December ’92. While Barcelona was recovering from its post-Olympic hangover, one young man was getting ready to open what was to become a beer institution: the Cerveseria Jazz. Almost a quarter of a century later, Àlex Camacho is still behind the bar cooking up some of the best hamburgers in the city with the same patience and enthusiasm as when he talks about beer. The Jazz was a founding member of the Humulus Lupulus association and Steve’s Academy, and its walls are full of history – and not just of music, but of beer as well.
Another of the city’s beer emporioums since Guillem Laporta and Rubén Río opened this first shop in Spain dedicated exclusively to craft beer in the early 2000s. They were pioneers in putting together a menu of top beers from around the world (especially the USA), most of which were as unknown then as they are trendy now; plus they also offer tastings, workshops and beer pairings. These days this is standard operating procedure, but it all started on this corner in the Barri Gòtic.
Times have changed since 1993, when Steve Huxley began making Iberian, the first beer to be brewed and served at a microbrewery in Barcelona. And when Olaf Martí took the helm, made sure that the Artesana stuck to its principles: keep their five taps full of their home brews, and add in special touches that run the gamut from wild mushrooms to honey or spices. A classic.
This is the grandaddy of the bunch. The Black Lion in Les Corts has been serving Barcelona good craft for over 50 years. It's the oldest English pub in town, having first opened its doors in 1959, well before the other English and Irish pubs that subsequently invaded La Rambla and surrounds. It's got a good long history with the Catalans, as well, having hosted meetings of Nova Cançó (a movement of artists that promoted Catalan music under Franco) as well as some of the movement's bigger singers and songwriters. These days, they have craft beer on tap, good G&Ts, football on the telly and a lively crowd.
Before launching the great adventure that is Biercab, Manolo Baltasar transformed this sandwich shop into a place of pilgrimage for beer worshipers back in 1996. Thanks to the great selection of imported bottles – and not just from Germany – and despite starting out with just three taps (now they've got ten), this small space in front of the Collblanc market is also the perfect spot to stop in before a match at Camp Nou or a concert at Palau Sant Jordi.
Thanks to the passion for their work that Susana and Maria have, the Congrés area, home to the two 2D2 spaces, has become another must of a destination for beer lovers. They've got a shop where you can browse their unique selection, with up to 1,000 beers (including their own, of course), and a bar with nine taps that rotate local brews. What’s more, on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights they offer beers plus tapas at prices that will make you happy. Who said craft beer had to be expensive?
Just like the businesses in the Gaixample, the area’s beer purveyors have become an attraction beyond the limits of the city, beyond Catalonia and even beyond the borders of Spain. The turning point came when Biercab placed in the world ranking of beer establishments on the specialised website RateBeer, in summer 2014. The knowledge and insight of the brewpub's partners – Navarran brewery Naparbier, distributors Zombier, and two respected professionals from the sector, Sven Bosch (The Drunk Monk) and Manolo Baltasar (Freiburg) – laid the foundations. They've got 30 taps and a huge selection of bottled beers, which is extended now extended at their shop at Muntaner, 57.
Thanks to his Rosses i Torrades, David Pié can claim the title of honorary godfather of the district’s beer culture. Open since 2010, this shop and bar invites you to enjoy a perfectly poured pint while you listen to vinyl on the turntable and disconnect from the outside world on a tour of the more than 500 beers on the shelves (though it's likely best you don't try them all in one go).
Only a few metres up the road from Rosses i Torrades there are two more recent arrivals, both obligatory stops. For starters, there’s Brewdog, the first Scottish pub in Spain, offering 20 draught beers (a mix of their own brews and guest beers), including their award-winning Punk IPA. On the same stretch of pavement, there’s OMA Bistro, and its enticing NYC-style brunch accompanied by a pint of craft beer.
On C/ Consell de Cent, just before it meets Biercab Street – sorry, Muntaner – another establishment is gaining a following among beer novices and experts alike. It’s Garage Beer Co, a brewpub where, in addition to sampling their own beers (an area in which, admittedly, there’s some room for improvement), you can make yourself at home on a sofa only a few feet from the fermentation tanks.
Heading up Aribau, it’s time to drop in at L’Espumossa, a warm and welcoming beer emporium where you can stock up at their shop and get in a chilled glass or two while enjoying home-made croquettes and the friendly service of owner Cristina. A delight.
Long story short, when people talk about the Beerxample, they’re talking about the ideal showcase and barometer for Barcelona’s burgeoning beer culture. There is at least one establishment in every neighbourhood with something to offer lifelong beer geeks and the increasing numbers of new converts: shops, brewpubs, fashionable bars, and even restaurants with special beer and food pairings, such as Racó d'en Cesc and here at MonDoré.
If you’re in the Sant Antoni neighbourhood, don’t miss the chance of a pint from any of the 12 taps at La Resistència. And if you’re lucky enough to find Sergi Gili behind the bar and in a talkative mood, you could end up discussing philosophy, history or anarchy, and then you'll get a sense of what a fountain of knowledge an ordinary Barcelona bar can become when you’re holding a decent glass of beer.
