Beer, Glorious Beer!

There are many wonderful things about living in Spain and particularly so on the Costa Brava here in Catalunya. The climate is probably the most obvious of these for us ‘northerners’, along with the lower cost of living. The food is pretty damn good here too and so is the wine to go with it. However, nowhere is perfect and one area which might be a source of a little frustration to some of you at times is the lack of choice when it comes to going for a beer.

Until recently, Spain has had a pretty bad reputation when it comes to beer and, for the most part, justifiably so. The vast majority of all beer produced in the country was brewed by three companies, albeit under various names. Heineken, who already had their own El Äguila breweries, bought the five Cruzcampo breweries owned by Diageo (Guinness) and then were forced by the regulator to sell two of their own, in Valencia and Madrid, to Damm, who were originally based solely in Barcelona. The third was formed when Mahou of Madrid bought San Miguel from Danone (Kronenbourg) to create the Mahou-San Miguel group. About 90% of the beer available throughout the country came from one of these three – and it was all pretty much the same stuff, regardless of the label on the bottle! Your ‘classic’ Spanish beer was always a pale and not very hoppy type of pilsner.

Here in Catalunya Moritz (originally founded in 1856 but bankrupted in 1978) was resurrected in 2004 – only to produce even more of the same! A better version of this ‘classic’ style of beer has also been produced by Estrella Galicia since 1906, (a brewery in A Coruña that is still owned by the same family to this day) and is nowadays becoming much more widely available throughout Spain. Estrella Galicia and Alhambra are probably the best amongst these standard beers and Cruzcampo and San Miguel the worst – but the majority of bars still only have one beer on tap and not many more in bottles so you may have little choice!

Good news!
So blah-blah, enough about the crappy beers of Spain you say, and you’d be right! Let’s move on to the good stuff! The good news is that things are improving, even if the pace of change is typically Spanish (read slow)! And the better news is that, despite being more commonly associated with cava, Catalunya is leading the, ahem, ‘charge’! Back in 2006, there were only about a dozen craft breweries in Catalunya but now they number over a hundred and they produce over 3m litres of beer per annum. While this is not even 1% of the total beer consumed here, the growth rate over the last 6 years has been over 300% so they’re headed in the right direction. If you’re on the hunt for some of these tasty beverages, naturally you’ll find more in the cities of Barcelona and Girona than in smaller towns. As is usually the case, the Irish pubs have always been your best port of call for foreign or craft beers but, thankfully, many local bar owners have cottoned on to the gap in the market and are beginning to stock some fine brews too, both foreign and Catalan/Spanish. In Barcelona, there are too many to mention but a quick Google search will yield results. Here are just four in Girona with a great selection, starting from the bottom end of La Rambla and walking northwards:

B12 Restaurant Bar Vega
Plaça de Vi, 11
Just off the bottom of La Rambla, this place is both a vegan restaurant and a bar. All their beers are microbrewed and Catalan. Last time we checked they were over 50 beers to choose from.

McKiernan’s
Rambla de la Libertat, 32
Just around the corner on La Rambla itself, this is a fairly typical Irish pub with all the usual imported beers and ciders you’d expect

Bagels and Beers
Passeig José Canalejas, 1
Just a couple of minutes walk further up the Rambla and then across the river. Here they specialize in… well, the name says it all really, doesn’t it?

Cerveseria El Primer Glop
Carrer de la Barca, 23
A little further up on the same side of the river as the first two, this joint has a very good selection of local and imported beer and cider – and there’s often music as the owner himself is a musician

Closer to home
While most bars around here are still the one-beer-on-tap variety, don’t despair – hope is at hand! Here are six places for you to check out that have a decent variety in their beer selection. No doubt there are more but even we can’t go to every bar in the area! You’ll just have to do some exploring yourselves!

Cactus Bar
Av del Cavall Bernat 67-69, Platja d’Aro
Sports bar with a nice selection of imported beers, especially Belgian – and most with the proper glass to go with each beer!

La Martarita
Plaça Catalunya 7, Sant Antoni de Calonge
Small bar but with some very nice Belgian and American style craft beers brewed in Catalunya. One minute’s walk from the beach.

La Tastaolletes
Passeig de Josep Mundet, 71, Sant Antoni de Calonge
On the seafront promenade, this place is a restaurant rather than a bar (and a very good restaurant at that) and everything here is Catalan, including a selection of Catalan craft brews.

La Paki
Passeig de Mar, 43, Palamós
They have a red ale on tap and about a dozen or so bottled beers (about half of which are “interesting”). Located on the seafront without a few outside tables.

The Currach
Carrer de Notaries 25, Palamós
Two Irish craft beers on tap plus about a half dozen bottled beers, both imported and local. Good place for watching sports too.

Bitácora
Carrer Nou 2, Palamós
A fine selection of Belgian and American microbrew as well as some domestic craft beers you are unlikely to find anywhere else around here. Great food too. They even host the occasional beer tasting session with an expert brought in to explain as you drink!

El Mur
Av. Onze de Setembre, 95, Palamós
Situated on a pedestrian street right in the heart of Palamós, these guys have Leffe on tap and some bottled IPAs. A perfect place to watch the world go by. They also serve food

P.S: Between October and March/April be sure to check on opening days and times beforehand to avoid bitter disappointment!

Cheers! Proost! Sláinte! Salut! Santé! Salud! Prost! Skål!

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