The Quest for the Holy Grain - Best Brew Pubs


An American's Thoughts on Beer in Spain

You're not in Spain to drink beer. If you visit a cerveceria (bar) and just ask for a beer you'll probably get an Amstel Light, Heineken or Carlsberg. Improve your chances by at least asking for a Spanish beer. In that case you'll probably get an Estrella Damm (in the north), San Miguel or Mahou (in the mid-country), or Cruzcamop (in the south) – all nondescript international pale lagers but at least native beers.
The vast majority of beer poured in Spain is pale lager (savaged by the and crowds, if you care). Still, for the most part, its passable session beer that goes well with ham and sardines on crusty bread at the outdoor café scene, no?
Aside from the pale lagers we found a few other Spanish beers that we would seek out again: Cap D'Ona Torrada (6.5% amber), Legado de Yuste (6.5% Belgian pale ale), San Miguel Nostrum (6.2 % strong lager), and Voll Damm (7.2% marzen). These are all on the strong side; sweet, malty, sometimes thin and alcoholic. Sorry hop heads – look elsewhere.
Craft beers as you know them in the US are virtually nonexistent in Spain . If you're near one of the country's few (four?) brewpubs drop in for a tasting. But keep your expectations low. At least you can say you were there.
Spain is embarrassingly rich in world-class art, architecture and beer taps. Some taps are tomorrow's museum pieces. Even the pale lagers are dispensed through sleek designer metal towers. Never mind The Prado – hit a tapas bar and check ‘em out.
And cerveza is not necessarily pronounced with a lisping accent - as thairr-BAY-tha - in Barcelona or anywhere else in Spain . We occasionally heard people speak in that manner but they were not unique to any one area, and we never heard anyone lisp through the word cerveza.



Questor's Notes on Beer Drinking in Southern Europe:

Before we left I gathered addresses of brewpubs and good beer bars for the cities we were traveling to.  I had several for each city from various sources, and maps, too. place was closed for remodeling, one was closed for siesta, one was closed for no reason, two were abandoned, and several were mis-represented.  The good news was that I found all of the addresses. A "Bar" in this part of Europe has a different meaning than we are used to.  The word more describes the fixture or the arrangement of the place.  Usually there will be a raised counter four to 10 feet long.  One can order a beer, soda, coffee, ice cream, sandwiches, or whatever, and can consume it there, standing up.  Any tables would be for wait service.  Most "Bars" usually have a tap of local beer and several different bottled beers.



Plaza de Santa Ana , 9
Madrid , Spain
Telephone 91 429 39 18

Naturbier is one of Madrid 's only two brewpubs so it's worth a stop for that reason alone. It sits in the heart of the old central city about a five minute walk east of Plaza Mayor. There's seating in the very picturesque Santa Ana Plaza just outside the pub – perfect for watching life go by. Inside there's a bar in the front and tables in the back, all in a faux-German setting. The bar has a largely local clientele mixed with city shoppers and tourists. During our visit we were lucky enough to get a few minutes with “Maestero Cervecero” Alex Schmid, a transplant from Germany and very proud of his 1,500 liter brewing system (about 12.5 barrels). Alex admitted “there is no brewing culture” in Spain but he's doing his best to turn that around. His year-round brews are a passable Dunkel – malty yet a touch hoppy for the style – and a light Helles. Alex also makes seasonal specials that include an Oktoberfest and a Christmas beer. Naturbiers are served from the tap; unfortunately, during our visit it looked like the tables with the built-in multi-taps had not been used in some time. The pub serves typical Spanish bar food (tapas and the like).



La Cervesera Artesana

Carrer Sant Agusti, 14
08012 Barcelona , Spain
telephone 93 237 95 94

La Cervesera Artesana is a few blocks from the northern end of the busiest strip of Barcelona 's trendy Passeig de Garcia. The neighborhood is pleasant and quiet, fitting for Barcelona 's only brewpub. Inside the pub is narrow and cozy. The bar offers three beers made on-site in what looks like about a two-barrel brewing system: a blond, an Iberian pale ale, and an Iberian stout. The later was out when we visited, and the other two tasted much like the multitude of other international pale beers readily available everywhere else. Fear not – there are seven guest taps and at least fifty bottled beers largely from Europe and unavailable or hard to find back home (OK, Bud was there, too, as the lone US rep). There's a limited tapas menu, but stick with the beer and eat elsewhere. Unusually, the bar staff spoke less English than I spoke Spanish so our conversation about craft brewing, buying a logo glass (yes, they have one), and taking beer back to the hotel was awkward. If you visit La Cervesera Artesana my advice is to try a small (cana) glass of the brewery beer and then move on to the unusual stuff in bottles, like Judas (Belgium), Louny (Czech Republic), or La Bierre du Demon (French 12% alcohol crazy beer). And take a cab back to the hotel.