Right now World of Beer is taking applications for a Beer Internship (called Drink it Intern) and part of the application is a one-minute video about a new beer, a review of a favorite brew, your favorite brewery, or some hidden talent.
So here’s my video! I tell a quick story about our visit to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, with it’s crazy network of pre-refrigeration tunnels.
We just got back from a trip to Belgium, and have been drinking Belgian beer for over a week straight. We generally plan our itineraries around food and booze, first mapping out where/what we will eat and drink, then we see what kind of historic things we can fit in between. Breweries, distilleries and wineries almost always have top priority.
This trip was of course no exception and Belgian beer has a reputation that needs no explanation, so I’ll cut to the chase. We visited three cities: Brussels, Bruges and Ghent and hit one brewery in each. There are hundreds of breweries in the country, but we selected these three because they were centrally located and easy to get to on foot.
Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 1000 – 1700
Closed: Wednesdays, Sundays and public holidays Cost: 7€ (comes with two sample sized beers)
Tour is self-guided and takes about 45 minutes. More info: http://www.cantillon.be/
Going to Cantillon is like stepping back in time to see how beer was made 100+ years ago. Here they make Lambics, Gueuzes, Faros and Krieks the old fashion way, literally. Nearly all of the structure and equipment is the original from when it opened in 1900.
The process of milling and mashing the grain is pretty much the same as modern breweries today, but what is truly fascinating about this place is that they rely on spontaneous fermentation to make their beer. That means they do not add yeast, but instead pump their wort to a large shallow tank that is exposed to the ambient air, and wild yeast finds its way to the liquid. They are the only brewery in Brussels still doing it this way.
The beer is then pumped into large oak or chestnut barrels where it is left to ferment for up to three years. Yes, you read that right, three years. The beer can then be bottled or have fruit added, which gives them their kreiks.
Touring Cantillion is really an amazing experience because the place is unlike any brewery you’ve ever been to before. Like all great tours, at the end you get two tasting glasses to drink in the bar area. Even if you don’t feel like doing the tour, you can still buy a bottle and hang out for a drink.
Fair warning though, lambics are not for everyone because they are quite sour/bitter. If that’s not your thing, the tour is still worth seeing.
Practical Stuff: Daily Tours between 1100-1600 in Dutch, English and French. On Saturday Tours available til 1700.
Check their website for times of the tours and to book your reservation. Cost: 8.50€ (comes with a glass of their Brugse Zot Blond)
Group guided tour takes about 45 minutes and includes lots of stairs. More info: http://www.halvemaan.be/en/brewery-visit
Half Moon Brewery in Bruges is set in a beautiful part of a ridiculously picturesque city. Nestled between a cafe-lined plaza and one of the city’s canals, this brewery is half modern and half museum. The brewing kettles were recently upgraded and the bar/restaurant area looks like an upscale brewpub. Taking the tour however, you see the evolution of machinery and equipment that have been used over four generations of brewing.
The tour meanders up and down stairs, through old lofts and between tanks. A brief stop on the roof gives an amazing view of the city, but also make it clear that they have no more room to expand their facilities and production. The solution, our guide explained, is to build a beer pipeline from the brewery to a bottling facility over a kilometer away. That’s right, a beer pipeline.
Beers here were great; they go by two different labels: Brugse Zot (with a blond and a dubbel variety) and Straffe Hendrik (with a tripel and quadrupel variety). You can try them all in the bar/restaurant and get lunch or dinner while you’re at it.
A photo posted by bbbliteration (@bbbliteration) on
#3 Gentse Gruut – Ghent
Rekelingestraat 5, 9000 Gent (When you look this up by the address on Google maps it puts you on the wrong side of the river. It is directly across from Gravensteen Castle on Rekelingestraat)
Practical Stuff: Tour by appointment, mainly for groups Check their website to book. Cost: 9.00€ (8+people) or 10.00€ (less than 8 people). Comes with three tasters.
Tour/tasting can be paired with some small food items. More info: http://www.gruut.be/
Gentse Gruut is super interesting because they do not use hops in their beer, but rather a mix of herbs. This is apparently how beer was made before the days of hops, we’re talking medieval time here. Only one of their five beers has any hops in it, and honestly it was hard to tell which.
To be honest, we did not figure out the tour at this brewery, which recently moved locations. After walking by it several times (see note above about the address on Google maps) we came into what looked like a reception or event hall. There was a bar, tables and chairs, and OH HEY! a very small brewing setup. Given the really small size, it’s impressive the reach this beer has because we saw it all over the city. We certainly could have asked about the tour, but we really just wanted to sit and drink this hop-less beer, which turned out to be SUPER good.
One more interesting fact about this place is that the head brewer/owner is a woman named Annick De Splenter, which is really cool to see in an otherwise dude-dominated industry.
Have you been to any other awesome breweries in Belgium? Let us know because we’ll definitely be doing the pilgrimage again soon!
Last Monday, August 1o, La Rovira opened its doors and taps just in time for Festa Major de Gràcia. Since then, as far as we can tell, they’ve been killing it. One or both of us have been three times since the opening, partly because it’s minutes away from our place, but mainly because they have an incredible selection of craft beers from all over. La Rovira has 18 beers on tap from craft breweries far and wide and with many, many more in bottles. It’s enough to keep any beer enthusiast busy for a while. They are also serving their own beer called De La Vila, which was made just for the Festa Major. It’s a light session IPA with a citrus and floral nose and a slightly fruity taste with mild bitterness from the hops. Most standard IPAs have an ABV (alcohol by volume) in the 5.0-7.0% range (some are much higher); this one comes in at 4.7%, which means you can drink it all afternoon on a hot summer day and still find your way home.
