Golden Pints 2015

 

golden-pints

No Beermack post for 12 months. What a lazy beggar, eh?

Plenty of other good/mediocre/shite blogs out there to keep you beer loving folks occupied, so I’m not going to lose any sleep or make excuses.

But, there’s nothing like the annual draw of Golden Pints to get a man typing again, so here we go with the UK/Ireland list for 2015.

Best UKI Cask Beer

Moor Nor’Hop. Too good, they should stop it. Nowt better than a zinging, juicy almost mentholly pint of fresh Nor’Hop. Even in shite condition, it’s better than most.

Shout outs: Wylam Galaxia, Roosters YPA.

Best UKI Keg Beer

Cloudwater Double IPA. Got absolutely typewritered on this stuff at the Earl of Essex in London. Unbelievably clean and juicy, perfect carbonation, and up there with my all time favourite big hop hitters.

Shout outs: Kernel Pale Ales (all of them), Galway Bay Via Maris.

Best UKI Bottled Beer

Thornbridge Kipling. Again. Looking forward to it being in the same spot in 2016.

Shout outs: Cloudwater Lager (Summer), Siren Caribbean Chocolate Cake.

 

Best UKI Canned Beer 

Camden IHL. Even post ABInBev takeover (congrats to both companies on a good bit of business), this will be the beer that is always in the back of my fridge.

Shout outs: BrewDog Jack Hammer, Magic Rock Salty Kiss.

Best UKI Brewery

Thornbridge. Just a bloody great outfit: consistent, creative, high quality, well-priced, relatively available. All the things you want.

Shout outs: Galway Bay, Buxton, Cloudwater, Wylam, Magic Rock, The Kernel.

Best International Brewery

Cellarmaker, San Francisco. Brewers of the best range hop-forward beers on the planet, but also able to nail a really diverse set of beer styles, from barrel-aged stouts, to lagers and saison. A trip to their SF taproom should be on the bucket list of every beer lover.

Shout outs: Maine Beer Company, Other Half Brewing, Jester King, Brasserie De La Senne, Cantillon. 

Best International Beer (and my Beer of the Year, 2015)

Maine Beer Company, Dinner. The best DIPA I’ve had thus far in life. Will take some beating. A no-brainer for this year’s top spot. I even extolled its virtues over on STONCH, where some jumped-up fools had the nerve to disagree (not like STONCH readers at all, really, is it?)

Shout outs: Foundation Brewing Epiphany, all hop-forward beer from both Other Half Brewing (NYC) and Cellarmaker (SF).

 

Miscellaneous awards (festivals, branding, bars, etc.):

Best UKI Bar: Against the Grain, Dublin. 

Didn’t think I’d say this upon moving back to the UK, but AtG still takes this year’s top spot. This is much to do with the fact that Galway Bay Brewery has become a nigh-on world class brewery over the past 18 months and AtG functions as a de facto brewery tap for GBB in Dublin (with 8-10 GBB brews pouring at any given time). A lot of work has been done to stock up the fridges with a great range of bottles from around the globe, and the other 20-odd non-GBB taps are always thoughtfully curated with some real world-beaters. Great staff and vibe, as always.

Shout outs: Kings Arms, London. The Free Trade Inn, Newcastle.

Best UKI Branding: Magic Rock and Beavertown tie for first here. Fabulous branding (especially on cans) from both breweries.

Best Beer Festival: IndyManBeerCon. Peerless.

Best Retailer: Drinkstore, Dublin. Peerless. 

Best blog/Twitter/etc.: they all delight/enrage me equally depending on mood, no backslapping here.

 

Cheers and see you this time next year, if not before.

