The Beer Scene in Catalonia

Surrounding the Mediterranean, there is an abundance of wine and spirits and a passion for the history and terroir associated with them. Reds, whites, rosés, sparkling, still, sipping cocktails, pastis, absinthes… and the list could go on. The one player that doesn’t usually make its way onto the list  in these regions is beer. Beer can now be found nearly everywhere in the world so why does the Mediterranean not have their own classic style? There are many reasons as to why this might be the case, but more importantly is that the lack of a great beer scene and style will soon be a thing of the past. With this unclaimed product available to any who will take it, the Catalan region has tested the waters and is now trailblazing their way to owning this piece of what will become history.

Over the past several years, Catalonia has been fighting. Not out of hate or injustice, but for pride, freedom, and history. They are fighting for the rights to teach the Catalan language in their schools, their past to their children, and their culture to the world. They want to preserve what they have established over the last centuries, and so when traveling through the region you'll undoubtedly see the Catalan flag proudly painted on billboards, waving outside of homes, or  being carried by peaceful protesters in the streets. While enjoying a good beer at La Bona Pinta, a beer bar in Barcelona, I decided to ask the owner what the fight for Catalonia's independence had to do with beer in the region; He responded quickly and with one important word: "Identity."

While Catalonia doesn't currently have a history with their roots planted in the beer scene, they have certainly been watering a lot of seeds over the past decade which are now growing fast. Anyone who visits this region as outsider will quickly realize that there is a very unique and specific culture which thrives on the history, food, and terroir; All of which are perfect ingredients for incorporating beer into that culture. After disembarking my train and meeting up with Owen Ogletree's Brewtopia beer industry group, I spent a week in search of exactly what the Catalonian beer culture had to offer. What I experienced was a shock, and I saw identical replicas in the beer as what I experienced in the rest of the region: Innovation through  a modernized take on tradition.

We saw examples of this everywhere, and while it's not something that any one Catalonian put into words, it's something that was present in the culture as a whole. From Gaudí's buildings and parks, to food styles by the beach, everything seemed to be traditional but with a new twist. We visited La Vilot, where a family run farming business has innovatively taken it upon themselves to grow all of their own ingredients to make their beer. We traveled to Masia Agullons farmhouse, where a family invited us into their home and poured us each a modern wheat ale to drink while they showed us their wild fermentation barrels. They then started pouring 3 year old wild ales that they had created in collaboration with the historic Cantilion. At the conclusion of the week we ended our group events together at Edge Brewing, with a long list of amazing beer. The Edge Brewing mission statement reads: Traditional Brews with an Edge!

Each place we traveled had their own "edge" on tradition, which was uniquely theirs and uniquely rooted in Catalonia. Whether the people we met were farmhouse workers in rural areas or newly established brewers in the giant city of Barcelona, they all found a passion in modifying history and tradition to fit their own styles and lives. The beer that I tasted was not Belgian, but you could taste some Belgian styles. It was not American, even though there were many West Coast IPAs. It was not German, not Austrian, and not even Spanish: It was totally and completely Catalan. Through food, drink, and broken Spanish-translations, I left my travels with an incredibly high opinion of the region and its growing beer scene. Because of this, I have to ask you to modify your perception: When you think of Catalonia, think of Innovation through  a modernized take on tradition. Think of great beer!




Below are a few more great beer experiences in the Catalan region:

BrewPub LeSec
- Anna and the crew at LeSec welcomed us into their fantastic brewpub, poured us some great beer, and gave us the grand tour. They were extremely welcoming and escited to talk beer! They had some very fresh tasting IPAs as well as a few other styles and some guest taps. I enjoyed tasting my way through the list.

- Abirradero means watering trough, and the brewpub and taproom stand right behind an old watering trough Barcelona landmark. Our group was ushered into their facility, past their 40 tap handles, and into the brewpub dinning room where we were brought course after course of great tapas a beer pairings!

Cierzo Brewing
- We visited their brand new facility in Caspe, and enjoyed the many delicious beers they had on draft. We watched their chefs carve chorizo and cook paella, and took in the unique designs of the architecture. If for some reason you can't find one their beers that you like, you can also check the guest tap list which includes Cantilon and Oud Beersel, among others.

Black Lab Brewing
- Inspired by a black lab puppy named Snoopy, Black Lab is another brand new brewery that has filled the tap list with many new drafts. We enjoyed going up to the bar and trying out the different styles while Spike/Terrapin collaborated on a beer with the Black Lab team.

If you need more pins to add to you Barcelona beer map, here are a few more Owen Ogletree recommendations that I was able to confirm are worth your time!:

Garage Beer Co - Another long list of great beers to try

BierCab - An amazing beer bar and tapas restaurant. It was so good we had to go back! Great local and foreign beers on tap, and the tapas are out of this world. Don't go without trying the octopus which was by far my favorite.

Olgod - Great beer bar and cool hangout in a great spot in Barcelona!

El Vaso De Oro - Very cool bar walking distance from the beach, with fantastic tapas, a standout IPA, and incredibly friendly staff. As soon as we walked in we were made to feel at home.

Ale&Hop - Another great beer bar in a great area! Stop by for the fantastic list of local beer.

La Bona Pinta - The owner of this small beer bar is passionate about beer and the part that it plays on culture in the world. He kindly introduced me to some local brewery beers that we did not get to visit, and sent me on my way with a Westvleteren to go! I will certainly return to this hidden spot.

These are only a few of many amazing breweries, brewpubs, and beer bars in the area. Check these out and then look for more!