Or should that be ‘Esbossos d’Espanya’ en Catala? Anyway, it’s hard not to love the city of Barcelona. All that Gaudi for a start – La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, Casa Vicens and the breathtaking craftmanship of the Sagrada Familia. And it goes on, with other unique modernist buildings by Cadafalch and Montaner, among others. For quieter moments the verdant parks of Güell, Ciutadella and Laberint d’Horta offer respite from the teeming crowds of tourists. Relaxing but never dull, the beaches around Barceloneta also give ample opportunities for a gentle paseo, as long as you keep out of the way of skaters, scooters and bikers. Then there are the differing personalities of the diverse neighbourhoods – the winding lanes of Barri Góthic, broad majestic avenues of Eixample, pintxos and cool in Poble Sec, arty and trendy El Raval.
Then there’s Gràcia. A warren of narrow streets, numerous plazas swarming with children, crafts of all description, a focus on sustainability, politically-led demonstrations and presentations, human towers (castellers), hip and trendy… it has everything.
Separated from the city until 1897, Gràcia has retained its identity and diversity and wears its Catalan heart on its sleeve. It sometimes feels like a completely different place to the rest of Barcelona and we fell in love with the region on a visit many years ago.
We decided to make a base here for the month of May in a lovely casita a couple of steps from Plaça del Diamant. So much to see and do our aim was to live like a local and really get under the skin of the city. To find our favourite local bar, where the best churros are made, new innovative tapas offerings and broaden our appreciation of vermút. Perfect.
But while we were at it I took the opportunity to explore the burgeoning craft beer scene there. Here’s what I found.
You have to go back 30 years to trace the beginnings of the craft beer scene in Spain. This is when Liverpudlian Steve Huxley founded the Barcelona Brewing Company in Grácia. Known as the father of craft beer in Spain, Steve also founded his beer academy at Cervecería Jazz in Poble Sec.
Unfortunately, Steve passed away in 2015 and in honour of his pioneering work the Steve Huxley Award has been given to the most pioneering and inspiring individual in the world of Spanish craft beer at the annual Barcelona Beer Festival. Many cool and crafty bars opened at the same time and some are still pouring great beer, but the current scene really got established during the last decade.
I’ve grouped the bars and taprooms into neighbourhoods where there is a concentration of sites and added in some outliers separately.
Wedged in between Montjuïc and Sant Antoni Poble Sec earned its ‘dry town’ name thanks to not having a water fountain installed until the 19th century. It is bounded by Avenguda del Paral-lel which used to house many theatres, music halls and more ‘unsavoury’ establishments which have now faded into an almost century-long obscurity.
Nowadays the area is host to a multi-cultural population which is reflected in its bars and restaurants. The pedestrian Carrer del Blai contains the greatest number of pintxos bars in the city and is worth a bit of bar-hopping. Nearby Cerveseria Jazz was founded in 1992 by Alex Camacho. He was a founder of the Humulus Lupulus association, which explored home brewing, appreciated beer from other countries and wanted to create a craft beer culture within Catalunya. Here Alex will serve you perfectly poured pints from Catalunya and around the world.Across the street is Brew Pub le Sec founded by Anna Cufi and Bernat Diego in 2015. In what looks like the world’s smallest brewery, with the production kit perched on a small mezzanine above the bar, they pour some of the best craft beer in the city along with a number of guest beers. They regularly host events but the annual birthday party on 1st May is the one not to be missed. All the beers that I tried were excellent – Pale Ale, Fruit Sour and Stout (Manic Stout Preachers – I love this!).
If you head up past the pintxos bars of Carrer de Blai you will be going in the direction of Abirradero. Founded in 2015 in the 100-year-old iconic Abrevadero restaurant by Lluis Sanchez and Daniel Fermun, Abirradero houses a taproom and restaurant with outside seating. Next door is the brewery where they also help train budding craft brewers in their Instituto de la Cervesa Artesana. There are many rooms large enough for private celebrations and regular beer festivals and wine tastings. I had a really good Helles and an IPA but the standout was their Saison produced for a local hotel.
