Author: Malin Norman
A great way to discover a city is to visit its breweries. It usually involves a tour and trying some beers, but it’s also about discovering the neighbourhood, hearing the history of the brewery, talking to the brewers and meeting other beer geeks. Malin Norman recently visited two breweries in Barcelona, both interesting experiences but in different ways.
Before we jump into the brewery visits, a quick overview of the beer scene in Barcelona. Joan Birraire, an experienced beer writer and local expert, explains that this is where craft beer kicked off in Spain.
Humulus Lupulus, a local homebrewing association, was founded in 1997 and lasted until 2005, the same year that the first microbrewery started. Between 2005 and 2012, the craft beer scene grew at a relatively slow pace, yet seeing new microbreweries open every year, most were part of the homebrewing association. From 2012 the growth in number and quality was impressive, around the time of the first Barcelona Beer Festival when a whopping 10,000 thirsty beer lovers turned up.
“The beer scene has been growing at a remarkable pace since then,” says Joan. “At the beginning of 2020, the city was buzzing with beer bars and a few centrally located breweries, and then everything changed with the pandemic. Luckily, most of them have survived, many are small businesses that could be flexible and reinvent themselves with for example online shops, which is great to see.”
Freddo Fox – small craft brewery
Now to the brewery visits. Let’s start with Freddo Fox in the neighbourhood Poblenou. This used to be Edge Brewing, one of the first craft breweries in Barcelona, now with a new ownership constellation and new branding, and also a different line-up of beers. On a free tour and tasting, head brewer Robin, who was part of the Edge Brewing crew, took the group through the brewing process and ingredients, and we had the chance to taste four beers.
First out was Chop Chop Chop, an assertive West Coast IPA with pine, citrus and great bitterness, followed by It’s Not Rocket Science, a juicy New England IPA. The third was my favourite, Sometimes It’s Complicated, an imperial fruited gose with added raspberry, pear and apricot – gorgeous! And finally we tried the imperial pastry stout Head In The Sand, a collab with Laugar Brewery in Basque Country. It has heaps of toasted hazelnut, creamy chocolate and vanilla – like a Ferrero Rocher in a beer, impossible to resist.
Joan is also impressed with Freddo Fox. “Breweries like this is the reason why I started writing about beer in the first place,” he says. “It’s not just about the great beer they brew, but also about the lovely people behind the business. Also, Freddo Fox doesn’t use lactose when brewing and still manages to achieve the same round mouthfeel and sweetness.”
Moritz – theme park for beer lovers
The other visit was at Fàbrica Moritz, which is located in the heart of Barcelona. With a history dating back to 1856, Moritz is more of a visitors’ centre with a popular restaurant and bar, and a shop with branded souvenirs – the brewery even describes itself as “a theme park for beer lovers.”
Nowadays, most of Moritz’ beers are actually brewed in Zaragoza, however the facilities in Barcelona host an experimental microbrewery, the Moritz Beer Lab, which is brewing fresh unpasteurized beers. The tour took the group through the historic brewery, with an architectural focus, and the active microbrewery. This is a good introduction to the world of beer and a history of the neighbourhood, however you will not get the same personal experience as in a smaller brewery like Freddo Fox.
The tasting of six beers ranged from classic lager to stout and to a more experimental red IPA. The beers might not be incredibly exciting, there are no hazy New England IPAs or pastry stouts in sight, but that’s not the point either. “Moritz doesn’t pretend to be a trendy microbrewery,” agrees Joan. “They know that the beers might not be the most innovative in craft beer, but that doesn’t mean they’re not interesting or tasty.”
Other breweries and bars to check out
If in Barcelona, take the opportunity to visit some other breweries and beer bars too. Three breweries recommended by Joan; “La Pirata is one of the best breweries in the country and Soma makes impressive hazy IPAs. And Cyclic Beer Farm is great, brewing small batches with local ingredients and own yeast cultures, the likes of them will hopefully define the next 10 years in craft beer.”
And there are plenty of beer bars around the city. “Brew Wild has fantastic pizzas and beers, it makes sense in the mind and when you’re there,” Joan smiles. “Newly opened La Textil is interesting too, a place to get lost in the interior details by local artisans as well as the beer. Finally, Racó d’en Cesc is one of the best restaurants in Barcelona where you get fantastic beer and food pairings.”
Already looking forward to the next visit to Barcelona!
Impressions of Freddo Fox:
Impressions of Fàbrica Moritz:
Photos: Freddo Fox (Freddo Fox), Malin Norman (Fàbrica Moritz)