 

 

 

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Golden Pints 2014

golden-pints

It’s that time of year, people. Get the tinsel out, get a bit too merry, and have a good auld bitch about what beers you loved and hated over the past 12 months. Golden Pints doesn’t really have a ‘good auld bitching’ section, so we’ll keep this towards the ‘love’ end of the spectrum…

Ireland

Best Irish Keg Beer

Galway Bay Brewery Via Maris. This is the beer we’ve been waiting for in Ireland. A fabulous mix of flavour, sessionability and value. Everything the Irish drinker was looking for in one 3.5% Table Beer. Pale, juicy, and keeping the drinker on their toes by constantly changing the nuance of its flavour with different hop profiles. And €4 per pint. All the time. I’ve drank more of this in the past few months than any other single beer – that’s a good sign.

Shout outs to: White Hag Black Boar and Eight Degrees Full Irish IPA.

Best Irish Bottled Beer

Only one winner here: Galway Bay 200 Fathoms. Back in February, this leapt onto the scene with all its whiskey-barrel-aged imperial stouty goodness and I fell in love. A truly accomplished piece of brewing with incredible depth and balance. Up there with the best Imperial Stouts I’ve had. Only 800 bottles were made…thank God I still have a couple.

Shout out to: Blacks of Kinsale Black IPA

Best Irish Cask Beer

Can I pass? Yeah, I’ll pass.

Best Overall Irish Beer:

Has to be Galway Bay’s Via Maris. I can’t rave enough about how good this is, or just how necessary getting a beer like this in the Irish scene was. Well done to the team.

Best Irish Brewery

Galway Bay. Obviously. Their quality would not be out of place anywhere in the global beer scene. And they’ve just released a dark sour ale, which is amazing. What can’t they do?

Best New Irish Brewery

The White Hag. Sligo’s new faces raced onto the scene in September, releasing a full line-up of their brews at once at the Irish beer festival in the RDS. Many of them are totally splendid. The have a masterful Imperial Stout (Black Boar), a great White IPA, and a very solid IPA. Looking forward to more great things from these guys in 2015, and to seeing how the US distro pans out.

Best Irish Beer Bar

Against the Grain, Dublin. Best selection, great service, very decent (and cheap) food. Plus it’s a Galway Bay pub, so you’re guaranteed quality even if you don’t fancy anything from the 20+ guest taps.

Shout out: Norseman, Temple Bar. A great craft beer pub – well priced and always a laugh.

Best Irish retailer

Drinkstore of Stoneybatter. Unparalleled selection and service (great online shop too).

Best Irish Importer

Praising the importer seems to be less common in Golden Pints posts, not sure why. This award goes to Grand Gru Beers. Wally, Phil and the team have had a storming year. Amazing diversity, real attention to pricing and to freshness, and plenty of end-consumer events to keep in touch with the punters. A class act all round.

International (including UK)

Best International Keg Beer

Amager/Grassroots Shadow Pictures (Skyggebilleder). A Double IPA that dreams are made of and a fantastic transatlantic collaboration. Drank at the newly opened Taphouse Copenhagen in an incredibly fresh state – juicy yet so crisp, with just enough spruce. The easiest drinking DIPA I’ve ever had. I want more.

Shout outs to:  Crooked Stave L’Brett d’Peach, Magic Rock Cannonball, Cellarmaker Christopher Riwakan.

Best International Cask Beer

Buxton Axe Edge. Had in a few locations around the country in 2014. Not many cask beers make me turn my eyes away from the keg fonts in bars, but this does. And I’m rarely disappointed.

Shout outs to: Hawkshead NZPA, Thornbridge Kipling.

Best International Bottled/Canned Beer

Beavertown/Naparbier Bone King. One of the best DIPAs I’ve ever tasted – a total revelation. Proud that this was brewed in my homeland. Indeed, this was my highest scoring brew on Ratebeer in 2014.

Shout outs to: Stone Enjoy By, Thornbridge Kipling, and Alchemist Heady Topper.

Best International Brewery

Cellarmaker, San Francisco. Holy lord this lot can brew. Open just over a year and nearly 100 different beers brewed. No bottles and only available at the Tap Room at 1150 Howard (growlers too) and a few select locations around the Bay. Some of the best beer experiences of my life have been with these guys. They’ve nailed everything from pale and hoppy to massive and chocolatey (and most stuff in between). Definitely one of the top IPA brewers in the world, zero doubt about that. A total privilege to have been able to drink here several times in 2014.

