Monday, December 02, 2013

Spanish Craft Beer Finds in Madrid and Santiago de Compostela

I love drinking good beer. I love traveling to Spain. However, those two don't mix together well, since as we all know, Spain is wine country. Sure, I love Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Rueda, but I knew that at some point on my trip I'd be craving for a tasty, flavorful Spanish craft beer. No offense, but Mahou, San Miguel, and Estrella Damm need not apply.

What to do? Like any diligent food tourist, I devoted a lot of time and effort in doing my research, i.e. I googled "craft beer Madrid", and presto, this article "Madrid craft beer revolution" by a local food blogger popped up, and voila - problem solved!

Fabrica Maravillas
Using the article as my compass, the first stop was Fabrica Maravillas, a popular brewpub in the Malasana district, and by happy coincidence, only a few minutes walk from my hostal. The place is a bit small, consisting of a bar as you enter, and a few tables to the side. Gleaming tanks holding the beers being brewed on-site are visible. Fabrica Maravillas serves a rotating menu of 5 or 6 beers, and the staff are enthusiastic and knowledgeable in explaining each variety's flavor profile. Being pressed for time, only had the chance to try refreshing saison valverde. 

Only a couple of minutes away, also in Malasana, is Irreale. A long, narrow space with the bar deep inside, it offers 10 rotating beers on tap, along with numerous bottles from all over the world (I recognized some Belgian favorites, among others). I visited on a couple of occasions, and both times out of 10 draft beers, 2 were local Spanish craft brews so I opted for those. And boy, they didn't disappoint...the porter from a brewery in Toledo, and the pale ale from El Pedal (also based in Madrid) were pretty good, as well as the black IPA from Navarra. (I forgot to take down names of the breweries, sadly).  

On one visit, a fellow patron sitting at the bar beside me started asking the bartender about other craft beer options in Madrid. Sensing a fellow beer enthusiast, and seeing as they had difficulty communicating, I volunteered to translate, and also chipped in my tiny bit of knowledge gleaned from the article. The guy was visiting from Norway, and had walked around Madrid for hours, looking for bars serving more than the usual suds. I circled Fabrica Maravillas on the map for him, as well as La Tape, which I didn't get a chance to visit. Nothing like bonding over a beer and sharing info with like-minded tourists.

Lastly, and this also goes under the classification of good fortune, upon finishing my Camino de Santiago hike in Santiago de Compostela, I spent a day sightseeing around town, eating pulpo, navajas, and anchoas, and guzzling all the albarino and godello humanly possible. What I didn't expect was to stumble upon a newly-opened craft beer shop a mere five minutes from my hotel - La Atlantica Beer Shop.

Having opened just over the summer, La Atlantica offers a lot of international beers, as well as local craft beers, mostly from Catalonia and Galicia. The owner is quite friendly, and with my serviceable Spanish we managed to chit-chat about different beers, and I eagerly quizzed him about the burgeoning craft beer scene in Spain. 

He admitted that the best craft beers in Spain came from Catalonia, but that Galicia is currently on the upswing. Although the shop is quite spacious, there isn't an area for imbibing; however, in addition to the bottles displayed on the shelves, there were a few local brews inside a small refrigerator. 

Figured I might as well try the hyper-local Galician beers which he gladly opened - Keltius Mosteiro, a strong dark ale brewed just down the road in Ourense by recently-established Keltius, and Menduina's Imperial Stout called Demo Neghro, brewed in Pontevedra. Both were outstanding interpretations of their respective styles, and much to my liking. So, beer lovers out there, there is hope for finding good brews in Spain - although it takes a bit of looking - and hopefully they will become more numerous and mainstream in coming years. That's something we can definitely raise our glasses and drink to! 

For a more comprehensive list of Spanish craft beer, check out Birrapedia.

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