Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Beer Files; for Daniel

It's a shame Daniel and I did not have another day, or even a few more hours. We would have been able to complete a good trek in search of natural beer that Madrid had to offer.

I'm not sure that we would have found the brew Daniel's been looking for -- San Miguel Eco, which I featured some time ago in a quick piece on memory beers -- I'm certain we would have found time for Magister beer, which is, like Naturbier, within Plaza Sta. Ana, though few meters outside the main square along Calle Principe.

It has a sign that announces the place loudly from the street. Cerveceria Magister, home of natural craft beer, or in Spanish, Magsiter, Naturas Cervezas Fabricas.

Aside from organic beer, another come-on pulls in customers and maintains regulars, I think: tapas gratis, or free tapas.

The tapas served with your natural beer does not look nor taste free. In fact, it's quality tapas, put together particularly for the beer being served. I had morcilla (blood pudding with rice sausage) on bread, a slender chorizo, a jamon iberico each with a fried quail's egg on top on a slice of toast. I think Daniel would have loved the variety, which included lots of cheeses and eggs (can't remember if Daniel eats huevos...)

I ordered the rubia first, a 5.5% unfiltered Pils, which I found very refreshing though it was quite basic compared to the blonde brew of Naturbier. But I have to say that I would still drink it anytime, on a hot or cool day, especially with Magister's famed (well-deserved!) tapas. They go together, and unless you've been there and have had both, it's hard to explain...

I passed up on another tostada, which was a bit thin and too sweet, though I was told a few shades less sweet than the caramelizada (which I did not order anymore). Others before me gave Magister's tostada brew more negative reviews.But I did get the brew called autor, which is the brewery's seasonal beer - a specialty beer. An 8.2% unfiltered double bock, this one had a strong finish, was dark toned with a thin head. I was a bit frustrated by the minimal fragrance that I usually associate with bocks, unfortunately. Maybe it's because I was having it too late in the year, in May? I'm not really sure. I would definitely recommend the place to any beer enthusiast -- the bar's first rate and the servings are generous, though the young bartenders were quite annoying in their swaggering, unlike the older guy who appeared to be supervising services.

What a difference a few hours would have been.

I wonder what Daniel would have thought if he realized that we had literally passed by a statue erected in honor of the tribune of duende, the great Spanish heart and poet named Federico Garcia Lorca.

In 2004, myself, Kala, pops, mom, Tiny and Yami made a pilgrimage to Lorca's house in Granada, where everything, from his bedroom to his piano to the Lorca family's living room was arranged the way it would have appeared before Lorca was murdered by Franco's Falangists. If you ever get to read only one of his poems in your lifetime, what a loss that would be, but still look for Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias. It gives only a tiny sliver of Lorca's poetic range, but you can have a small serving of his power. Another great poet, Edward Hirsch, actually crafted a huge, huge part of his book The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration based on Lorca's work.

The monument was life-size and bore Lorca's likeness, including the expression of Lorca's bronze entirety -- caught in the middle of a step, gently casting free a dove. He had a gaze that was fixed afar, as if he was in mid-contemplation. It did not help that there was a weekend fair in Plaza Sta. Ana, which meant Lorca's memorial was surrounded by stalls. But there he was, as Kala patiently reminded me.

I took so many pictures and was enthralled till sundown by the work, rendered by the hands of the sculptor Julio I. Hernandez in 1985-86.

If Daniel had a few more hours, further down Calle Principe we would have ran into the corner of Calle De Leon and Calle Cervantes. There is an orthopedic shoe shop at the corner selling beautiful espadrilles. Beside it is the house occupied by the novelist Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra from 1606 until his death in 1616.

If the name Cervantes does not ring a bell, I suggest you try running into a wall to get a buzzing gong-like sound going in your head, after which you can try reciting the following words slowly - "Don Quixote, great, great, great novel. All hail Rocinante and Sancho Panza, I promise to buy Red three pints of beer."

Thanks to Kala, again, who pointed out the Cevantes place quite early.

There is a plaque there in honor of the novelist, and words are inscribed in bright gold letters on the road remembering the great author. I caught a few pictures of tourists, looking at the inscription on the road and up at the apartment windows - like me, they were also actually hunting down the last abode of the writer. Despite two false starts (Spaniards I talked to kept telling me the house was in Valladolid, and I am sure I did not make my questions clear), Kala insisted that the house was there, and it was.

When I finally reached the corner, I sat down on a granite bench and I saw a dirty street, unfortunately unkempt and littered with household debris. But what did it matter?

Cervantes was there once upon a time. Myself too. #

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