A skip across Avenguda del Paral-lel is Barna Brew, founded in 2017 by Alex Lazarowicz and Dimi Tsaousis, who first met in London and later in Brussels when they decided to start a brewery in Barcelona. The taproom is very bohemian cool with freshly cooked snacks and sandwiches and also hosts many events.
We held some beer tastings together, including one for Barcelona Tursime which is something that they hope to continue doing in the future. The beers produced are Belgian-style with a touch of Catalan – orange blossom honey, Sichuan pepper and bay leaf give the recipes an interesting twist. I really enjoyed their Blonde dry-hopped with orange peel, Witbier using bay leaves instead of coriander seeds and Moreneta Bruna with toasted malt, cinnamon and curaçao.
Five minutes away is Lambicus, opened by Henk Cortier in 2013. Henk hails from Belgium and decided to open his bar and nearby bottle shop in 2013 when he was struggling to find beers that he liked. As the name suggests, the beer card is predominantly Belgian and it’s an excellent list that would be the envy of many a Belgian beer cafe. Draft lambic is always on tap and I enjoyed some beauties from Hanssens and Oud Beersel.
I have to admit to being very tempted by the exclusives from Antidoot and Drie Fonteinen. Nearby you can enjoy wonderful craft beers at La Més Petita, a lovely and friendly tiny bar that has been operating since 1996. Some of the beers here are hard to find in the city and they also stock their own range from Ratpenat Cervesers.
You pass through Sant Antoni to get to Eixample so it’s an opportunity to visit the amazing indoor market at the end of Ronda de Sant Antoni. The barrio has transformed itself and is now a lively and progressive district that has attracted many younger families to enjoy its spacious pedestrianised streets, and students that attend the nearby Universitat.
It’s also home to Fàbrica Moritz, which has produced Barcelona’s original beer since 1865 and one that is christened in Catalan. The brewery has undergone a major refurbishment and is recommended for dinner, a couple of beers or a brewery tour.
Nearby is a fantastic taproom, Maresme, owned by the brewery of the same name that began brewing their excellent beer in 2017 in Montgat, a few kilometres up the coast. This is a very upscale place with a full range of beers on tap and in can. Expect great food and top-quality events and dance nights.
Unfortunately, the beergarden on the beach in Badalona is now closed. I was very impressed with their German-style beers and the Pils, Helles, Marzen and Bock were all top class. If you’re still thirsty I’d recommend a visit to Bar La Principal or Bodega Berlanga which are both nearby. And if you’re looking for beers to take home drop by Okasional Beer just around the corner from Maresme.
The ambitious late-nineteenth century decision to open up the city by raising the walls gave birth to the city’s Modernisme, Catalonia’s answer to Art Nouveau. With Plaça Catalunya as the gateway, the city embarked upon construction of an enormous grid of avenues based on Ildefons Cerdà’s design using a network of straight lines, parallels, diagonals and meridians. The district is split in two by Carrer de Balmes, a former railway and this divides ‘The Extension’ into Dreta (right) and Esquerra (left).
Continuing north from Maresme you cross Gran Via (home of the Universitat) and enter the most densely concentrated area of today’s craft beer scene. Rosses i Torrades is a craft beer shop now owned by Cervesa Espiga. Expect a range of draft taps, craft beer from all over the world and a cool vibe with David spinning some vinyl on the decks. He even takes requests.
Nearby is Conesa Beer, which was started by Montse and Joan Manuel Conesa in 2019. Designed to enable guests with reduced mobility to visit they also released a beer called Am Able to raise funds for continued research into autism and intellectual disability. They offer a great range of tapas and croques and broadcast local football matches too.