With eight taps, La Més Petita, though its name means 'The Littlest One' is possibly the beer bar with the most pulls per square metre in the city. Theirs is a careful offering of domestic and imported craft beers in cosy surroundings. You can also get your brew of choice to take away in reuseable containers.
Beer in the barris
Since 2011, the Born has also had its temple for beer worshipers. With a dozen rotating taps and three refrigerators full to bursting, as well as one of the most flexible timetables in the city (from Wednesday to Sunday you can enjoy your favourite beverage until 1.30am), Ale&Hop is also a great place to try eat, with pintxos on Thursdays, brunch at weekends, and healthy vegetarian food anytime. See? Beer can be healthy!
Ølgod is a craft beer bar in the heart of the Raval that boasts 30 taps. The name comes from a Danish town, and means 'god of beer', and you'll notice it all as soon as you walk in when you're greeted by runes and a Viking ship. The folks at Ølgod are dedicated to craft beer from the north (although there's always a local representation). In the kitchen is the same chef who worked in the space that stood here before: Juicy Jones. This translates to a small menu of vegetarian dishes made from simple yet quality recipes where everything is home-made (including the tortilla chips). There's also a good, generous set lunch menu, which includes a pint of craft beer, or two half pints if you're in the mood for trying a couple of different brews.
After trying his first bitter thanks to Steve Huxley, and becoming part of the beginnings of the Barcelona beer revolution with La Cerveteca and the association of beer culture Humulus Lupulus, Guillem Laporta headed back to the Sants neighbourhood. There he and some friends opened Homo Sibaris, where they could sell their own beer and have more freedom to try out new recipes. This is a must on any craft beer route. And with a terrace on Plaça d'Osca, what more could you ask for?
It took a while, but Gràcia has come out of its standstill and become a top spot to find craft beer, thanks to a great job by Noe, the owner of Cara B, who has found a wide selection of barrels and bottles, and all the best accessories. In addition to their interior terrace, you can't miss the oasis that is the Vilabirra beer festival during the Gràcia Festa Major.
A beer a day... is the sage advice La Cervetica's Quim and Angie offer. This friendly spot represents the essence of beer, with a dozen varieties on tap (including three hand pumps) and more than 300 bottled beers. It's the brewing soul of Poblenou, where you'll find a die-hard group of faithful local customers as well as in-the-know visitors stopping by after a long day at the beach.
Behind this name many of us find tongue-twistingly foreign – it literally means 'cold basement' – is a desire to bring the spirit of Denmark to La Rambla. After all, the Scandinavian country is home to prized breweries such as Mikkeller, Amager and To Øl. Not only does Kælderkold boast 15 quality taps, this small bar was a pioneer in implementing a menu of beer cocktails. Cheers! Or as they say here, skål!
Brewpubs (direct from the fermenter to you)
With everything in its place, Anna Cufí's vast knowledge and alchemist Bernat Diego's experience are the best guarantee for that this lovely micropub that youll find just in front of the Cervecería Jazz and Steve's Academy. Wordplay aside, BrewPub Le Sec is changing the face of Poble-sec, we're sure of it.
A great location and a fusion menu (combining Asian and US influences) are the strong points of this ambitious project that seems to have won over a fair chunk of the city’s beer-drinking public. Their Claudia IPA and Cosas Que Pasan APA were some of the best in 2015.
As well as producing legendary tapas for almost 50 years, since 2009 El Vaso de Oro has been serving Fort beer at the perfect temperature, straight from the brewery in L’Hospitalet. One of their delectable 'platillos' (small plates of food) accompanied by a slender flute of ice-cold beer should be a rite of passage for any beer fan in Barcelona.
Since 2013, brewers Scott and Alan have been working hard in this corner of Poblenou, and they still find room in their busy schedules to share their passion for craft beer. If you don't have any plans for Saturdays in July, you can join them for EDGEucation, when the doors to their brewery are open to the public.
Beer fans in Barcelona were sad when La Maison Belge closed down, but soon Henk filled the void in the hearts of hops fans with the opening of this shop that boasts almost 500 different beers and two inviting taps to go along with the range of local products. Unbeatable.
In the upper regions of Diagonal, craft beer can also be found in this cosy store and bar (with a small terrace that's much appreciated in summer). The Beer Shop has become a classic thanks to its eight taps and over 250 choices. An uptown must.
Those in the know agree that the real revolution in brewing is home brewing. If you have the the right refrigeration conditions and the space for it, you can find everything you need to make beer at home right here: four-litre kits, mixtures and ingredients galore, accessories, courses and more. Is that the sound of Heineken quaking in its boots?
In the heart of Sant Andreu, you can find this shop with over 200 varieties, four beers on tap, and a list of programmes, including tastings of British and German beers, and a session of beer pairings with Asturian cheeses.