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Beer sellers: La Cerveteca, Barcelona

First published in Beers of the World, February 2009

La , Barcelona

Catalunya may be some way south of Europe’s “beer belt” and its Penedès vineyards may have a well-earned place in world wine guides, but this corner of the northern Mediterranean is also the heartland of Spain’s industrial revolution. In the mid-19th century, railways and textile factories changed the face of the ancient port of Barcelona, the region’s capital, and breweries soon followed to slake the thirsts of its legions of new workers.

The only survivor of this period is Damm, established in 1876 by an expat from Strasbourg. Now a 5million hectolitre business, its key Estrella brand, the self-proclaimed “beer of Barcelnoa”, is an unexciting industrial lager. Truer to its Rhineland heritage are dark Damm Bock and strong Märzen-style Voll Damm, but beyond these and a few bars and restaurants offering better-known Belgian and German imports, what else does this otherwise beautiful, cosmopolitan and much-visited city have to offer the beer lover?

Exterior of La Cerveteca, Barcelona

To find the glimmerings of craft beer culture, head southeast off the celebrated Rambla promenade, where street hawkers sell cans of Estrella and San Miguel to evening strollers, into the narrow alleys of the old city’s Barri Gòtic. On a corner not far from Plaça George Orwell (now, ironically, under surveillance from CCTV), beer shop and “cultural encounter space” La Cerveteca has been on a mission to educate since 2006.

Cantillon in abundance

Unsurprisingly for a style-conscious city, this is a good looking place with big windows, surreal artwork and around 100 changing craft brews in a wide variety of styles, mainly from Belgium, Germany, the USA and the UK, with products of smaller and lesser-known breweries like Belgium’s Senne and Germany’s Hoepfner sourced through regular buying trips abroad.

All bottles can be drunk in as well as carried out and there are four draught taps behind the counter – indeed, with a scattering of stools and tables fashioned from old casks, the place also functions as a bar, hosting an enthusiastic crowd that mixes remarkably youthful and trendy locals with visiting beer tourists. Glassware is on sale, and Cerveteca’s higher mission is advanced through regular tastings and teaching sessions. And there are plans to open a micro and to equip the cellar for cask beer.

Steve Huxley advises a customer

Young owner-managers Rubén Rios and Guillem Laporta are two friends with a passion for beer, but the spiritual guru, and now full-time employee, of the enterprise is Steve Huxley, a Liverpudlian long resident in Barcelona and author of the first comprehensive Spanish guide to brewing and beer appreciation, La cerveza…poesía líquida (Beer…liquid poetry). In 1993 Steve founded a pioneering brewpub which enjoyed great success until it was shut down two years later by the excise men. “No one had started a brewery here for so long,” says Steve, “we didn’t even know there was paperwork.”

La Cerveteca celebrates World Beer Cup winners

Steve subsequently founded beer enthusiasts’ organisation Humulus Lupulus, which has acted as an inspiration to a handful of recently founded local micros. You’ll find some of their products on Cerveteca’s shelves, though few can yet match the imports for quality. One exception is tiny farmhouse brewery Agullons, whose US-inspired craft ales have benefitted from Steve’s advice and have even appeared at festivals in Belgium and the UK. Catalunya is renowned for its fine architecture, art, food and drink – Catalans deserve a beer renaissance too, and Cerveteca could just be its epicentre.

Fact file

Address:Gignàs 25, 08002 Barcelona

The art of beer

Phone: +34 93 315 0407
Web: www.lacerveteca.com
Hours: Mon-Tues 1600-2200, Wed-Sun 1200-2200
Drink in? Yes
Mail order: No.

Manager’s favourites: Guillem: Senne Stouteric; Rubén: Agullons Pura Pale; Steve: Anderson Valley Boont Amber, “1960s Draught Bass from the Union system”.

Beer picks

  • Agullons Bruno 4.5% Mediona, Catalunya, Spain. Substantial but refreshing unfiltered pale ale with a dash of sappy crystal malt and a perfumed grapefruit bite from a new micro in wine country.
  • Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze 5% Anderlecht, Bruxelles, Belgium. Made only with mature lambics refermented with sugar primings, a mellower but still biting and complex gueuze from an uncompromising artisanal brewery.
  • Coopers Vintage Ale 7.5% Regency Park, South Australia. A stronger matured beer from the celebrated Sparkling Ale brewer, rich with apple and soft fruit, whiskyish oak and late roast almonds.
  • Hoepfner Kräusen 5.1% Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. This superb and subtle unfiltered lager with vanilla honey, citrus, cleansing berry notes and a refined finish was a 2008 World Beer Cup category winner.
  • Left Hand Milk Stout 5.2% Longmont, Colorado, USA. Malty liquorice coffee cake, cola, strawberry fruit, gentle hops and milk gum stickiness distinguish this version of a rare style from an innovative brewer.

4 comments to Beer sellers: La Cerveteca, Barcelona

  • Roy

    There are also the Mosquito, Jazz bar, the eSe eFe bar, The Tatami Room and the CatBar serving good beers in the centre of Barcelona.

  • 2D2Dspuma is by far the best bar (and shop, too) for Catalan beer in the city, although Cervecita nuestra de cada dia is also very good (also a shop!). For a cracking beer shop selling a huge range of interesting beer try Rosses i Torrades.

  • Maz

    The Jazz Bar is great for a wide range of fantastic beers and also serve the best hamburgers in Barcelona!

  • Jaume

    Bar SF (ese efe) is by far the best beer bar in Barcelona. They are “unique” The best beer and a very eclectic, interesting staff. Lots of languages spoken.

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