Deservedly, BierCaB is probably the most popular craft beer bar in Spain. In 2017, Manolo Baltasar of Cafe Frieberg fame and Sven Bosch of Drunk Monk in Mataro opened the doors of this iconic bar. Specialising in perfectly poured draft craft beer the world over this is the place to head to if you just have an hour to spend in the city. Tapas, burgers and larger plates are available but you won’t go hungry as the neighbourhood is full of great eateries (try La Flauta).
Around the corner you have the original taproom and brewery of Garage Beer Co. This is where they opened their brewpub in 2015 before moving brewing operations to their new site in Sant Andreu. Another brewery founded by folks from outside of Spain, James Welsh (UK) and Alberto Zamborlin (Italy) were guided (as many others were) by Steve Huxley to the Eixample area where they converted a local paper shop into their brewpub. You can taste their excellent pale ales and IPAs alongside the complex wild ales that bolster their taplist.
A few blocks northwards you will hit Black Lab’s taproom where you can enjoy fresh beers from their Barceloneta brewpub (to learn more we feature their brewpub in the Outliers section). Walk up towards Avenguda Diagonal and you will come across Humble Beer, a really cosy craft beer bar showcasing Spanish craft alongside world classics. And finally, before heading to Plaça Catalunya and the metro there is Ruta 6, a microbrewery that started pouring in 2019. Fairly new to the scene they are pushing out a range of pales and IPAs alongside stouts, pilsners and sours.
Dreta is the more fashionable district of the two with the most distinguished Modernista architecture, the main museums and shopping avenues. La Textil, founded by globetrotter and master brewer Brian Blazek in 2021, is a brewery, restaurant and music venue. The food is unbelievable and innovative and uses local and seasonal produce. Pouring out of the 18 taps is the wide range of La Textil craft beers, supplemented by a high-end cocktail menu. They produce their own gin and soft drinks onsite and the brewery capacity is 1,200hl. Highly recommended.
South of La Textil, craft beer bar Ale & Hop has been pouring refreshing craft beer out of its 12 taps since 2011. Not far from Parc de la Ciutadella and owned by Alberto from Cyclic (see outliers below), it’s perched alongside a quiet square and is another cool place to hang out and try some local beers or to attend one of their many beer-related events. With a range of snacks, tapas and pintxos this is a great place to refresh after a couple of hours exploring.
Heading up towards Gràcia, La Cervesa Artesana is one of the originals and has been serving thirsty beer enthusiasts beers from their microbrewery alongside well chosen guest beers since 1996. This is the former site of Steve Huxley’s former brewery so its a very historic spot. Great beer snacks and an eclectic programme of live music make this a great spot to while away a couple of hours.
Another bar that serves up a large range of Spanish and international craft beer is CocoVail Beer Hall. Essentially a sports bar, this is the place to hang out to catch a game and eat from their US-inspired menu.
Just short of the boundary with Gràcia, The Growler has a familiar beer-geek vibe, pouring pints and take-away growlers. They also have some tables outside if you don’t mind the noise from the traffic.
If you’re looking for some food with your beer try Hop Town near Monumental where you can enjoy empanadas and pizza with your craft brews. Finally, an exciting new project has opened recently: WU:M offers an innovative fusion of Japanese and Mediterranean vegetarian food that features beers from Animus among those of their friends (see ‘Outliers’ for Animus).
El Raval/ Barri Gothic
East of Poble Sec, El Raval (outside the walls) has had an unfortunate reputation in the past for seedy lowlife and while it has altered its monochrome grimy face for the better over the years (check out the post-Olympic Rambla del Raval), it still retains a steely hard edge.
Opened in 2015 by Mads Rademacher and Ivan Raho, Ølgod (beer god) began life dedicating itself to beer from Scandinavia. Since opening their on-site microbrewery you can now enjoy tasty and ultra-fresh craft coming direct from the tank to their range of 20 taps. Great food and a dedication to quality music has made this a must-do destination for beer lovers.
