Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beer in Spain, Part Dos

Where the pickings are slim for on-premise beer oases, one can suspect the same, or worse, will be true on the retail end. That is the case in Barcelona, where “beer bars” (in this case, Belgian beer bars) can be counted on one hand, and quality beer shops, perhaps, on one finger.

La Cerveteca occupies an inconspicuous corner property on an inconspicuous side street not far from Barcelona’s harbor and La Rambla, the city’s main pedestrian drag and, as it happens, floral bazaar.

The shop itself also doubles as a bar and is laid out accordingly. Barrels in the front accommodate standing drinkers, while in the back there’s a cozy den complete with a bookshelf full of beery reads. Also intriguing is the glimpse into an unfinished cellar, the mouth of which sits beneath a case housing an impressive collection of glassware.

Of course, La Cerveteca (reviews here and here) features Spanish beers, but these are – thank heavens! – not named Damm or Mahou; still, the owner says most of them are equally worthless. One brand, however, makes the grade: Companiya Cervesera del Montseny, from a town called Sant Miquel de Baleynà. They brew a hoppy pale ale called +Lupulus that's pretty decent – it may or may not, subjectively speaking, be of especially high quality, but for the hop-starved European traveler, it’s like heaven. The dark ale +Negra also scores points on flavor and general European unconventionality.

Germany is represented at La Cerveteca as well. Best of the bunch would probably be Schlenkerla, the famous smoked-beer brewers from Bamburg.

Belgium claims most of the store’s shelf space. Secular brews like Kwak and Duvel are on hand, plus a good showing of trappists (but of course, no Westvleteren). But the real treat would have to be Cantillon, represented here by a number of the brewery’s offerings. Given this beer’s limited production and availability, it’s not entirely unsurprising to find the stuff at this little shop in Barcelona. Though, whatever troubles were undertaken in bringing Cantillon to this spot are reflected in the prices.

But if one isn’t expecting to find Cantillon in this little Barcelona shop, the selection of American beers might be more surprising. Anchor and Flying Dog have surfaced elsewhere in Europe before (see Amsterdam’s De Bierkoning), but coming across Left Hand and Great Divide was a first for this traveler.

Among the U.S. brews for sale: Anchor’s Old Foghorn; Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA and Gonzo Imperial Porter; Left Hand Guju Ginger and Milk Stout; and Great Divide Titan IPA and Yeti Imperial Stout. In a state of delirious hop deprivation, it’s tempting to reach for an expensive bottle of American IPA to ward off those serious withdrawal symptoms. But that temptation should be avoided, if possible.

You know, when in Rome and all that.

1 comment:

Beer said...

Been to Spain once. Drinking beer and watching a bull fight. What an experience Man! Unforgettable.

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