It's hard to see more than bottles in the basement of Antonio Rey's house. Everywhere you look there are hundreds of them. And where there are no bottles, there are boxes full of them, carefully stored waiting for Toño's dream: a museum to display the collection of more than 40,000 bottles. 42,615, exactly.
The hobby of this systems engineer, converted to a stock trader, is almost 30 years old and began by chance: it was enough an expired beer and a "". In 1996 the department stores began to bring imported beers and Antonio, a lover of this drink, bought several to drink during the week's dinners.
One of them was expired. "I got a monumental," he recalls. The liquid went down the sink, but the bottle stayed on the shelf. "I liked how it looked," he explains.
To prevent the rest from spoiling, he began to write down its expiration date. As bottles poured into his home, the list grew to become, three decades later, "a gigantic database."
Antonio's work as director of international expansion for a multinational allowed him to nurture his hobby all over the planet. He has lived in Milan, Zurich, Santiago de Chile and Copenhagen. The number of bottles grew to form a unique collection in Europe.
Antonio traveled the world with two suitcases. "One full of clothes and another empty to put the bottles," he explains. All of them were moving with him and his family in their different work destinations. It was not until he settled in Madrid, a little less than a decade ago, that he realized the dimension of his collection: it was the largest in Spain.
Antonio's basement, invaded by hundreds of bottles. Javier Barbancho
If he has reached such a number of bottles it is thanks to the brewing friends he has made along the way. From the best taster in Switzerland to those responsible for Amager, one of the best factories in Europe.
It is not uncommon to see a pallet with dozens of boxes appear on his doorstep or go on a trip with an empty van and return, several weeks later, with the back full of bottles from all over Europe.
Thanks to those friendships, he has obtained unique bottles, such as two from World War II that a friend found buried in a German garden.
Antonio has only bought an entire collection from someone else. Eight thousand bottles to a Danish collector that he sold to raise money for an association, although Antonio found out later thanks to several press clippings.
The rest has been achieved in stores, with exchanges with friends or thanks to neighbors and family. Even his wife participates in this company and "gets very involved". He accompanies him on his travels and helps him with the organization of the collection. And when he goes out for a drink "he sends me a whatsapp and asks me if I have it," he says.
You only have four rules for a bottle to go into your collection: that it be an alcoholic beer; the packaging is made of ceramic or glass; that is not white label; and that comes with its original badge.
Before moving on to the collection they are carefully cleaned. Javier Barbancho
The first rule means that its collection has hardly any beers from countries where alcohol is prohibited. "I have a bottle from before the Islamic revolution in Iran," he explains. Still, there are more than 150 countries. From Spain it has 4,811 bottles.
They all go through the same process: cleaning, drying for a week, registration in the database and storage. Those that are full, you drink them before. "My idea has always been to bring them full and collect them empty," he laughs.
Of the more than 40,000 bottles, he claims to have drunk, only, with friends or family, over almost 30 years about half. "If you think about it, it's not that many," he says, smiling.
His collection is the second largest in the world, behind Ron Werner, an American who, according to the Guinness World Record, has 46,148. Not even the Carlsberg Museum has more bottles than him. But he insists he never wanted to be the first: "The goal has always been to have fun."
In the boxes that are piled up all over your house there are not only bottles. There is also a particular way of telling the story from different points of view. That's why Antonio wants his bottles to go from his basement to a museum with a life of its own. Through this packaging "you see the history of things, how fashion, aesthetics, politics evolve...".
Passionate about History
Antonio baptized his collection as Reconqvista, a tribute to this historical episode. "I'm passionate about history," he says. Among its bottles there are many dedicated to events from different eras and others that have symbols that have gone down in history. Like bottles in which the swastika was used, a symbol of sign and peace that after its adoption by Hitler was marked as a symbol of Nazism.
The idea is that "it's something alive," he explains. That within a general exhibition, "which grows approximately 3,000 bottles a year", thematic micro-exhibitions can be taken. Its database, "with more than 300 different description fields", has dozens of themes.
For this you need a space of at least 1,000 m2 and a long-term assignment. "It can take six months to set up the museum," he says. He has contacted several municipalities in the Valdemorillo area, but none can offer something like this.
According to Antonio this museum would serve to "attract many tourists". He has not yet thrown the cane to the City of Madrid, but believes that it would be an attraction that would take visitors to the capital. "The Carlsberg museum is one of the most visited in Denmark," he gives as an example.
Meanwhile, the boxes store the famous Mahou jugs, a container with more than 100 years or bottles never seen in our country. But there is something much more valuable, the memories of a lifetime: "I wish I could see all that and for others to be able to enjoy them."
Vermouth and anise
Antonio Rey doesn't just collect beer bottles. He is also passionate about vermouth and anise.
The fondness for the first drink is "shared with his wife", with whom he collects tasting sheets of this drink.
In Vermunautas he estimates that he has more than 700 cards, one of the largest archives in the world. A hobby that began in 2019 with an "afternoon of vermouths" with his partner.
The anise tastings barely reach thirty, compiled under the name of Anís Bendito. Although he does not rule out that it grows: "That's how I started with the others."
- Articles Luis Blasco