A short walk away is Garage X Warwike where you can fill yourself up on Peruvian street food and wash it down with Garage beer from the 18 taps on the bar.
Hop across La Rambla and you enter the realm of shadowy medieval alleys, grand churches and ancient ruins in the political and religious heart of the Old City (Barri Gothic). I could write a piece on its own about this fascinating barrio whose lurking and brooding narrative springs to life late in the afternoon.
You can quench your thirst on the 17 taps at Kælderkold (cold basement), which is also owned by Mads from Olgod. Most of the beers poured at this dive bar are from the sister site’s brewery but they also showcase a strong line in guest beers. Halfway between the Picasso Museum and Parc de la Ciutadella is Diec18, whose kitchen is supported by an impressive range of craft beers and natural wines.
While it doesn’t have any commercial breweries, Gràcia does hold claim to the best neighbourhood bar in the city. La Rovira is host to 18 constantly rotating taps, numerous bottles and cans, excellent tapas and grilled sandwiches (named after the surrounding streets), a killer playlist and a team that is well drilled, professional, knowledgable and offers a great welcome.
They always looked forward to greeting our little Jack Russell Penny Lane with a treat, bowl of water or simply hugs and kisses. Noe Guarner established her bar in 2015 and quickly built a strong reputation for an outstanding range of expertly curated beers.
This is a bar where everyone knows your name and should you venture in on your own it won’t take long before you are discussing the topics of the day with your new best friend. There are La Rovira collab beers on the list, plus the ever-impressive wild ales from Cerveza Salvaje.
`It is well placed on the corner of Plaça Rovira i Trias and is named after the architect Antoni who would have been the local choice to design the city’s nineteenth city expansion. You can sit down with his statue on his bench and enjoy a beer while indulging in a spot of people watching.
In the south of the district is Bar La Beata, pouring 8 taps of fresh local Catalan beer, their own commissions and regularly producers from the Basque region. Small and cosy, it’s always easy to make friends here.
Brew Home isn’t a bar but a destination where you can enjoy some ‘beerstorming’ pairings with Dani Ruiz or learn about brewing at one of the many workshops held there. While you are at it you can top up your stash with his wild beers from Cerveza Salvaje.
Probably the best beer shop in the city is on Plaza del Sol. Sol de Gràcia stocks an unbelievable range of beers featuring a huge Spanish offering plus a large selection of beer from the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Germany and the rest of the world. Some of the beers I was able to buy at the shop were hard to find in their country of origin.
A new kid on the block is Beer&Cocktails, complete with a beer engine. Finally, close to La Sagrada Familia is Espiga’s other craft beer shop, which features the full range of beers from Arnau Rovira’s brewery. They also have four of their beers on tap and host regular events.
Part of the Sant Marti district, Poble Nou morphed from a farming and fishing community into a centre for heavy industry up unto the 1960s when many of the factories folded or moved away. Relics of its industrial past are in evidence everywhere and former sites have been re-purposed into schools, civic centres, workshops and open spaces. The artistic community has been part of a drive to make this a cool and hip area to live and work in and that has encouraged the growth of craft beer in the neighbourhood.
Garage (who else?) has a site just a short hop from Playa del Bogatell. Specialising in pizza to complement their range of beers the site has a good sized terrace out front. Head east to Cerveceria Ogham from Argentina who have taken over the former site of Freddo Fox. Nearby Hoppiness is pouring local brews and beyond from 14 taps. Nice and relaxed with alt sounds on the playlist, Hoppiness is praised for its grills and burgers. They have another outlet in Sants near Plaça Espanya. One of the city’s finest beer bars is located in Poble Nou. La Cervecita is summed up by their strapline ‘nuestra de cada dia’ or ‘our beer of every day’. Angie Gesteira and Joaquim Sainz have created a friendly space that is truly the essence of beer with a dozen taps, three beer engines and over 300 bottles. Highly recommended.
