Why the Galicians are the Irish of Spain

WARNING: Contains generalisations presented as facts without evidence to back them up.

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Galicia is a fascinating part of Spain, tucked away above Portugal. It has its own language (between Portugese and Spanish) and some uncanny parallels with Ireland.

  1. It rains all the time and is consequently very green.
  2. It’s battered by the Atlantic.
  3. Weird similarities in traditional music.
  4. According to some, there are more people of Galician origin in America than Galicia, due to famine and poverty in the 19th century.
  5. Getting onto the beer angle. Their major beer is seriously over-rated. Estrella de Galicia is probably my least favourite beer in Spain. How can you manage to have smooth flow lager? I also tried their 1906 “Reserva” which was actually worse than the normal lager.
  6. The reputation for being twinkly-eyed, salt of the earth types. Particularly when it comes to bars. It’s a broad generalisation (I warned about those) but Galician bars in cities like Madrid and Barcelona are often extremely friendly places, with very good service and excellent atmosphere. What’s interesting is that I think we’re seeing the start of the “Galician theme bar” (i.e. like O’Neill’s in the UK), cashing in on this reputation. I certainly visited one in Burgos.

The food choice tends to be more exciting in Galician bars than Irish bars though…

Belgian beer in Burgos – La Espiga

Burgos is the kind of place that guidebooks describe as “likeable”. It has some nice old buildings including a stunning cathedral, and lots of bars and pubs. You probably wouldn’t go out of your way to visit, but it’s handy for travel in between Madrid and the Basque country.

As I had only chosen it for a stopover based on the rail connections, it was a very pleasant surprise to discover La Espiga, a genuine beer lover’s paradise. I’ve been to a number of places in the last couple of months in Spain that claim to be “beer paradises” or “beer temples”, only to discover they’re yet another weapon in Heineken’s Spanish armada, and that the exciting international beers on offer extend to Adelscott and Desperados.

Trois PistolesNo, this was the real deal. Around 10 beers on tap, including La Trappe Dubbel, Spaten Bock, Kwak and Liefman’s Kriek, and between 50-70 more in bottles. The selection was mostly the usual Belgian big boys – the Trappists, the Abbeys, the Deliriums, the Hoegaardens, but there were some more unusual offerings, such as the Unibroue range from Quebec.

There was a guide to the various beers, and the staff were knowledgeable and prepared to make recommendations. Beer menus are something I’m very keen on, as they help and guide the budding beer enthusiast – it’s amazing how many good pubs with big selections don’t bother with this step.

Best of all was that it was absolutely heaving with locals of all ages, enjoying a range of beer. Perhaps there is hope for the beer scene in Spain afterall. Maybe the Spanish beer revolution will begin in Burgos – I also noticed a German bar, and the internet cafe I visited had Barbar Miel and Kapittel Watou in the fridge.

In the meantime, here’s to you, La Espiga. I put this up in the hope that another beer lover who winds up in the area will google “beer + Burgos” or perhaps even “cerveza + Burgos” and will discover you too.

Notes

  1. Cerveceria La Espiga is on Calle de San Juan, right in the middle of town. Cibercafe is on Calle del Pueblo (?) which meets Calle de San Juan at a big arch.
  2. Burgos is about 2.5 hours from the French border and 3.5 hours from Madrid on the train.
  3. French keyboards are the most annoying in the world. All the letters are arse about face. It has taken me an hour to type this.

Boak (homeward bound…)