Business 11/04/2021

The world's first green olive beer is Catalan

The drink was created by an olive oil producer from Pallars Jussà in the middle of the pandemic and is already being marketed in European countries

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Ivan Caeles comes from a saga of oil producers. Some time ago he set himself the goal of recovering part of the family's hundred-year-old olive trees that had been abandoned and are located in the Barcedana valley, in the Pallars Jussà region. He did it with the help of the Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentàries (IRTA) (Agri-food Research and Technology Institute). Three years ago, it produced its first oil: Erm Oli d'Oliva de Muntanya (Erm Mountain Olive Oil). It was a success and this encouraged him to go one step further, delve into the sector and try to unite two of his passions, olives and beers, to produce the first drink of its kind in the world. "The native varieties of olives from Pallars Jussà are still largely unknown, but they have a high and rich organoleptic value", explains Caelles, who is also an agricultural engineer.

He himself was the one who proposed the idea of making olive beer to his team and the same day they contacted Click & Brew, a factory that creates and produces several artisan brands of this drink. With the use of R&D - because one of the difficulties of the project was to mix two indissoluble elements such as oil and water - the two teams worked together and decided to brew the beer in a bohemian pilsner style, originally from the Czech Republic. "We use pils malts and Czech hops such as saaz to offer a product with 5% alcohol", explains Neus Huguet, head of communications at OGB, which is the abbreviation for the name of the beer, which is called Oliba Green Beer. "The result is a beer with a touch of olive", she adds.

In March last year, just as the pandemic broke out, they had the finished product ready to go on the market. The idea was to hold a big presentation event on Saint Patrick's Day, which is on 17 March and is Ireland's patron saint's day, because the green colour of the beer is the same colour that identifies the country.

The outbreak of covid-19, however, blew up their plans. In the end they decided to make a telematic launch in May and start selling it on specialised platforms and gourmet food shops, first in the Lleida area and then in the rest of Catalonia. "Everything was finished and we didn't know how long the strictest lockdown would last, that's why we decided to take this step", the OGB spokeswoman explains to the ARA Emprenem.

The strategy has worked if you take into account that during its first year of life the production volume has soared well above what they had planned. The target was to make 100,000 bottles a year, but the company is already looking for other facilities that are functioning to expand production to 600,000 bottles a year. "We have had to grow faster than we had planned, and we are currently in negotiations to enter 28 countries", specifies Huguet. For the moment, however, they have already made the leap abroad and are selling, as well as throughout Spain, in European countries such as Switzerland and Denmark.

This growth is mainly focused on the food channel. "The fact that we are close to or operating at half throttle in the catering and hotel industry has led us towards supermarket chains, which is now the channel that is gaining more strength", the company says. However, it is also available on platforms such as Amazon, where it has already sold out. Currently the company employs 13 people and now the challenge is to grow in beer varieties. In fact they have already started a cobranding -an alliance- with the company Mis Raíces, from Aragón, to make a beer with their variety of olive oil. The Aragonese company has been selling its production in the United States for years and OGB wants to take advantage of this to introduce its beer in this market. A similar alliance is being sought with olive oil producers in Andalusia.

At the moment, Oliba Green Beer is sold in 33 centilitre bottles (at 30 euros for a 12-pack) and also in a limited edition of 75 centilitre bottles, priced at around 9 euros. "The idea is to expand the range and create toasted, black and organic beers without dying of success. In short, that lovers of this product have all tastes to choose from", says Huguet.