The Basque Country and a Place in Craft Beer
Known for its deep history, amazing gastronomy, and epic nature, the Basque Country is where big waves meet a land of rich tradition and strong identity. A place where customs are fiercely preserved in the local cultural fabric, all while staying open and inviting to the outside world.
Just a walk through the streets of Bilbao allows one to appreciate the industrious and progressive vibe that floods the air. The people are warm. The architecture is wonderful. And when the sun is out providing a glistening shine on the Atlantic, it’s only natural to begin craving the region’s culinary excellence paired with a few glasses of some barrel-aged cider.
A lot of time, Basque food get’s all the limelight. And for good reason. Access to the ocean and ridiculously fresh produce, paired with an army of some of the Europe’s most talented and skillful chefs, makes the Basque Country a quintessential destination for the food pilgrimage. The region’s various pintxo bars, along with Michelin Star-stuffed dining spots like Arzak or Asador Etxebarri, serve as a testament to the artistic-fueled mantra in creating the ultimate dish.
With street cred like this, it’s only logical that the dedication to such quality would eventually ooze into a flourishing craft beer scene. Making good beer is all about a respect for the ingredients, and the same ethos that have helped build the local culinary landscape are now in motion to create some exceptional local brew.
And since craft brewing is becoming such a truly global movement, it’s only right to highlight how the Basque Country has carved out a place in the business of malted barley and exotic hops.
Collectives like Laugar Brewery, Basqueland Brewing Project, and Bidassoa Basque Brewery are all taking a part in creating a thriving beer scene. Offering both locals and tourists an array of beers, ranging from refreshing but tasteful amber ales to thick imperial stouts, they are all about making quality craft beer in a country that has long been dominated by the big corporate brands.
Laugar Brewery sticks with the foundation of craft brewing, offering their take on refreshing pale ales, a wide range of IPA’s, and an even wider range of stouts. Their artwork is on another level, keeping it creative and colorful, which is always fun to see from an independent brewer. They also did a recent collab with Sao Paulo-based brewery Perro Libre, throwing some cacao nibs in the fermentation tank and showcasing the cultural reach of their beer.
Now if any brewer deserves recognition for gnarly names, Basqueland Brewing Project must take center stage. One of their selections, Churros con Chocolate, is an attention grabbing way to label their Imperial Stout, as that and a variety of other beers have helped them to receive a ton of props throughout Europe. Located right outside San Sebastian, they offer tourists an excuse to venture out and spend a few hours in their taproom.
And very close to the French border lies Bidassoa Basque Brewery. WIth a clear focus on hoppy pale ales and IPA’s, but also offering a dark series that again is embracing the cafe-esque potential in Porters and Stouts, they got the discerning aficionado covered. And with some bourbon and whiskey barrel aged selections for the colder and rain-filled days of the winter, it should be evident by now that the craft beer scene in Northern Spain is for real.
These beers may not be available in the U.S., but are one more reason to visit this magnificent land. A place where one can watch epic waves break on one side, admire the lush green mountains on the other, all while posting up in between for some pintxos and a local hazy IPA.
The cider is real good, but don’t sleep on the beer. Just stay a few extra days in order to give both the proper attention they deserve.
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