Spain has not traditionally been a big beer producing country. Beers such as San Miguel and Estrella Damm tend to be cheap and strong; Spain has always been more of a wine producing country.
However the recent global hipster craze for craft beer is changing things and Catalunya seems to be leading the way, as the number of local craft breweries and craft beer drinkers steadily increases.
Since 2008 the number of craft beer brands and microbreweries based in Catalonia has rocketed from about 10 to almost 200. Jordi Expósito and Joan Villar, the authors of Guia de Cerveses de Catalunya 2013, a guide to Catalonian beers attribute this increased interest to the Catalan passion for cooking and long tradition of producing wine and other alcoholic spirits. They also point to global recession which has hit Catalunya hard and encouraged many to broaden their horizons and look for new ways to make a living. Beers made in Barcelona and Catalunya feature a distinctly local flavour using indigenous ingredients such as citrus fruits, peppers, figs and even mushrooms.
Barcelona’s craft beer craze has also led to the creation of Barcelona’s own international beer festival, the Barcelona Beer Festival. This year over 10,000 visitors enjoyed 300 different beers from 150 international producers, of which 55 were from Catalonia.
This is a recent trend that has sprung up in the last few years. The first true craft beers in Catalonia were made in 1996 by La Cervesera Artesana, a brewpub in Barcelona’s Gràcia neighbourhood. Since then the number of similar establishments has increased dramatically. Here are our favourite picks.
La Cervesera Artesana
This is a large pub with a slightly English feel, where you can see the production area through a glass wall. Brewing under the name Iberian, the pub serves seven delicious beers made on the premises, often with eccentric local ingredients such as Catalan mushrooms.
La Resistència belongs to the owners of Rosses i Torrades craft beer shop. An enormous space where you can enjoy some of the finest international beers. Kegs are rotated every week so variety is not an issue. Of course, this is Spain, so there are tapas on offer as well!
Another microbrewery combined with a pub, Reptilian produces many an interesting craft beer, including Thymus, a medium-bodied white beer made with organic spelt and enhanced with thyme and other spices. Also of interest is a Garnatxa Beer, an ale cuvée incorporating the grenache grape (garnatxa in Catalan), which gives it some delightful fruity notes.
A trip to Barcelona is not complete without visiting the beach. Once you have had a swim and are feeling in need of refreshment, head over to La Cervecita. It’s very close to the Selva de Mar beach, and it has five taps on the bar, as well as plenty of bottles of Catalan and imported beers you can take away with you.
A great place to quaff a few local and international beers. Located behind the Post Office building in the Barrio Gótico (close to where Picasso grew up), La Cerveteca offers close to a hundred different beers from around the world, many of which are on draft. From these, 14 are Catalan craft beers, including popular contemporary classics such as Birra 08, Guineu, Ales Agullons, Almogàvers and Garnatxa. Again, mouth watering tapas can be combined with the beers at La Cerveteca.