If you didn’t know better – this title probably sounds like a joke. And OK, at the moment, it isn’t exactly true. But it’s not libel, either.
Sure the plazas and Ramblas of Barcelona are a sea of Estrella-branded umbrellas shading shiny metal chairs and tables plastered with the same ubiquitous gold star. But beer lovers rejoice! Your options go far beyond Estrella Damm, San Miguel and Moritz, and you likely have a nice craft selection on tap at a bar near you. (And if you don’t, you will very soon.)
Craft brewing is trending in Catalonia and for more than a few of these brewers the home kegs have overflowed into the craft beer festivals and bodegas popping up all over the region. The thirst for interesting, complex, bitter, sweet, hoppy and heady cervezas has increased demand for more artisanal pints and the desire to produce fine craft beer product has not disappointed in quenching it. If you ask those in the industry here, Catalonia is on the verge of a craft beer revolution.
“The Barcelona craft beer scene right now reminds me of the U.S. in the mid to late 90s.” Adam Sheppard, head brewer of Edge Brewing in Barcelona, said. But he noted an important distinction, “The home brews here are more advanced and the quality is well above the majority of the home beers you would taste in the U.S. back then and now.”
“The Spanish palate is way more advanced,” Sheppard didn’t hesitate to posit when asked what attested to the higher quality across the board. “They’re able to identify those small, delicate, nice, fine flavors. I’m not having to educate people on tasting beer.”
SUPPLY IT AND THEY WILL DEMAND IT … AND THEN MAKE THEIR OWN
“If you’ve spent your whole life eating vanilla ice cream and then you taste chocolate or rocky road — well, it’s the same with good beer,” Scott Vanover, Edge Brewing founder, said. “They’re kind of thinking, ‘if this is beer, I’ve been lied to my whole life.‘” In this example, the vanilla he’s referring to is Estrella, Moritz, San Miguel — the lagers that saturate the beer market in Spain. But now the people know chocolate. They even know chocolate stouts.
There are an exponentially growing number of craft beer taps sprouting up at new cerveserias, as well as established bars and bodegas, to quench your thirst. Not to mention the many Firas de Cervesa.
People generally think of Spain as more of a wine culture, and rightfully so. With vineyards and wine bodegas that date back centuries – hops and barley have a long row to hoe. But these days the pomp and circumstance once reserved for wines has been adopted by the beer world.
At the Vine a Fer Cervesa festival in Sants last month several workshops were underway including an hour long tutorial on cheese pairing. Pairing cheese with BEER! Swirling the beer in the glass; wafting the aromas; letting the ale spill forth into your mouth and coat the tongue and then tasting the cheese and how the flavors complement or battle one another — yes, we are talking about beer not wine.
Along with the variety of taps to sample this festival also includes valuable and useful information for home brewers. After all, that’s how great breweries start isn’t it? A couple friends making their own ales and lagers at home, having friends over to sample them and then improving them. And this ever-increasing number of amateurs fermenting their own concoctions encourages the local professional players.
“A high tide raises all boats,” Sheppard said. “Let’s all get better. Craft beer is about the ingredients, it isn’t about the profit. We all do this because we love it. I want to make the best beer I can make and I want you to make the best beer you can make, and if it’s better than mine that’s awesome! Let’s all drink good craft beer.”
PAST THE CITY LIMITS
And it’s not just within the confines of zone 1 Barcelona city. Bernat, the owner and bartender at Nits de Taverna in Igualada, is always available and more than eager to talk about the hoppy frothy ales he has on offer. And the people drink it up, both the beer and the education. Not only do the taps rotate often with local brews made miles away, but also with tasty elixirs from throughout Europe and bottled beers from the world over. His knowledge is top-rate and inspiring. His enthusiasm is palpable and infectious. Hard evidence of what’s bursting from the limits of Barcelona city proper.
At Fira de la Cervesa Artesana de L’Espelt, a village of just a few hundred inhabitants they fenced in a field on the edge of town and invited local brewers to tap their kegs. Giant paellas simmering, live rock and roll covers coming from the stage and delicious beer from 13 different artisanal brewers on offer. The population of this pueblo was likely doubled at least and it was the thirst for good craft beer and interest in the changing cerveseria scene around the region that drew the people here. People weren’t just drinking a beer; they were tasting it, they were sharing it, they were discussing it, they were experiencing it.
For a comprehensive list of Catalan brewers as well as local festivals celebrating la cervesa nostra check out: Cerveceria.Info
Behind the scenes tours of the regions craft beer players in and out of the city:
Crafty Beer Tours Barcelona
WHERE TO DRINK GOOD CRAFT BEERS IN BARCELONA:
While there are many celebrated cerveserias in the city, here are a few to start with: