Lockdown has given me lots of time to catch up on things, so I’ve finally been able to get around to writing up about our 2019 visit to banging Barcelona. Only eighteen months later. Oh well.
Because it’s so long ago now, I can only recall vague detail although I can tell you that Barcelona is a vibrant, bustling city with something for everybody. Compared to some other European cities I’ve visited, Barcelona is clean, organised and just a very nice place to spend time in. As well the as culture, shopping and architecture, it also has a fantastic craft beer scene, which is what I’ll be focussing on here of course!
Before we get into the boring old beer stuff, here’s a little video montage I made of our visit.
In stark contrast to my report on Rome, Barcelona is quite the opposite! It is clean, the traffic behaves and all road and track users are considerate and courteous with drivers, cyclists, scooterists (is that a word?), skateboarders, Segwayists (??) and pedestrians all using the same space and getting along just fine. Rome – watch ‘n’ weep!
Before we left the UK, I researched first and made a map of all my intended beery destinations. Any sightseeing in between would be a bonus!
Mrs Belvoir and I travelled out on Tuesday 4th June, arriving tea-timish. We had booked an Airb’n’b in the El Poblenou area to the north-east of the city. The airport shuttle dumped us mid-city at the Plaça de Catalunya, and we opted to walk the couple of miles or so to our digs, giving us ample time to take in the sights and sounds around us.
The AirBnB was duly located in a characterless block of flats, but it was clean, reasonably priced and, although a couple of miles from the city centre, it was literally yards from the beach. More than that, I would soon discover, there were two cracking little craft beer bars nearby!
After fucking about trying to connect to our WiFi (our hosts had given me the router’s serial number, not the password), I gave up after 20 minutes and we decided to explore before the main heat of the day had gone. We walked along the promenade for a mile or so and found a little cafe where we had our first taste of authentic paella. It was only lukewarm (is this the way it’s supposed to be?) and a bit disappointing, truth be told. The beer choice here was piss poor, so I decided to hold off, hoping to find a bar on the way home. And what a winner I found!
Hoppiness – Ramón Turró, 180 Barcelona, Cataluña is on an unassuming back-street corner that could easily be overlooked, but a bar frontage that stood out from the other buildings and the bustling crowd spilling out onto the street encouraged me to stick my nose inside. A small (compared to other establishments we were yet to visit) selection of twelve taps and two handpumps, serving a fantastic choice of craft goodies, from which I sampled three.
Flor De Llúpol, a 6% IPA by La Vella Caravana. I was ready for this after a tiring day so far! It tastes of cannabis. Apparently. Second up was the 8.5% Lupulus Tripel by Brasserie Lupulus which was good, but the best came last. Patrons Project 17.02 Ethel Tropical IPA at 7%, a collaboration brew between the UK’s Northern Monk, Sweden’s Stigbergets and Garage, which was situated here in Barcelona. What a beer! This would set the scene for the rest of the holiday and was just what I needed to end the day. I loved this little place, and I would return several times over the next few days.
So here’s a breakdown of our beery travels over the next week or so.
Refreshed, we started off the day by walking down the promenade again. Apart from the beach having well-kept sands, the stretch is interspersed with communal areas such as skate parks, volleyball nets and public exercise areas kitted out with various gym equipment, all available at no cost. Even at this early(ish) hour on a Wednesday, all the spaces were being well used.
A thirty-five minute stroll brought us to Ciutadella Park, a wonderful green space in the heart of the city, where we found a bench and took in the early morning rays and a sandwich before contemplating the rest of the route. We continued along to end of the promenade until we reached the entrance (or exit, depending upon your view) to the world-famous La Rambla, a bustling thoroughfare of shops, stalls and street entertainers that runs for over a mile toward the city centre.
We walked the length of La Rambla, taking in Virreina Palace and Font de Canaletes before reaching the Plaça de Catalunya again, full circle from where we began yesterday. Mrs Belvoir agreed I had earned enough Brownie points by this time, so I informed her it was now gone 1.30 and was therefore pub o’clock.
A lot of the bars didn’t open until around 4pm. Luckily I had researched this in advance and the nearest open watering hole was a fifteen minute walk away, the oddly-named CatBarCAT – C. Bòria, 17 Barcelona, Cataluña.
The Cat Bar is a quirky little bistro/cafe/bar selling a reasonable selection of beer, from which I just tried the one; Cyro IPA by Cerveza Fort, a delicious 6% IPA, which I drank as gracefully as possible, being that we had a toilet seat as a table!
Another short walk south(ish) took us to Craft Barcelona – Carrer del Paradís, 4, 08002 Barcelona, Cataluña, another small foody-led place with beer that becomes a music venue in the evenings. The beer I tried – La Rumbera by Cerveses Almogàver wasn’t very NEIPA-ish as advertised, but was tasty nonetheless. Continuing our route in the same direction for another few minutes, past the Basillica of Santa Maria del Mar and into the Gothic Quarter brought us to our third stop, and what a gem this was!
Kaelderkold – C. Cardenal Casañas, 7 Barcelona, Cataluña has a long bar with no less than 24 taps on the back wall serving a plethora of world-class beers. It was difficult to know where to start, but confident that I’d be back, I opted for a taster board with five selections.
Purp – a 5% fruited sour from Danish brewer Gamma.
Glow – a 5% Session IPA by Basqueland, which was lemontastic.
Slayer – a 6.6% thrashtastic American IPA brewed by local boys Garage.
Dankey Kong – a delightful 6.5% NEIPA from Swedes Spike.
Cartoons – another by Garage Beer, this time a whoppa DIPA at 8.6%. My cheeks (upper) were now glowing.
We decided to reverse direction and start a slow walk back to our flat and half a mile later we hit our final stop, the Ale&Hop – 10 Carrer de les Basses de Sant Pere Barcelona, Cataluña. This was less a pub, more a bottleshop with a small bar sporting a modest six taps plus two handpumps (which were not in use). Time was marching on and the heat was getting to me so I just had the three!
Patrons Project 10.06 – a 6.4% Yuzu IPA colab by UK’s Northern Monk and New Yorkers Finback. Splendid!
Saison 5.5% by Cyclic Beer Farm. I thought his was OK, but I’m not a real Farmhouse style fan, so I may have been doing it an injustice.
The Sunglasses Story 4.8% APA from Twisted Barrel Ale, who are located in Coventry UK.
By now, the future looked so bright, I thought I’d better buy some shades.
…and that was it, end of day one. A thirty-five minute walk and we were back at base camp by 9 o’clock. Indecently, the city nightlife doesn’t really get going much before ten, but as we’re old duffers we prefer it a bit quieter. Night night.
If I included all the places we visited in this report, you’d be scrolling from here to Hades, suffice to say there is a lot to see and Barcelona truly is a beautiful city. On Thursday we walked about 12 miles in total, taking in some wonderful sites on the way. But this is all about the beer, so here goes.
First stop was Bar Centro – 55 Carrer de Casp Barcelona, Cataluña. Again, an unassuming frontage leading to a long, thin bar. It was all about the burgers in here, but they did have a good selection of beers. Indeed, there’s a sign in the window encouraging you to ‘DRINK CRAFT NOT CRAP’! I savoured just the one; Halloncinationer by Good Guys Brew, another Swedish brewery, and what a belter it was! A mere 4.5% sour fruited Berliner Weisse, but bursting with flavour. Sourcraftastic mate.
A bit more sightseeing and then for our second stop, this time the Ølgod – Hospital 74 Barcelona, Cataluña. A ridiculous amount of taps here – 30 of them – offering a bewildering choice. I tried two: Xino Xano a 4% DH sour by Cyclic Beer Farm which was pretty average TBH, unlike the stupendous Patrons Project 13.04 – Omega Vortex 8%, another Northern Monk DDH DIPA collaboration, this time with US breweries Other Half and Equilibrium
The third stop was unscheduled and unlisted, but we happened upon the Barcelona Beer Co – C. Muntaner, 7 Barcelona, Cataluña, so thought it would be rude not to call in. A nice enough bar, but the 5% Barcelona APA I sampled was nothing to write home (or here) about, so we swiftly moved on. Very average.
Much, much better was our final walk break of the day, the mighty Garage Beer Co. – C. del Consell de Cent, 261 Barcelona, Cataluña. These guys are brewing world-class beers ATM, IMO (why all the abbreviations?) And why is abbreviation such a long word? Anyways, as time was drawing on and certain I’d be back, I selected just two stonking NEIPAs; Gold on Blue at 5.7% NEIPA and Soup at 6%. It was a three and-a-half mile walk back to base, but by this time I didn’t care.
Another long walking day – about 11 miles in all. We decided to trek up to the Gaudi-inspired Park Güell. We started a slow 4-mile walk toward the Carmell Hill and arrived around 1 o’clock. The last bit is a fairly steep climb, but is absolutely worth it to see the wonderfully laid-out gardens and views back over the main city. There is a little village of Gaudi-designed buildings, which I thought reminiscent of Portmeirion in Wales, that you could walk around for an entrance fee. Being that I’m a tight arse, and hating queues, I chose to sneak peeks through the gaps in the trees where I could. I’m sure it was very nice.
After about an hour taking in the sites, it was time for a walk back into town via a totally random route. Mrs Belvoir needed some sustenance so we stopped at what seemed to be a little cakey shop on the corner of a lazy village square, but wow! What a corker we lucked upon!
La Rovira – Plaça Rovira I Trias Barcelona, Cataluña seemed like a small bistro from the outside, but behind the cakes and pastries on the counter was a row of sixteen taps, serving a fantastic range of craft beers, some breweries I hadn’t even heard of!
I had a 6.7% Batsquatch, an NEIPA from US brewers Rogue Ales for starters, which certainly hit the spot, but couldn’t prepare me for the brilliantly-named Boogie Till You Barf, a stunning 10% TIPA from the German Sudden Death Brewing. Superb. I wish all our cafes and bistros back home were like this! I couldn’t even find a website or Facebook link to this bar, which shows how anonymous the place was. Well worth the walk out of town though.
Back out into the afternoon heat and another mile and-a-half brought us to La Menuda – C. Provença, 318 Barcelona, Cataluña, basically another burger bar with a ‘modest’ (only nine) selection of beers. I had three here;
Nebula a 6.5% NEIPA by Spain’s Castelló Beer Factory, which was good.
Galactic Sunrise another NEIPA, this time 7% by Cervecera Península from Madrid, which was faaab.
Glory a massive, massive 10.5% TIPA by Northern Monk, which was nom nom noms. Northern Monk seem to have a good foothold in the city. Maybe because of the number of collab’s they’ve done over the years. It seems to be working!
The next stop – CocoVail Beer Hall – Carrer Aragó 284 bis Barcelona, Cataluña, 24 taps in here, but I just had the one because me chaps were still laughing from the Northern Monk I’d just had. Vulcano by Cerveses La Pirata was a 6.8% Sour IPA. Not the best of class but pleasant enough.
It was all getting a bit fuzzy now, so we decided to find somewhere nearer to base for the last couple of scoops. The Cerveseria L’Alternativa – Pallars, 294 Barcelona, Cataluña – wasn’t originally on my radar but we just happened upon it on the way home, just two corners away from our digs. How fookin’ fortuitous was that?
Again, a modest selection of eight taps but put to good use! I finished off the day with a Patrons Project 17.02 from Northern Monk, which I’d already tried at the Hoppiness on our day of arrival. It didn’t disappoint! The last of the evening was Engorile Bcn, a 6.4% APA from Engorile by U-hops, a nano brewery sited somewhere in the city. It was the perfect end to another lovely day.
By an amazing coincidence, we found out that Mark and Sue, our great friends from San Francisco, were on a European tour and were actually in Barcelona at the same time as us! We duly arranged to meet them for a fleeting half hour or so and managed to find them among the throngs of folk gathered in front of the magnificent Sagrada Familia (it’ll be nice when it’s finished) for the obligatory touristy selfie. It was lovely to see them again. We are due to visit them in the States in October 2021, but with all this Covid malarky it looks increasingly doubtful.
Our brief encounter was over all too soon, no time for a beer, but I made sure Mark had a can of Garage in his palm before we waved them away on the coach. Mrs Belvoir and I continued our day’s random sightseeing and it was almost 3 o’clock before we hit our first beer stop, HomoSibaris. – Plaça d’Osca, 4 Barcelona, Cataluña. Basically a small bottle shop with a few benches but a decent selection from fifteen taps. I chose the 5.5% Vanilla Milk Shake and 6.3% Gierzo DDH APA, both by Azimut Brasserie, which is located in the Bordeaux region of France. Both hit the spot.