Shout outs to: Buxton (UK), The Kernel (UK), Jester King (Texas), and Brasserie Cantillon (Belgium)

Best International Bar

BierCaB, Barcelona. A total Mecca in a once good-beer-dry country. 30 great international taps, an impeccably curated bottle selection, and the best food I’ve ever eaten in a ‘proper’ beer bar. All at astonishingly reasonable prices.

Shout outs to: The Trappist, Oakland; Mikkeller and Friends, Copenhagen; Craft Beer Co, Leather Lane (London); The Free Trade Inn (Newcastle)

Best International Beer Festival

Copenhagen Beer Celebration. The best I’ve been to. Ever.

Shout out to: IndyManBeerCon, Manchester.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Best beer blogger

Aidan Sweeney, Brews International. I’m going to keep voting for him every year until people start reading his well-balanced and researched writing. He’s full of shit in real life, mind you.

Shout out to: Total Ales (Matt Curtis)

Best Beer Tweeter

@Dontdrinkbeer gives me a right laugh. In all honesty, I genuinely look forward to reading the 140 character rantings/ramblings of at least 30 of my fellow beer fans on Twitter every day. Well done all of you, pints on me.

Best of the best, of the best of the best:

Best Overall Beer of 2014 

Galway Bay Via Maris. They must’ve done something right if I’m giving this award to a 3.5% ABV table beer.

via maris

Here’s to a great 2015 – cheers to all of you!

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Keeping it fresh: Brown Paper Bag Project

Any reader of this blog will know I tend to whinge a fair bit about freshness in hop-forward beers. I bore myself with my whinging sometimes, but it’s for the best. Show me a brewer in the world who thinks their 6.5% IPA tastes better 7 months after packaging than it does after 7 days and I’ll pack this whole thing in and resign myself to a life on the shandies.

However, my whinging usually doesn’t take into account whether the hops used in the brewing-process-in-question were truly ‘fresh’. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter in my experience: totally fantastic (indeed, superior) aroma and flavour results in the world’s most lauded IPAs are more often than not driven by hop pellets or oast-house dried hops, rather than from the freshly-picked ‘wet’ hop brewing methods.

The major experience Irish consumers will have had of this latter type of ‘truly-fresh/wet’ hop ale, will be from the Sierra Nevada Southern/Northern Hemisphere Harvest brews. Tasty gear, but really, we’re all shooting ourselves in the kneecaps, as they’re being shipped thousands of miles and loitering in customs before getting into our glasses. In spite of how good the distro channels are these days, the beer you’re pouring into yourself will not be the beer the brewer intended it to be. Hence, the global lack of true ‘fresh hop’ ales (unless you’re a lucky git living close to a hop growing area, of course).

Well, if there’s one Irish brewery which has consistently shunned convention and messed around with lesser-known styles/methodology, it’s Dublin’s favourite gypsies, Brown Paper Bag Project. And yes, you’ve guessed it, they’ve gone and brewed a proper freshy.

But rather than pandering to the general palate of the modern hophead and looking to new(ish) power hops grown in the Pacific Northwest or down in the South Pacific, they’ve gone educational. They’ve gone…English.

Brown Paper Bag Project Lupe Garou

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Of course, trying to go and gypsy brew at-source with ‘wet’ hops in the South Pacific is probably more than a small Dublin brewing outfit can afford…but BPBP are still a savvy crowd. They’ve had an ongoing relationship with Ramsgate Brewery in Kent, so I suppose it didn’t take a geographical genius to realise that Ramsgate is right bang in the midst of the classic English hop growing regions. The home the globally acclaimed (but admittedly not too ‘fashionable’) East Kent Goldings hop.

