You could say it was an intense Friday. At 4:30 am my computer was already on at full throttle to buy some time. I had 2 recruiting interviews ahead and an important report to finish (and to start). The theoretical last working day of the week promised lots of fun. I also had tickets for the theatre at 8 pm in Barcelona.
It was a productive morning, though. No doubt, at midday I could even foresee that I would have some spare time before meeting my friends for the play, near Les Rambles. Conveniently enough, there was a presentation of a new brewpub at 6 pm just near there. Impressive to see how beer-related businesses have been growing in l’Eixample lately.
A veteran like Belchica (since 2004), with a wide range of Belgian products, is not alone anymore. A classic restaurant from the City Centre with traditional Catalan cuisine, El Racó d'en Cesc, was the first to introduce a Beer Menu, as well as a full meal conveniently paired with different beers. Soon a cozy place like l’Espumossa followed, with a speciality on local beers and homemade tapas. But the Brewxample* still had more to offer us beer geeks, so in no time came La Resistència, related to one of the first beer shops in the city (Rosses i Torrades), and after that the more than famous BierCab (lately they’ve even started their BierCab Shop, just by the bar). Then it was the turn for Grizzly 72 Sports Bar, a "Brewdog Point" in the middle of the Gran Via; Oma Bistró, a new restaurant with a striking beer offer on tap; and beginning last Friday the Garage Beer Co. (Brewdog Bar Barcelona is about to launch soon, too).
I reached the place a little earlier than 18h, but the door was open, so I went in. Inside I could see a long way to a common area to grab a comfy sit and a little door that led to the kitchen. But just ahead there was a nice bar with lots of Garage themed items, 8 taps, a blackboard with sizes and prices, and an awesome illustration of one of the most influential brewers in town: Steve Huxley. It is from his Steve’s Academy that he taught the Garage Beer Co brewers, and they decided to pay tribute in an artistic way. The pub was still empty, so I left my things by my side and grabbed a stool.
Easy choice to begin: “A pint of Riba, please”. It was served by one of the brewers, an Italian named Alberto. After some gulps we started talking about the beer and I also got to taste the first batch of that same beer to compare them.
Riba is a plain, simple Pale Ale that can proudly and certainly say that it has a British character (unlike some unsessionable hoppy local nonsense that gets labelled as such). It is not specially aromatic, but hops are noticeable in the mouth giving a gentle bitterness that matches perfectly the nice and long nutty aftertaste and a soft buttery hint. Mouthfeel and balance can still be improved (it is just the second batch) but it is already an easy-to-drink nice companion for a long evening with friends, talking about whatever except beer.
Apart from the obvious stuff, the best thing that this avalanche of beer-oriented businesses has brought is that Barcelona seems to be developing kind of a primary pub culture (we didn’t have such a thing until recently). We Catalan people tend to be cold on first impressions, but I am increasingly noticing some progress on places like these. It is not unusual now for me to go to a pub on my own and end up sitting with a group of people, or chatting with other customers at the bar. Sometimes it is people I already met in past Festivals or other beer events. But some others are completely strangers until that moment.
There were one of each for the occasion. We shared some pints (a delicious Five Points Porter) and samples of the food on offer that were being brought for the customers to try. We also talked about the nice possibilities of Swedish as a language. Then we decided that it was time to visit the brewing equipment, and that’s when we met Vinny, from New Zealand. He explained us the technical details of their Bulgarian machinery, with a capacity of 1.200 litres (around 260 Imperial Gallons), flanked by 3 fermentation vessels. The beer is then packed in their beautiful customised kegs. They hope to sell some to nearby businesses, as well as bottling in the near future.
Leaving the brewing area we kept talking about beer, but the conversation would swiftly drift to personal topic like countries of origin, accents while talking languages and also to novels that have been successfully adapted to films. It was brief, but a quality moment for sure.
In the common area, full of hanging lamps and sofas, there were lots of people already. The bar was full of clients going for the first rounds of Riba. Alberto, Vinny and the rest of the crew still had some hours work ahead, but their faces wouldn’t show the slightest sign of exhaustion. Premieres must be special for the guys on board. From here I just want to wish them fortune with their new endeavour, hoping that it quickly establishes as an indispensable stop on the Brewxample line. And a Barcelona classic too.
Salut i birra!
For more information visit Garage Beer Co's Facebook profile or website. You can find the place at Consell de Cent 261, 08011 Barcelona.
* Brewxample: meaning the area of this centric neighbourhood, l'Eixample, that is packed with beer-realted businesses.