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Flavour Fireworks Courtesy of Mahou’s Barrel Aged Lager

When I received an invitation to visit the Mahou Brewery in Madrid in July 2018 I knew barely anything about the company and had never tasted its flagship beer Cinco Estrellas.  In the UK I am probably not alone, although there can be few people who do not know another hugely popular brand owned by Mahou– San Miguel.   Mahou (pronounced Mow) is Spain’s largest brewing company with its beers in 60 countries. It also owns the Alhambra brand, plus stakes in Spanish craft brewer Nómada Brewing and the influential Founders Brewery in the USA.

‘Big Beer’ I muttered to myself when I learned these facts.  But then I spent a couple of days in Madrid with members of the brewing and marketing teams and had the full Mahou experience. It started with a visit to the gargantuan main brewery, then on to the company’s stylish brew-pub Espacio Cervecero where I helped to judge the food and beer matches created by catering students sponsored by Mahou, followed by dinner at the fabulous Street XO restaurant for some stunning food matched with exemplary barrel aged lagers (more of those later). It ended with some gentle head-banging at the Mad Cool music festival. I was smitten.

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On Planet Beer America is Leader of the Free World

A few years ago I was quoted in the Daily Telegraph about how the shape of glassware enhances specific characteristics in beer and that the ugly pint glass had no place on a dining table because it was one of several reasons why in Britain beer was widely perceived as declassé.  The editor of the Op-Ed column, mentioning that I had said beer was a brilliant match for food, wrote that I was ‘utterly wrong’ and that beer should only ever be consumed in the pub and ‘if sustenance is needed a scotch egg or pork scratching will suffice’.  I wrote to the letters page defending my opinion and offered to arrange a battle of the bottle meal where wine and beer were served so the Op-Editor, who I shall call Mr Cholmondeley-Feathestonehaugh, could decide which was a better match.  He did not accept the challenge.

Around the same time I had written a blog for the Huff Post in which I fantasised that Buckingham Palace would offer beer to match the dishes at a State Banquet held in honour of President Barack Obama.   Of course it remained a dream.  In reality President Obama is much more likely to enjoy a beer state banquet than Queen Elizabeth is because he lives on Planet Beer and in beer and food matching particularly, America is the leader of the free world.

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