I’m not really a BrewDog fan – they have lost their ‘punk’ roots and become the Corporation IMO, but seeing as we were passing, we called into BrewDog Barcelona – 69 Carrer de Casanova Barcelona, Cataluña, where I tried the Sheena 6% APA collab brew by BrewDog X Verdant which was very enjoyable. Just the one here, not wanting to give the Corporation any more Euros.
Next up was BierCab – C. Muntaner, 55 Barcelona, Cataluña. Another cracking bar with 30 taps and rows of bottle fridges. They were playing metal on the sound system, so I requested some Rammstein, which came on immediately. To get me fully into the German groove, I ordered an Anaconda Harmonica, a superb 8% TIPA by Fuerst Wiacek. These guys are rapidly becoming my favourite German brewers and if you haven’t checked ’em out yet, you really should. I followed up with Mind Control, a 7% IPA by Spain’s Naparbier which couldn’t really match the quality of the TIPA I’d just had but was nonetheless enjoyable.
It had been a long, hot day so we decided to head back home and revisit Cerveseria L’Alternativa, the local bar we had discovered a couple of days ago, for a nightcap. I wasn’t disappointed with my choice; Primavera by Cerveses La Pirata. A piddling 3.5% but very tasty hazy pale ale. Over and out.
Our Sunday morning started with a walk down to Ciutadell Park then through the Gothic Quarter and down to the marina area of the Maremagnum shopping mall, where one could see the Telefèric de Montjuïc cable car which runs from the Montjuïc Park to the Montjuïc Castle on the summit of the hill. Again, as with much of Barcelona, even if you’re not into the shopping thing, it was just a nice place to just sit for a while, taking in the rays and people-watching. Continuing the walk down to the end of quayside we passed an area where street traders spread their wares over the pavements and entertainers er, entertained. Big crowds and a lovely atmosphere.
Working our way through the throng then jinking right and to the rear of the imposing building that now faced us, we arrived at BlackLab – Plaça Pau Vila, 1 Barcelona, Cataluña. Being a brewery tap, they only sold their own beers, so I opted for a taser board with five selections; Punto De Rocío 5.7% Session IPA, Claudia 7% IPA, Drupe, a Sour Berliner Weisse, plus a Little Sister 4.3% session. They were all good, but the clear winner was the 6.5% Strawberry Shakedown Milkshake IPA nom noms.
Fábrica Moritz Barcelona – Rda. de Sant Antoni, 41 Barcelona, Cataluña was on my list but when we arrived it was quite evident it was going to be a disappointment. It’s a pretty impressive place (the building is cavernous inside) but it was obvious to me they didn’t get the ‘craft’ thing. This was confirmed when I tasted my Moritz BaPA 6% APA, which was decidedly mediocre. Nice building, average beer. Move along there!
To be honest, in five days, we’d probably exhausted the sightseeing potential of the city, and it was a getting a little repetitive but there were still pubs on the list to visit!
The first one today was Beer’linale – C/ Del Carme, 7 Barcelona, Cataluña. An impressive selection here with no less than 30 taps. Not being shy, I chose the 10.9% Hay-Z-Daze from Czech brewers Pivovar Raven which was not an NEIPA as advertised but still good.
Next up was the already visited Kaelderkold, where I sampled the Outlier 4.8% session IPA by Garage which was fab and The Prep from Barcelona’s Wylie Brewery, a 5.4% NEIPA which was not quite so fab but tasty enough.
Ølgod Craft Beer Bar followed, another second visit. This time trying the 5.5% Phenomena, again by Garage Beer Co. Wow! It’s sour! it’s coffee! It’s fab! I followed this with another Wylie beer, Rocky Rolla Coasta a 6% APA which was equally as good.
The first ‘new’ bar of the day was Abirradero – 77 Carrer de Vila i Vilà Barcelona, Cataluña, a craft beer and tapas bar sporting no less than 40 taps. Unfortunately, I was less than impressed by the beer menu and thought I’d try a couple of their ‘House’ beers, which I was told were brewed by Fermun Beers. I couldn’t find much gen on these guys, so I suspect they are a fake brewery. If you can enlighten me, please leave a comment! Suffice to say that neither the 6% CitraMango Juice IPA or 6% MosaicPassion Juice IPA did anything for me. I assumed by the names and ABV that they were just ‘syrupping’ up versions of the same beers. Let me know if I’m wrong.
