Barcelona Beer

By BeachRock Bill

Barcelona’s Golden Fish sculpture by Frank Geary

Whenever Wife Helen and I vacation outside of San Diego, we are always in search of good beer. In the past decade, craft breweries have sprouted up in just about every city in the U.S., and their tap lists are just a few clicks away on our phones. The Craft has grown to the point where traveling and enjoying great beer are no longer mutually exclusive activities. Staying close to home the last few years due to Covid, Helen and I were excited to be invited on something completely different from our typical U.S. brewery tour road trip vacations–we were off with a group of friends to Spain to stay in the countryside around Barcelona. I was really looking forward to seeing if, and to what extent, the region was riding the burgeoning Craft Beer wave. Would I be able to cleanse my palate between rounds and rounds of tapas and Spanish wine with some locally made hoppy Spanish suds?

Estrella Damm, damn good!

The friends we were traveling with were more of a wine-loving rather than beer-loving crew, and our pre-arranged itinerary consisted of chartered bus rides to coastal hikes, medieval village tours, and museum visits in and around Catalonia’s Costa Brava. Talking the group into a detour to a brewery just wasn’t in the cards.

Hiking the Costa Brava

Spanish wine is definitely King here, and most restaurants will have dozens to choose from on their menus. Typically at the list–sitting alone, was one solitary beer offered, Estrella Damm Mediterranean Lager. Thankfully, Estrella is damn delicious. Brewed by independently owned Damm Brewery, as their website states “Damm was founded 140 years ago by a young brewer August Kuentzmann Damm, who emigrated from Alsace with his wife Melanie fleeing the Franco-Prussian war. The journey took them to the Mediterranean coast, where they settle to fulfill their dream, to brew beer.

August came up with a light easy drinking recipe to appeal to the warmer Mediterranean climate, and he hit the nail on the head. Estrella became so successful it helped Damm Brewing grow to be one of the largest independently owned breweries in Europe. Similar to an Italian lager like Moretti, Estrella Damm is crisp, clean, and exceedingly chuggable. I would rate it as one of the best lagers in its class, and I was content if it turned out to be the only beer I could find on the trip.

Estrella Damm–damn delicious

IPAs are my JAMM

IPAs are my jam however, and by the third day of our trip, I was seriously craving some hoppy brews during cocktail hour at the villa (yep villa, we were a classy group). While Damm does make a limited-release version of something called a Mediterranean IPA, none of the restaurants we visited carried it. We were staying in the countryside, far outside of any town to find a beer store, so finding any was out of the question.

Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

Luckily the Hop Gods smiled down on us–Day Four of our itinerary would take us to the heart of Barcelona, which would feature a dedicated two hours in the afternoon for shopping. I brought up Google Maps on my phone and typed in beer. Lo and behold, a bunch of red dots popped up all over the map. I would get a chance to visit Hop Town after all!

On our arrival in Barcelona, we met up with a guide who took us to tour Gaudi’s Basilica de la Sagrada Familia which was pretty amazing but a bit over the top for my taste. We then headed to a renowned vegetarian restaurant nearby for lunch.

After 2 hours of what seemed like endless courses and countless glasses of wine, it was finally our dedicated time to shop! Some of our group tapped out and returned to the villa to relax and sleep it off. The rest headed off to browse the big-name couture stores nearby.

All but Wife Helen and me that is.

We went in search of those red dots that hopefully would lead us to CRAFT BEER. Yep, Helen’s a keeper.

Cerveseria Espiga

Spain is famous for its leisurely lunches followed by siesta time, when most business establishments shut down only to re-open a few hours later into the evening. Unfortunately, this meant many of our brewery dots didn’t open until 5:00pm–the time our itinerary had us returning to the villa. Fortunately, there was one spot just a few blocks away that opened a bit earlier, and we headed over to Cervesa Espiga’s Barcelona tasting room.

Entering Espiga’s small storefront just a few blocks away from our earlier Basilica tour, we were greeted by a chill dude named Philip behind the counter. Right off the bat, he poured us samples of the four beers on tap that day. One of the things I like to do when visiting other breweries far away from home is to throw out that I’m from San Diego, and gauge the response. Philip, who spoke fluent English brightened up and recited several San Diego breweries he had heard of. I bragged that those were just a drop in the bucket, and he must one day come visit to experience the scene firsthand.

Espiga’s gorgeous colorful can art. Tropical Seeds, Flying Eyes, Bohemian Mood, and Savage Jungle

Back to the samples–three of the four beers on tap were solid, but the fourth really blew me away. Labeled simply as an IPA on the board, Savage Jungle turned out a full-blown Hazy. Opaque, pillowy smooth peach notes, and juicy AF, I would rank Savage Jungle right up there among the premier Hazys back home. Seeing my enthusiasm for the beer, Philip guided me to the huge glass fridge carrying several other styles of Espiga beers in cans.

It turns out that the actual Espiga Brewery is an hour outside of the city, and this small space was more a storefront than a tap room, where one could grab some cans to take home. Since our itinerary said shopping time, I decided to shop, and started grabbing cans of everything that said IPA on the label. I would finally get my hoppy time at the villa!

Along with several Savage Jungle cans, I grabbed 2 collab beers–Flying Eyes (UK’s Deya Brewery collab) and Tropical Seeds (Barcelona’s Garage Brewery collab). I finished off my “shopping” with a couple cans of Bohemian Mood, a DIPA I hoped Wife Helen would love. Since all my choices’ labels showed ingredients of flaked oats and flaked barley, I was guessing they would turn out to be just as hazy as the Savage Jungle we sampled.

Got to run to catch the van

The time raced by, and we realized we would have to run back across town to make our 5:00 pm bus departure. We retraced our steps through Barcelona and made it just as our group was filing onto the bus–all carrying Louis Vuitton and Prada bags–and we proudly held up our own booty: plastic grocery bags filled with beer. It was obvious who got the best score of the afternoon!

Barcelona, home to Cornelia, Sikaru, and Almogaver cervesarias.

As for the beer itself, the other three untasted IPAs all ended up being hazy–as we had hoped– and they were all delicious. The Bohemian Mood DIPA was a bit too dry and bitter for Wife Helen, and she ended up sticking to cocktails and wine for the balance of the trip. I however was a happy camper with every one of the Espiga beers. The cans from the Barcelona brewery’s little storefront kept me happily in hop heaven for the remainder of our stay.

In the end, I couldn’t help but wonder about the other Google brewery dots that weren’t open for us. Cornelia, Sikaru, Garage, and Almogaver were all breweries I would have loved to visit. I guess Wife Helen and I are going to have to return someday and experience all the delicious hoppiness that beautiful Barcelona has to offer.

Until next time,

¡Salúd!

— BeachRock Bill

4 thoughts on “Barcelona Beer

  1. Hey Bill. Looks like you had a great trip.
    In October I walked 2 of the Camino de Santiago routes. 300 miles in
    2 1/2 weeks. It was an awesome adventure.
    The beer was amazing. Estella Galicinia. So good.
    Spain is known for their 2 energy drink. Cafe con Leche and beer.
    Loved Spain.

    Like

  2. Who needs Prada when you can sample a new Hazy? Loved this story! I’d go traveling with you and Helen anytime knowing craft beer was part of the tour.

    Like

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