Monday, February 22, 2010


So you'll never guess where I was last week. Oh OK, it was Barcelona, Spain. Yeah, crazy, right? I may travel a lot for my job but getting an overseas pass - even if it's in cramped coach with an inconvenient flight change and a load of discomfort - is a new one. Last year I was in Madrid and Seville for pleasure and did, in fact, try to ingest local craft beer there with not a lot of luck (here's my dispatch about Madrid's NATURBIER). I casually mentioned to a couple of fellow drinkers at December's Pacific Coast Holiday Beer Fest that I was heading to Barcelona in February, and they burst with enthusiasm about this place called LA CERVETECA that was an absolute must-visit. Was it ever. Given that I had five nights in Barcelona, would the fact that four of them included visits to La Cerveteca surprise you? Yeah, this place is that great.

Jeez, where do I start? OK, I'll keep this and my next post limited to the Spanish (dare I say Catalonian) craft beers that I tried, though I found multiple unheard-of Belgian ales and other wild cards on this trip that I'll write about later. If you've heard anything about a burgeoning artisanal beer culture in Southeastern Spain (I hadn't before this trip), let it be said that there's no friggin' doubt about it. There is now some outstanding beer from this part of the world, and my cup raneth (??) over with the bounty of the region thanks to my targeted visits to La Cerveteca and CERVECERIA EL FLABIOL, both of which I researched via Beer Advocate's invaluable "BeerFly" beer-related travel guide. LA CERVETECA is just amazing - a beautiful, open, German-style beer nook where you drink while standing over barrels and which has local beer on draft and a deep selection of micros from around the world. Funny enough, outside of their many local beers (this has got to be ground zero for Catalonian beer), they also have heavy stock from CANTILLON, NOGNE Ø, AECHT SCHLENKERLAFLYING DOG (!) and ANCHOR BREWING (!!). The guys that run and work the place are exceptionally friendly and even speak a little inglés, which helped me and my drinkmates in picking out the best in Spanish beer, stuff we may never see again.

Foremost on the list is the beer pictured above, one that I absolutely loved and had on draft twice - MASIA AGULLONS RUNA ALE. This is served on hand pump at La Cerveteca, and it's a superlative bitter brown ale. It has a giant frosty head of foam, and is remarkably fresh tasting. Tingling bitterness and lots of exciting dark fruit flavor - prunes, nuts, and some caramel. My friend PW, a guy weaned on UK ales, said this is one of the most exceptional British-style ales he'd had in a long while. I thought it was like a cask brown ale with wildly more hops & fruits than expected, all the while being light, refreshing and low-ABV. RUNA ALE was the highlight of the trip, drink-wise. 9/10.

Another interesting one I got to try is from a local outfit named DeDUES called DeDUES CERVESA D'AUTOR. I was actually gently warned against this by the proprieter of Cerveceria El Flabiol - he called it "unusual and indescribable" - but I thought it was kinda cool in its 13-ounce bottle, if exactly as he described. It's sort of like if you decided to make an "imperial" English bitter, then ramped it up with more hops and a really strange collection of yeasts. Mahogany red, chalky, bitter, and totally unique. Intriguing, but probably not something I'd want to try again. 6/10.

I'd tell ya more but I'm getting too thirsty just typing this stuff. Coming up - the beers of BIRRART MOS'KA and more....!

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