Barcelona…Sun, Shopping, the Beach, Shopping, Tapas, Shopping, Camp Nou, Shopping….
My husband and I recently visited this wonderful city to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. Our first visit was for our honeymoon and I’ve been back half a dozen times since as it facilitates most of my favourite pastimes but you may have noticed one is missing….yes BEER- this is a beer blog after all!
Despite having found great bars in terms of atmosphere and ambiance in Barcelona over the years, faced with the uninspiring choice of beers served in these bars I sought advice from a local.
That local is a guy called Robin who I met on a Beer Academy advanced course in London last year.
Based in Barcelona Robin tweets as @CraftyBeerTours with the aim of connecting visitors to the local craft beer movement. He also works at Edge Brewing, a brewery set up in 2013 by two Americans and he invited us along to their Friday night drop in session.
En route to the Edge Brewery we popped into one of the bars Robin had recommended called Ale and Hop – @aleandhop www.aleandhop.com or see facebook.
It was early so although quiet Ale and Hop had a nice feel to it with a mixed clientele of locals and travellers.
The selection of beer was great – nine in total. Catalonian beers including local brewery Ales Agullons Bruno Pale Ale 5%, L’anjub’s Aloja – a Catalan Farmhouse Ale as well as two beers from Edge. From Germany was Aktien Edel 5.9% and from good old blighty Siren Calypso, Buxton Jaw Gate and Hardknott’s Code black. If that wasn’t enough there’s a fridge heaving with bottled beers. A welcome change from the Estrella Damm I was used to drinking in Barcelona.
After a quick pint we dragged ourselves away and found our way to the Edge Brewery.
Robin took us on a tour showing us the amazingly shiny kit and the impressive hop store. We enjoyed samples of Edge’s beer in their uber cool tasting room- if I was planning a party and money was no object I would fly all my guests to Barcelona and hire the tasting room as the venue! There are long wooden benches and a viewing window so you can sup your beer and gaze into the brewery wondering how they keep their kit so super shiny.
Robin was a fantastic host plying us with samples from the range of Edge beers. These included a lovely refreshing ‘experimental Pale Ale’ 5.3%, for hopheads the Hoptimista IPA – a powerful 6.8% and the lovely Power Plant Saison 7%. Robin then invited us to a new craft beer bar that had just opened- how could we resist?
So after a quick journey on the metro we arrived at Celler Ceres @CellerCeres, http://cellerceres.com/
Like Ale and Hop, Celler Ceres has a great feel – modern and comfortable. A mixed friendly crowd including a few little dogs who appeared to have been given free reign and a couple with a tiny baby.
Just as we arrived, a face on the local beer scene – a guy we learnt is called Steve was leaving. Steve who originally hails from Liverpool has a brewery and runs training courses. See Steve’s website www.stevebeer.com (unless you a fluent in Spanish have google translate handy however).
Steve’s beers were on and were rather good also on were a number of Edge beers.
We staggered back to our hotel with that fuzzy post beer glow that you only get from decent beers and woke without the punishing headache you get from their bad alternatives!
Now we were lucky enough to be shown around by a fellow beer enthusiast but if you are on your travels and don’t know any locals there is always the internet – but you know that right as you’re reading this…
Last September we spent a few days in the Basque county. A lovely region that spans France and Spain.
This was our second trip to the region but like Barcelona we hadn’t found much in the way of good beer on our previous trip. A quick hunt on the internet uncovered what looked like a couple of decent beer bars however.
In San Sebastián we went to Never Stop – @neverstopbeer and Facebook, a nice bar away from the beach. As was the case with the bars in Barcelona the decor is contemporary. There is a great mural illustrating the brewing process on one wall and another great beer selection including an Amber Ale from local Brewery Gross and a few familiar faces such as BrewDog.
I have already referred to my passion for shopping and we discovered a great craft beer shop in San Sebastian where we procured a few local bottles. I understand however the shop fell victim to flooding earlier this year and lost a load of stock!
A short bus trip a few days later and we crossed the French border to arrive in Biarritz. The bar I had found on the net was a stone’s throw from our hotel. This bar La Tireuse – see more details on www.latireuse.com and Facebook, also had an amazing array of craft ale on keg and in bottles.
The decor is traditional with loads of beer memorabilia, the loos are even decorated with beer mats.
The weather was gorgeous so surprisingly my favourite beer was a 5.8% milk stout brewed by a VG Noster in Vitoria, Spain . It was served colder than it would normally be in the UK which gave this delicious creamy stout a sharper edge-wonderful!
Echoing the rapidly growing beer scene in the UK, it is exciting to see a good range of quality beers, bars and breweries in Spain and France. My only gripe is the price of the beers, and this applies to all of the bars mentioned above- ranging from 6.50 to 10 Euro a pint it certainly isn’t cheap but as craft beer becomes more popular on the continent – and mark my words it will, the prices will hopefully come down.
Despite the prices however I would visit all the bars I’ve mentioned again and I wholeheartedly recommend them. The relaxed family (and dog) friendly atmospheres coupled with sunshine made discovering new local beers all the better.
Here’s to a beer filled summer and unlike the England Team, do try to bring home a few trophies from your trips abroad….