We caught up with Javi Huerta of Cerveza D’Equí early (by Spanish standards anyway) on a Monday morning. He and his crew was unpacking from a weekend at Festival Internacional de Cerveza Artesano de Llangréu. He was gracious enough to answer questions about the brewery. I also got to take some pictures of his really nice tap room.
D’Equí was the first beer joint I visited in Asturias that made me feel like I was back home in the States. The feel of the taproom, the focus on selling their own beer to their neighbors, these to me are hallmarks of the American craft beer scene. It is one of the reasons that every state in the US has a dozen or more breweries 1. As you will see from the interview below, this is not by accident. Cerveza D’Equí is self-consciously moving in an American direction. I applaud this personally. The hyper-local brewery is one of the things I miss about the States.
Tell me about your beer line-up. What do you offer?
We always have three beers: Metal IPA, which is our most emblematic beer, Queen, a Belgian-Style Strong Dark Ale that sells a lot, especially in the tap room, because it’s a tostada, and people who aren’t so much into beer try it, it’s similar to Grimbergen. And then we have Nirvana, an American Pale Ale, similar to an IPA but not as hoppy. We also have new beers throughout the year. For example, now we have One Love, an Imperial Milk Stout with cocoa. We also have No Zumio, a strawberry Farmhouse, Hoppy Driver, a DDH Double NEIPA, and lastly we have Californication on tap, a Hazy IPA. We bought a canner about 3 months ago and our idea is to can the new beers that come out year-round.
Editor’s Note: the canning machine was crowd-funded by Cerveza D’Equí, and contains an excellent video about the brewery.
What is your most popular beer?
Tell me about your brewery equipment.
We have a 1500-liter mash tun2 and six fermenters of approximately 1300 liters apiece. Usually we brew 1000-liter batches. We also have a small bottling line3, with two filling valves, which is enough for our volume. And we also have a canner we bought in December. It’s a big one, which allows us to can 1200 cans an hour. That’s our intention, to focus on the can marker, which is the trend now, and it’s much better than bottles when it comes to storing beer, and also better for recycling. What makes Cerveza D’Equí different?
We all more or less follow the same beer scene, which is what comes from the USA. One way or another, we all make barleywines, double IPAs, IPAs, NEIPAs, etc. What makes us unique specifically in Asturias is that we have a tap room, with a tasting area and a kitchen, in the brewery, and we’re the only tap room in Asturias. There’s a guy in Langreo who has a brew pub where they sell their beer there, but not outside. We do both, we sell outside, mostly in Asturias but some out of Asturias, and what makes us different is the tasting room, the bar area, and the kitchen.
Have you had any assistance from other breweries/People in Asturias (or elsewhere)?
Yes, for example, I’ve known the people at Caleya for years. Here we all know each other, it’s a small world, and we always coincide in all beer festivals. I mentioned Caleya because those are the people I’ve known for many years. So, for example, they’d say “Javi, I need two sacks of oatmeal, I’ll come to your brewery to get them” or “Hey, I’m out of yeast”, and I’d say “sure, come to my brewery, I have enough”. In that sense, we all get along. Also, there will be future collabs, for sure, with Asturias Brewing Company, Vagamar, Dai, Cotoya… In the end, we all know each other and we get along.
Where do you see craft beer in Asturias in 5 years?
If we get another coronavirus, it’ll be complicated (laughs). I think that in Asturias, as it’s a very small region, especially in the proportion of population, if we compare with Madrid or Barcelona, I think Asturias is the community, and I’m probably right, where you can find the most craft beer per inhabitant, I think we’re probably number one in Spain. People are in shock when they hear the numbers. If we put together beer and non-beer themed stores, beer bars, small bars, coffee shops, etc., I think there are probably 200 or 300 in Asturias. And specialized beer bars easily 60 or 70. And very few places have that many. I went to Madrid many years ago and I found a lot less craft beer there than here. We love drinking here and, if you don’t like drinking beer, then it’s cider, or wine…
And in 10 years? Where Will Cerveza D’Equí Be?
I think in 10 years, as it happens in most places, some will be left behind, others will grow more, others will come to a halt but I think that those of us who are in a good place now within the region, we’ll keep growing or we’ll remain how we are now. I think we won’t grow as rapidly as a few years ago, 2012-2016 was the craft beer boom, so that’s slowed down a bit, but we’ll keep growing little by little. For example, our intention is not so much selling outside of Asturias, but to have a bigger tap room, with a grass area, and room for tables, grills, and even an area for concerts, since we sometimes have concerts here. This means that we want to grow by strengthening our relationship with the local customers who, at the end of the day are the ones who give you money, those customers that come over every weekend. Selling outside is good but you always have to deal with distributors, it’s more complicated. That’s our goal, not closing doors to selling outside but not focusing on that for now.
Where can people find Beers from Cerveza D’Equí?
Mostly in beer bars. Specially beer bars all throughout Asturias, and also in beer shops. Some places outside of Asturias have bought from us, like Slainte, a beer bar in Salamanca, and sometimes in Madrid. But our philosophy is to grow and focus on the local market, mostly to keep the freshness of the beer. It’s true that now, if you send beer to Madrid, there won’t be any problems but, in the end, you lose your distribution chain, and you know that where you sell it directly it’s going to be fresh for sure. We also have a walk-in cooler. We’re not saying no to selling outside of the region in the future, but our main idea is the movement that comes from the US, where most of the well-known breweries, not as big as Sierra Nevada, focus on the local market. Sometimes the best-by date is a month, which would be nonviable, impossible, here.
Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
Favorite beer? Lots of them. I like IPAs very much. Also, imperial stouts drive me crazy… I don’t know, I tried a quadruple beer aged in a whiskey barrel not long ago, and I fell in love with it. The beer style I like least is lambics, for example. And, believe me, I’ve tried a lot, but it’s not a style I love. Even though we drink a lot of cider here, which is sour, too, but my palate doesn’t get used to the sour taste. For example, I like some sours, yesterday I tried Epifanía5 by Sanfrutos, which were next to us (at Fical Beer Festival), and I loved it, it had some fruit in it. But lambics per se are not my thing.
Tell me briefly the story of D’Equi.
We started in 2017, we opened the factory in August, after having been home brewing for many years, since 2009 or so. Due to life’s circumstances, my wife and I, who are the co-owners, lost our jobs, we worked in the same company, and we decided to embark into this adventure. Luckily, our beers had a very good acceptance. We won the Best American IPA Award at the BBF, Barcelona Beer Festival, in 2019, which gave us very good momentum, and here we are now, growing one step at a time
The following beers are made by Cerveza D'Equi:
We don’t do tours per se because, if you look around, you can see the brewery basically from anywhere in the tap room. What we do is, if someone asks and they come here for a drink, if we have time, for example first thing Saturday, when we open at 12:30 pm. We explain the process, but we don’t charge or anything.
Often, customers come to the bar and ask us to taste a beer, or we offer them ourselves. We have locals who already know what they want, they come to drink Metal IPA, or a new beer we have, for example, but there are many people who aren’t sure what they want, or that they ask for advice, so we let them try the beers. We don’t do flights per se in which for example you let them try 5, pay for them, and they it turns out they only like 2 of them. I prefer that they try it before and, if they like it, they can have a glass of it and, and if they want more, they can keep tasting and then have another full glass again.