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Lupe Garou comes out in a lovely bright golden hue with a wispy and lasting white head. There’s freshly-cut grass, white pepper, light lemon rind, and touch of dried cupboard-herbs on the nose, with an almost menthol character releasing itself as it warms. The taste gives wet spruce, white pepper, deeper lemon stuff, those fresh-cut-grassy notes again, and some slightly zingy spice. The malt base is simple and biscuity, with a little bit of sugary white bread dough; this is perfect as it allows the light and deeply nuanced fresh hop character to do its thing. There’s a decently spritzy medium body and no hint of the 6.5% ABV. Herby and citric bitterness to close out, while we have more of that white pepper and wet-morning-forest-stroll spruce lingering.

What a totally bloody interesting beer. I’m a guy who doesn’t give English hops the time of day for the most part…they’re just a piece of my boring-brown-bitter drinking past. But this brew makes me think.

BPBP have achieved something fantastic here: a light, summery, heavily nuanced beer that truly showcases one of the more traditional and less-celebrated hops in the world of brewing. Beers like this should be mandatory drinking for today’s crowd of self-proclaimed ‘Hop Heads’ who’ve been weaned solely on the passionfruity and piney goodness of the New World.

Lupe Garou is by no means ‘my thing’, but I like it and I find it super interesting. It’s a reminder about why I bloody love the beer scene: surprises and innovation lie in even the most traditional-seeming of places.

{I had this on keg dispense in Stoneybatter’s L. Mulligan Grocer; as far as I’m aware, this brew is draught only…so check out your local good-beer pub over the next week or two and hope it arrives}

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Buy local: Boundary Brewing

Everyone and their mother is harping on about ‘buying local’ nowadays. Thank Christ they are. Sustainable, affordable, and high-quality local produce should be at the heart of everyone’s monthly food and beverage outgoings.

It’s been a total delight to see the ‘buy local’ vibe taking hold in the industry I love in my adopted homeland over the past couple of years. Yep, the Irish artisan beer industry is going from strength to strength. Sure, it’s still tough as hell for the key stakeholders involved, but we’re getting to a point where some of our brewing talent can truly embark on long-term planning (Metalman’s new shiny canning line; Eight Degrees trying to ‘re-home’ a brewery from Mauritius; and Galway Bay moving to onehelluva bigger brewery are three examples of this in the last 6 months). Good for the punter, good for the distributors, good for the pub owners, good for bloody everyone. Class news.

Last week saw a real example of ‘buying local’ pop up from some enterprising brewing-businesspeople from Belfast. How much more local can you get than buying a stake in a brewing cooperative located on your (give-or-take a few miles) doorstep?

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 19.11.27

Matt and the team at Boundary Brewing have some fabulous plans to make some great beer and are looking for shareholders to join their coop.

These guys know their beer (both from a drinking and brewing point of view), with Matt spending the last year or so as the brewing-brain behind the brilliant-looking app-automated pico-brewery, Brewbot. Safe hands, I’d say.

Anyway, rather than me regurgitate their plans in my own words…

CLICK THIS LINK

To hear it from the horse’s mouth/beard.

Buy-in starts at £100 and the guys are looking for £70,000 before the end of 2014 to kick it all off. At the time of writing (4th December), they are well over the halfway mark, in spite of the project going live only a couple of days ago. People seem to like the idea, and so they bloody should. They’re planning to launch their core range of three beers (session strength US pale ale, IPA, and an Export Stout) in March 2015 and have already announced a collaboration brew with the award winning Galway Bay Brewery. Sounds canny enough to me – go for it, I’d say.

Disclaimer: I’ve bought into the cooperative myself. So I’m probably biased. Who the hell cares, let’s get it up and running. 

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Long live the {Bone} King

Double IPAs. I like ’em. In my mind, when a DIPA is executed properly and is served to me in fresh enough condition, it takes some beating.

However, after doing a fair old bit of traveling and beering over the past few years, I know what I like and what I don’t within the style. Caramel booziness? No likey. Clean, crisp (some would say ‘unbalanced’ towards hop character)? Likey. I don’t care much for the much-lauded Dogfish Head 90 Minute, for example. But I’d bathe for days in Three Floyds Dreadnaught.

