Anyone familiar with the Barcelona (and indeed Catalonia and Spain more generally) of 10 to 20 years ago will be startled by the very idea of a 'beer destination' there – Spanish beer was basically Eurolager, plus a few seasonal oddities, such as strong lagers pitched as Bock or Märzen. But like so many other countries, Spain has had a craft beer revolution, and the results are sometimes extremely good.
|See yourself on the big screen...
Chivuo's was rather different but equally likeable – enough for a second visit, this time with Mrs BeerViking (it helped here that it was only a short walk from where we were staying). It's rather more hipster, which on the plus side means a menu of jolly decent 'slow street food' – that's burgers, pulled-pork and the like – and on the minus side means beer served in bloody jam jars*, complete with the screw thread for a lid! But no, there were no lids on offer for take-aways, only flip-top growlers.
|Nipping out for a jar?
That list should give a clue as to the big challenge facing local craft brewers here, which is how do they do something distinctive and different? They have no local beer styles to work with, so really it's all just variations on the US 'craft standards' plus styles from the big beer traditions, which means Britain, Belgium, Germany, and perhaps Ireland.
A visit to the BlackLab brewpub – for no obvious reason, its logo is a black labrador wearing glasses – to meet local beer blogger Joan (yes, as in Miro: it’s the Catalan form of John), confirmed it. On offer were a couple of IPAs, an American Pale Ale, a Porter, a fruited Berliner Weisse and more. All were well-made and tasty (their flagship IPA, called Claudia, was particularly good) but I got a distinct sense of brewing-by-numbers, as if someone had told the brewer, “We need one of this style, one of that, two of those, and then pick a couple more from the book.”
Catching up with Joan, after we met a few times at other events (most notably the Beer Writers & Bloggers Conferences), was great. So was most of the beer I had while I was in Barcelona – even some of the cheap macro stuff I picked up for under a Euro. As in other countries, there’s also the welcome first signs of beers with a local twist, whether that’s a Saison with orange, Porter aged in a Rioja barrel, or simply a toasty strong lager that works far better as a beer for a sunny terrace than you’d even imagine it might.
|Moritz Epidor: toasty
lager on the prom
*The Chivuo’s jars weren’t lined, but I’d guess they were about 330ml which made the beers €10 a litre, or about £5 a pint – and it’s the same price regardless of strength. Pricing in BierCab and BlackLab varied by beer and was higher overall, but not a lot.