And that was it. Disappointingly, a somewhat lacklustre end to to the day.
RAIN! And lots of it. After sitting in our room for two hours waiting for it to abate, we decided to brave it and find somewhere to buy an umbrella. This was easier said than done but we did eventually find a shop which had some ‘in the back’. I’m sure I paid a hell of a premium for the thing, but hey! Mrs Belvoir was now happy(ish). A least sightseeing was off the cards and today would be a pub crawl. Yay!
En route, we popped into the La Boqueria Mercat, a massive food market. Extremely busy here with venders selling virtually everything you could name that’s edible. Mrs Belvoir tried another (lukewarm) paella. I tried a pot of locally produced pork scratchings followed by chocolate-covered strawberries on a stick.
Lunch out of the way, we soon arrived at Garage Beer Co where I sat and savoured a selection of their beers, whilst we watched through the widow at the rain-sodden, miserable looking folk pass by. Every beer in here was a winner; The 4% Session IPA (good), 6.2% Trouble NEIPA (wooot!), 5.7% Loose NEIPA (good), 5.6% Michael’s fruited Berliner Weisse (melonsourtastic) and old dependable 6% SOUP NEIPA (fab). These boys really know how to brew craft beer.
Then onwards, back to the BierCab where I had another beer from Fuerst Wiacek, the stupendously delicious Subtopia 6% sour IPA. But even this didn’t prepare me for the taste sensation that was Zoetrope, an 8% TIPA by Spanish micro brewers Gross. Wowsers!
Ale&Hop was next and another two crackers; C.R.E.A.M. 6.8% Milkshake IPA by Basqueland Brewing (superb) and Sine Qua Non 4.5% session IPA from Twisted Barrel Ale. Unsurprisingly, things we starting to get a bit fuzzy now so we decided to make our way back.
Last call was back at Hoppiness where I enjoyed a Rangers Things 6% NEIPA by Cerveza Malandar. An excellent finish to a very soggy day.
Our last full day today and, to be honest, just over a week and we’d had enough. Nonetheless, this turned out to be the ‘walkiest’ day we had… 14 miles! The rain had stopped and we were determined to make the best of it.
We started the day again with a nice leisurely walk down the length of the promenade to the marina and shopping area, and onward to the Columbus Monument. We turned back toward the Gothic Quarter ,where we passed the tastefully-named Bollocks, a burger/cocktail and rock ‘n’ roll bar. It didn’t open until 7pm, but to be honest I think we’d have given it a body swerve anyway.
Not too bothered about not being able to access Barcelona’s Bollocks, we carried on our aimless stroll, reaching the BlackLab at just gone 1 o’clock. A new beer had appeared since our last visit, so I tried the 7% Claudia Passion IPA, along with the fab Strawberry Shakedown I’d already had previously. It was hot today and I kept having to shift my position under the parasol in an attempt to stay in the shade. Eventually all angles were exhausted and we were forced to move on.
The next bar was again found by accident, and I would’ve kicked myself if I’d missed it. Mikkeller Bar – Carrer Valencia 202 Barcelona, Cataluña, is situated a little out of town, but again worth the walk. As seemed to be the norm here, there was a small, almost anonymous frontage, leading in from the street to a long, deep bar area. The modern interior wasn’t what I’d describe as homely, but here it’s all about the beer. We chose to sit in a sheltered area just outside the door, where I sample three excellent beers;
By this time it was about 6.45 and as it was our last day and we still had to pack for tomorrow’s flight, we decided to call it a day and start walking the 3 miles or so back, taking the last one in my favourite bar of the holiday, Hoppiness.
Once there, I found the North X Jakobsland NEIPA that I’d sampled a couple of days ago was still on so I took full advantage and had three of them. Last of the holiday and a sooooperb end to a fab break in a cracking little corner bar.
Barcelona, quite apart from the beer scene, is a beautiful place to visit and I can’t wait to go back again once all this Covid shit is over. We had a smooth flight back on the 13th and then it was onward to the Nottingham Craft Beer Festival on the 14th. But that’s another story.