malt, was all german sourced produce and had a very distinctive Germanic flavour. The hops are saaz-esq, the malts are all pilsner type malts and low and behold the end product is very german style in flavour. Not that there is anything wrong with that. In this Helles it was fully expected and seemed very appropriate for the style.
Next up we ordered a round of Aguita, their American pale ale. Here we go I thought, the one thing every hophead misses when you hop out of the country and to a hop wilderness where the beer contains no hops, is a pint of something cold, crisp and hopped to high hevaens to smack you round the chops like a tangoman face slap. My expectation was moderated by the realistic understanding that this was a new brewery, Steve guestimated that they’d been in place only a few months so to expect a top drawer refined cannonball competitor was probably abit of a stretch. However, that didn’t stop me from getting excited at the prospect.
Our beers arrived. First thing I noticed was that it was darker in colour than I expected. More Landlord in colour than Sierra Nevada pale ale. It had a large off white head which didn’t dash away in the heat. First taste, initial hit of carbonation, thicker mouthfeel than the helles, stronger malt backbone, more bittering hops in the boil. I got a hint of wheat to the flavour, but aside from that Im afraid the flavour was all too similar to the Helles. Same Germanic malts, same Germanic hops.
Problem here was my expectation. I expected an American pale ale like the ones I drink regularly back home, this wasn’t of their ilk. Once you get over that however, forget about what style this beer is pertaining to be, and actually this is a very tasty pint indeed. Like I say strong malt backbone, real caramel biscuit sweetness which is countered by the hops so as not to be sickly. You find that by the time you reach the bottom of that first pint you’re enjoying it. You simply don’t get other beers on this island with quite such pronounced flavours so for that I applaud them.
The Aguita is also available in bottles to take home so I took a couple home as a momento.
As visitors to Lanzarote soon realise, the vast majority of things in Lanzarote are imported at great cost. They are very isolated off the coast of Africa which gives great weather all year round but is no good for trade routes. So for any beer at all to be being brewed on the island is a minor miracle. There’s clearly a goal here to brew genuine artisan craft beers and while it’ll take time and commitment, the passion is there and these first beers are both of good quality. I will make sure I visit every time I head to the island and I would encourage any of you reading to head there if you’re on your hols and want a break from bland generic lager. The staff are all very welcoming and friendly and will take good care of you while you’re there. As I said earlier this is the first green shoot of craft on the island and I think we all want to nurture it and watch it bloom