Taking advantage of derelict industrial sites Almogàvar – Beer Democracy took over a 2,000sqm warehouse in 2015 after six years of cuckoo brewing. Founded by Victor Cerdan in La Verneda i la Pau and consolidated when master brewer Francesco Stella joined from Italy they have really made their mark and you can easily find the beers on market shelves in the city. The site is big enough to allow for expansion and importantly to hold many events, as their relationship with the local community is very important. El Clot boasts the craft beer workshop Birra 08. Since 2010 the team has been brewing beer, hosting tasting events and offering brewing workshops
About a 15-minute walk from Almogàvar is Cyclic Beer Farm, which was established by brothers Alberto and Joshua Coromina in 2016. Inspired by Belgian saison, Cyclic specialise in mixed fermentation and have developed their own yeasts and bacteria cultures which they sometimes supplement in their beers with fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers – some of which are grown on their own family farm and some coming from local ecological farmers. They also produce traditional wine and have used the macerated grapes in their mixed ferm beers.
Nearby is an excellent venue for lunch with local craft beers, La Floristeria de Masadas on Plaça de Masadas. And if you head towards Congrés metro station later you can sample some of the excellent beers at Cerveceria 2D2Dspuma with its 9 taps and over 600 bottles and cans.
Walking towards Platja San Sebastian from Barceloneta metro station you will pass the enormous Museu d’Història de Catalunya or the Waterside Catalan history museum. As you walk around it you will spot an outside seating area where customers are tucking into craft beers and Asian/US inspired bar snacks.
Black Lab Brewhouse and Kitchen was founded in 2014 and this is the location of their brewery. We’ve always had excellent and friendly service from the team and this is a much-needed stop on a sunny day before heading to the beach.
East of Gràcia and the Parc Güell Animus Brewing Company was born out of lockdown in 2020. Founded by Peter with the support of his girlfriend Constanza, Animus has quickly grown a huge following and became one of the highest-rated Spanish craft breweries on untappd. The philosophy at Animus is as a collective – grow their network of beer friends globally, make collaborations, host events and celebrate beer at their taproom and restaurant WU:M (see above, Dreta).
Formerly the industrial town Santa Maria de Sants, this neighbourhood officially became part of Barcelona in 1897 and stretches east from Eixample. Giant textile factories were established here and their wealth were in part responsible for some of the Modernista projects such as Can Batlló and the Parc d’Espanya Industrial. It is home to the Plaça Espanya and the main railway station Barcelona Sants.
And just north of the N340 is the brew pub Homo Sibaris. Formerly of La Cerveteca and Humulus Lupulus, Guillem Laporta opened his bar where he and his friends brew their own beer. The terrace on Plaça d’Osca is the perfect place to sample their brews or enjoy a guest or two.
L’Hospitalet de Llobregat
West of Sants L’Hospitalet de Llobregat is the main centre for Flamenco, with its large Analusian population – many streets are signposted in Spanish not Catalan. The neighbourhood is proud of its identity, with LH stickers everywhere and even street signs guiding you in the direction of Barcelona (a few blocks away).
Here we find Tibidabo Brewing, one of the largest microbreweries in Spain. The brewery has sufficient production space to take on contract brews and I easily found their beers available in most supermarkets throughout Gràcia. The taproom is spacious and lively with a window into the brewhouse.
We also had time to host some tasting events and tours and just squeezed into the Barcelona Beer Festival the day before leaving. A month is a long time to spend in any city yet I still get moments of FOMO: what else is there to see and discover, which neighbourhoods still need visiting? Perhaps next time we’ll hit the road and explore the regions around the city.
The pull from the city can feel like a riptide at times. It wants to reel you back in to show itself off like a child with new toys at Christmas. To welcome you and allow you to peel away more of its layers. I feel it will soon be time to go back – but until then, Salut!