One of the many things I love about Barcelona is how vibrant its craft beer scene is. We have made it our mission to visit all the craft beer bars and breweries in the city (and eventually in Catalunya), but it’s tough when there are new spots opening all the time. No one said it was gonna be easy.
So consider this a first installment in an ongoing series on craft beer in Barcelona. Here are some of the fantastic places we’ve fallen in love with so far.
Craft Beer in Barcelona
1. Edge Brewing
Edge Brewing is an American craft brewery located in Poblenou – a cool warehouse district near the water that isn’t yet teeming with people. Two Americans, Alan and Scott, started the brewery in 2013, and I love everything about it. The beers are excellent and diverse (I’m partial to the Hoptimista IPA and the Padrino porter), the people are super friendly and knowledgeable, the space is open and welcoming.
For the last year, we’ve been going frequently to their “open doors” events on Friday nights – where you can buy a pint or two and eat food provided by local vendors. Sadly, they recently stopped doing these events, but they are now offering Saturday tours and tastings and private tours by reservation.
Edge Brewing Carrer de Llull 62 08005 Barcelona Metro : Bogatell (L4/yellow line)
Tour & Tasting Saturdays 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. €15 (cash) Reserve in advance
Chivuo’s is an awesome street food and craft beer bar close to our apartment in Gràcia, and it takes all of my willpower not to stop in every time I walk by. Juan and Ale, the Venezuelan proprietors, are wonderful and take great care to offer a well-curated list of craft beers (10 rotating selections on tap) and excellent food.
There are only a few items on the food menu – hamburger, pulled pork sandwich, tuna melt, chicken sandwich, Philly cheesesteak, a few varieties of fries and patatas bravas – but everything from the buns to the BBQ sauce is homemade and delicious. The pulled pork and hamburger in particular are to die for. It’s a small place with a few tables and seating at the bar, so I like to go in the afternoon or early evening before it gets too busy. (They also have free Wi-Fi, but your productivity will probably plummet after a couple pints…)
Chivuo’s Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla 175 08012 Barcelona +34 932 185 134 Metro: Fontana (L3/green line)
BlackLab just opened its doors in a beautiful space in Barceloneta, after several months of hosting smaller beer events around the city. I’m already looking forward to the summer when we can take advantage of its big outdoor tables. BlackLab is pretty much the brewpub I wish I had started. It was founded by Jing and Yuan, Galicians of Chinese origin, and Matt, an American, and it has a solid beer list (from BlackLab and other breweries) and excellent Asian-American food. The pork belly buns are insane. As is everything else we’ve tried.
BlackLab Brewhouse Plaça Pau Vila 1-5 08039 Barcelona +34 93 22 18 360 Metro: Barceloneta (L4/yellow line)
Garage is brand new, and we had the good fortune to check it out the day after it opened a few months ago. Since then, it’s been blowing up – hosting cool food and design events, experimenting with tasty new beers and being a generally cool spot to hang out.
Garage Beer Co. Carrer Consell de Cent 261 08011 Barcelona +34 93 52 85 989 Metro: Universitat (L1/red line)
Ale&Hop is a small bar in El Born with an impressive selection of beers from all over the world – on tap and bottled. As one of Barcelona’s well-known craft beer bars, it gets crowded, especially late and on weekends, but it’s worth checking out. We haven’t tried their food yet, but they serve pintxos on Thursday nights and brunch on the weekends.
Ale&Hop Basses de Sant Pere 10 bis 08003 Barcelona + 34 93 12 69 094 Metro: Arc de Triomf (L1/red line), Jaume I (L4/yellow line)
Alan and some of the other good people from Edge Brewing were kind enough to let us tag along to HomoSibaris one night after a BlackLab event at La Més Petita (if that gives you an idea of the fun craft beer scene here). It’s tucked away in a cute little plaza in Sants with eight beers on tap, specializing in those that are unfiltered and unpasteurized, and a small tapas menu.
HomoSibaris Plaça Osca 4 08014 Barcelona
+ 34 93 18 56 693 Metro: Plaça de Sants (L1/red line, L5/blue line)
I’m not sure if we ever would have found this place if it hadn’t been for our friend Matthias, a German beer fanatic. It’s a funky little gem in the Gòtic decorated more like a California surf bar than a craft beer bar. It’s open late and a welcome relief from some of the tourist traps in the neighborhood; but most importantly, it has an excellent selection of international craft beers.
Bar Mingus Carrer Ataulf 6
08002 Barcelona + 34 63 09 01 690 Metro: Jaume I (L4/yellow line)
The cool kids from Scotland’s BrewDog just opened their newest bar here in Barcelona, and it just happens to be a block away from Garage. Grab a seat at the bar for a pint and tapas, or reserve one of the bigger tables to have dinner and beers with friends.
BrewDog Bar Barcelona Carrer Casanova 69 08011 Barcelona +34 93 48 85 979 Metro: Universitat (L1/red line)