As I said, freshness is bloody key. So unless I’m over Stateside, I usually steer clear of American DIPAs. Thank the Lord, in that case, that the European brewing scene is getting to such a top standard that I now rarely yearn for the hoppy delights of the West Coast et al. The Kernel Double Citra, for example, is still [probably] the best ever DIPA I’ve tasted.

Sadly, Double Citra is very rarely brewed, but thankfully one of The Kernel’s London brewing peers have got in on the action (with a bit of Iberian assistance) and brewed something which is, for want of a better phrase, a totally-fucking-cracking Double India Pale Ale.

All hail the recent collaboration between Beavertown and Naparbier. All hail…

Bone King

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My assessment? In short, it’s world class.

In full: Bone King pours a hazy, murky gold – looks a little soupy. The aroma of this is astounding – peach, tangerine, mango all there in spades, with a little jazzy passionfruit. Some very lightly sticky pine in there, bit of bread dough and digestive biscuit. Taste doesn’t disappoint: loads of mango, melon, and passionfruit, deeper grapefruit citric tone to bitter it up; the OJ character is undeniable too. So bloody juicy, goodness. Pine sap rises a bit, and brings with it the light malt character – doughy stuff, light biccy notes, which frames the hops perfectly. The hop character is singing so beautifully. Insanely drinkable, no hint of booze strength (which clocks in at 8.5% ABV). Looks a bit shitty, so that’s really the only remnant of an issue I could have with it. Bit of centrifuge action would be cracking. Orange and grapefruit zest linger, nice sharp finish. Oh Lordy.

Look, this is worthy of the hype. If you like your DIPAs big, boozy and thick on the caramel or ‘balance’, then this isn’t for you. But for me, this is literally everything I want.

If Naparbier and Beavertown don’t make this a permanent fixture on their lists then I’m kicking up an almighty fuss.

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Knee Deep in Hops

There’s been a bit of a Beermack blogging lull recently; a combo of being mad busy and not having/doing anything that’s truly inspired me to crank out a blog post, I suppose.

A few things have had me on the cusp of picking up the proverbial pen…Sligo’s The White Hag Brewery making a stunning entrance to the Irish brewing scene and a trip to San Francisco’s new sour-haven The Rare Barrel, are two such examples. I’m sure I’ll get round to these at some point, as both are likely to carry on going from strength to strength.

This time, what has really got my juices flowing, is a California brewery who have been showing the world how to make 10%+ ABV hoppy beers properly. I mean properly. Fair play to you, Knee Deep Brewing Company, you’ve got me typing once again.

These guys have been going since 2010, are still pretty small (distro is only in 5 states), and know how to handle hops. To leverage lupulin. To…ah whatever, they’re doing good stuff, with these two total beauties especially:

Knee Deep Brewing Co. Simtra Triple IPA 

Simtra

Simtra is a beast of a brew. An 11.25% ABV, self-branded ‘Triple” IPA. Is that a thing? Well, if it is, this should be the benchmark by which all other pretenders are judged. Such a clear light orange pour, no murkiness, no floaty crap, it looks legit. The aroma is, unsurprisingly, a serious hop-overload: loads of dark about-to-go-off (in a good way) mango, grapefruit and pineapple, bit of ganja, some sweeter tangerine and peaches and then shitloads of pine resin; there’s a little almost-chemically booze note in there. Just to remind you not to drink this while operating heavy machinery.

In a similar fashion, Simtra’s taste bashes you all over with hops: all that dank goodness matches up to the thick pine resin. Great pithy grapefruit adds some zest and then more of that overripe mango comes through as it warms. More resin and pine needles. A very light smattering of caramel-ish sweetness comes through to help keep things a little bit sensible; none of the janky caramel crap you’d usually expect from a 10%+ ABV IPA though, this is clean as you like. The finish gives pine needles and grapefruit and that extra little bit of pure booziness that once again reminds you to take the keys out of the ignition of your combine harvester.

