According to statistics compiled by GECAN (Association of Craft and Natural Beer Producers) and Barcelona Beer Festival, there are now 105 craft breweries in Catalonia, and these brewers produced 3m litres of beer in 2016.
While this figure still pales in comparison to the 279m litres consumed by drinkers in Catalonia, the annual output of Catalonian craft breweries has grown by almost 300% since 2012, as customers seek out and demand greater variety from the region’s beer producers.
Earlier this month (March), The Morning Advertiser paid a visit to the Barcelona Beer Festival and took the opportunity to visit some of the most exciting breweries in the region.
Edge Brewing was set up by two Americans, Alan Sheppard and Scott Vanover, in the city of Barcelona in 2014. This modern brewery produces a range of beer styles from across the globe, but with extra emphasis on American and Belgian styles. The brewery produces around 2,500hl of beer annually, which is sold all throughout Europe.
One to try: Dude, the brewery’s double-dry-hopped pale ale is a juicy and super-sessionable pint.
Garage Beer Co
This bar-cum-brewpub in the heart of Barcelona’s craft beer quarter (just a stone’s throw from BierCab and NaparBier BCN), Garage Beer Co is an international brewery in the truest sense. Luckily for lovers of hazy and soft New England IPAs, which the brewery specialises in, Garage’s beers are available in the UK through retailers such as Beer Merchants and Honest Brew.
One to try: the appropriately named Soup is a classic example of the New England IPA style and looks great on Instagram.
A microbrewery likely to be unknown to all but the most fervent of beer geeks, Ales Agullons is the brainchild of former home brewer and beer lover Carlos Rodriguez. The brewery makes just 6,000 litres of beer a year, focusing on traditional cask ales and mixed fermentation beers. The brewery’s rural location (in the small village of Mediona in the Catalonian countryside) makes visiting a challenge, but those who make the trip are richly rewarded by Rodriguez’s hospitality and spectacular beers.
One to try: Septembre is a mixed fermentation beer made from pale ale and traditional lambic, aged for 12 months in oak barrels and bottles respectively.
Lo Vilot’s small brewhouse in the town of Almacelles, Lleida, is functional but nothing special. The real magic of this brewery lies a few kilometres up the road, where the brewery has its own farm. Here, as part of its Full Circle Beer project, the brewery grows and harvests its own malt and hops.
This time-consuming process adds a real sense of terroir and provenance to Lo Vilot’s beers, while the brewery is also hoping to harvest its own yeast from the farmhouse site in the future.
One to try: Zatec is a faithful and highly drinkable interpretation of a Belgian golden ale and has the added benefit of being suitable for coeliacs.
In the small town of La Pobla de Segur, in the Lleida region, Ctretze Pirineus is an integral part of Catalonia’s fledgling beer scene. The brewery has worked with other local producers in the region to set up an artisanal beer route, a collective effort to promote beer education and tourism in the area. It also seeks to be the centre of its community, hosting regular parties and dinners at its on-site taproom.
One to try: the brewery’s brown ale, Obag, is made with five different kinds of malt and two UK varieties of hops. It’s a lovely, sweet caramel-tinged brew, with an excellent balance of flavours.
After finally getting a permanent home in October 2015 – having previously cuckoo brewed at other local breweries – Cerveses La Pirara has exploded onto the regional and international beer scene.
Brewing on a bespoke American kit, and producing around 2,500hl a year, these self-styled ‘pirates’ are popular both locally (gigs are hosted at the brewery open days once a month) and further afield (40% of the brewery’s production is exported).
One to try: Jam Session – a collaboration with Buddelship Brauerei in Hamburg – is an imperial-strength saison. Aged for 12 months in Chardonnay barrels, this beer packs a real punch.
A brewing collective based equidistant between Barcelona and Girona, La Calavera produces a mixture of core pale beers, and more limited-run barrel-aged sours and stouts.
The brewery has about 60 wine and whisky barrels, in which it has begun experimenting with mixed and spontaneous fermentation. It also owns a restaurant – La Barricona – a short distance from the brewery site.
One to try: the pick of the brewery’s barrel-aged beers is Sedition, a spiky, Brett sour that is aged in red wine barrels from the Rioja region.
Montseny was one of the first craft breweries in the region when it was founded back in 2007. The brewery, which sits just outside the national park of the same name, now produces around 3,000hl annually, also making it one of the largest.
Its beers have a strong presence in local supermarkets while special editions such as an autumnal chestnut brown ale and an imperial stout in brandy casks are exported internationally.
One to try: Montseny Aniversari was the brewery’s first attempt at an IPA, brewed for its fifth anniversary. Bitter, resinous and sharp, it’s a classic imitation of the West Coast American style.
This modern rural brewery specialises in producing ‘gateway’ beers to bring new customers into the craft beer category, and also places a heavy emphasis on using local ingredients, such as spelt, flowers, herbs and hops, in its beers.
Art’s four core and three seasonal beers are always served unfiltered and unpasteurised, and the brewery is also working with wine distributors to get its beers into more restaurants both locally and further afield.
One to try: Franceska is the brewery’s take on a traditional steam beer; a lager fermented at a higher than usual temperature, then dry hopped with American hops.