Knee Deep Brewing Co. Hoparillo Triple IPA

Hoparillo

Obviously, the folks at Knee Deep understood that brewing such strong beers all the time isn’t the best idea. So they’ve recently brought out what I’m calling a Session Triple IPA at just 11.1% ABV. Sure, you could plough the fields all day supping on this one.

Hoparillo bounds into your glass showcasing three incredible aroma hops: Amarillo, Mosaic, and Citra. This pours a couple of shades lighter than it’s (slightly) bigger brother, coming out as a bright clear gold. Again, no murk, no floaties..it just looks so pure and clean. Stunning juicy mango and tangerine aroma (think of a delicious fruit cup), light floral notes in there and just a hint of that big ABV. The taste gives mango (not the dank sort, more the breakfast juicy kind), melon, tangerine and some bitter grapefruit juice. Interesting floral perfumey notes get in there and actually lighten things up. There’s the lightest touch of digestive biscuit malt as the backer; to be fair, the malt has such an impressively light presence and truly lets the hops sing. The big booze is well integrated (more so than in the Simtra, I think), you can tell it’s there but it isn’t harsh. A few pine needles come out towards the end, blending with the sweeter tropical notes which linger on the tongue. Simtra’s juicier, more tropical slightly-lighter brother. Top marks.

I was lucky to drink both of these beers within two weeks of bottling date, so I really got them at their best. As the Simtra bottle clearly states “do not age”. Just don’t, it would be daft. These aren’t going to get any better with a bit of dust on them.

I’m so pleasantly surprised and impressed that two legitimately huge beers have managed to forgo the usual “bang a load of caramel malt in there” tactic we so often see. I know lots of people are mad for the caramel balance, but I’m certainly bloody not.

Simtra and Hoparillo are two terrifyingly good hoppy beers, and I thoroughly encourage you to pull all the strings you possibly can to get hold of them. Fair play to you, Knee Deep Brewing Company.

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BierCaB: Barcelona Beer Mecca

Spain isn’t exactly world renowned for its beer scene. But before my recent trip to Barcelona, I’d heard whispers that things were looking up (in the Catalan capital, at least).

To be fair, these whispers weren’t too whispery at all…there’s been quite a social media fuss made about the bloody good quality of this year’s Barcelona Beer Festival and growing international acclaim afforded to Spanish indie brewers, such as Naparbier (who’ve brewed collaborations with the likes of Mikkeller, Lervig, and Birrificio Toccalmatto). It seems like the cat is out of the bag: the landscape of Spain’s metropolitan beer scene is starting to look ever more interesting.

This said, I was still remarkably surprised to stumble across what can only be described as a World Class Beer Bar during my stay in Barcelona. After a couple of visits to this fairly new beer mecca a few minutes walk from Plaça de Catalunya, I can safely say that it’s in my Top Five bars I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.  Take a bow, BierCaB.

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Tucked away ten minutes stroll around the corner from the tourist madness of Passeig de Gràcia and Plaça de Catalunya is this total gem of a bar. It’s still in its first year of operation; everything is clean, sparkling and well thought out – there are none of the signs of grubbiness or wear-and-tear that go hand-in-hand with a few of the city’s other decent beer locations.

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Well thought out seating and a totally nuts ceiling

Always nice to have Teku as the default glassware

Always nice to have Teku as the default glassware

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The whole feel of BierCab is slick. These guys know what the hell they’re doing. It feels like one of those establishments that many a beer geek would go into and think “aye, if I had a few hundred grand going spare, I’d do something like this”. The utmost care has been taken in all aspects  of the business, from the decor to the tiny (but amazing) detail of having a real-time updating tap-list on their website. Of course, it would be wrong of me to review a bar and leave out the beer. So here we go…

The beer, the bloody great beer

I don’t know who imports beer into Catalunya, but whoever it is, they’ve got their shit together. BierCaB is blessed with 30 taps of immensely high quality from many of the biggest names in European craft brewing (and some more niche gear too). There’s a surprisingly heavy focus on UK beer, with real gems on tap from the likes of The Kernel, Siren, Magic Rock, and Beavertown amongst others. The gloriously fruity and slightly funky Farmhouse IPA collab from Magic Rock and Lervig was belting, while it’s always an absolute bloody pleasure to sup on The Kernel’s modern-day-classic Imperial Brown Stout.

Going away from my home-country beers, there was such a well chosen selection from elsewhere in Europe; from the giant Goliat Imperial Stout by the nutters at To Øl to modern and less-modern Belgian classics from Brasserie de la Senne and Oud Beersel respectively.

One critique (if you could call it that) was the relative lack of local beer on tap. I’m a big fan of ‘drinking fresh’, and you don’t get much fresher than local breweries kegging their beer, banging it straight in a van, and getting it direct to thirsty punters at the bar. Now, all the beers I had during my visits to BierCaB were in great condition (not a cardboardy hop in sight), but I was hoping for more than 4 locals out of 30. No matter, the locals they had were delicious. Especially beautiful was the Naparbier Pils – a true fresh, crisp, perfumed Noble hop delight – and a very juicy Double IPA from La Pirata. Quality, not quantity, of local gear is totally fine by me.

If the mighty 30 brews on tap don’t tickle your fancy, then why not open the bible-sized bottle menu. Jesus. It’s some menu. I can name fewer than five other bars I’ve been to with a better list than this, it’s that good. But what really sets it apart is the damn fairness of the pricing. There are some total gems here (shedloads of vintage Trappist brews and an even bigger selection of cellar aged gueuze and lambic) but they refrain from engaging in pricing the shit out of them. These are bottles intended to be cracked open, not to have on the menu to show off for years to come as no bugger can afford them (you know the places I’m talking about). I love this.

Hill Farmstead/The Blaugies collab farmhouse ale

Hill Farmstead/The Blaugies collab farmhouse ale

Drei Fonteinen Golden Doesjel - was even able to take it away!

Drei Fonteinen Golden Doesjel – was even able to take it away!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Vermontoise (Hill Farmstead’s collab with the Belgian brewery, Blaugies), was a delight. Light, spritzy, with notes of white pepper, grapefruit and lemon peel. Plenty of delicious yeasty spice in the taste with a little bit of spelt bread roughness, followed by more grapefruit juice and citrus peel. Crisp, delicate, joyous. The Golden Doesjel from Drei Fonteinen was just the quality you’d expect. Surprisingly peach-led throughout, it still gives delicious citric and Granny Smith tartness, with some deep mustiness to boot. Another subtle, wonderfully put-together brew. Oh, and both of the above bottles together left me with change from twenty quid. BierCaB is the bloody Robin Hood of beer bars.

Here’s where my appraisals of beer specialist bars would normally cease, but wait, there’s more…

The food, oh God, the food

As a total foodie, I often feel a little let down by choices in some of the world’s best beer bars. Granted, I totally understand the mindset of doing one thing and one thing bloody well. Beer bars are for drinking – I get that. But in my mind, the truly world class ones pay attention to lining their patrons’ stomachs too.

Wagyu beef with hop chimichurri

Wagyu beef with hop chimichurri

Patatas Bravas. The care and effort is amazing.

Patatas Bravas. The care and effort is amazing.

Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus

 

Hopefully the above pictures provide a telling snapshot about how damn good the food menu is at BierCaB, so I don’t have to keep bending your ears about how much I’m in love with this place. Wagyu beef with hop chimichurri, man, HOP CHIMICHURRI. And the most delicate octopus I’ve ever eaten. A revelation. And all so affordable. Just yes.

 

In all, BierCaB rests comfortably in my personal top five beer bars in the world. Keeping good company with Mikkeller & Friends (DK), Mikkeller SF (USA), Moeder Lambic Fontainas (BE), Craft Beer Company, Clerkenwell (UK), and The Trappist, Oakland (USA). It knocked me off my feet completely – I just wasn’t expecting it.

Barcelona is one hell of a city in many ways, but if you’re a beer drinker, it’s now one hell of a lot better.

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