GARRULOUS SPANISH BARMAN
Where you from?
Oh, yes, Ireland.… William Wallace. Braveheart. You’ll never take my freedom!!
Overheard in San Sebastian during the summer.
On a previous trip to San Sebastian (aka Donostia, in the Basque Country) I tried beers from the local craft brewery Pagoa on a couple of occasions. On our recent holiday, we we stumbled upon a very simple, very old-fashioned bar which prides itself on serving the best serrano ham, and which also happens to stock Pagoa beers.
The ham was, indeed, fabulous and the beers went really well with it.
If you’re in San Sebastian, El Valles is definitely worth a visit.
I got quite excited to see that San Sebastian had a “local” lager, Keler, with basque on the labels and all. The bottles tell a story about some German brewers who set up in San Sebastian in the 1890s, yada yada yada.
However, I was disappointed. Not so much by the fact it´s the usual yellow fizz – that I was expecting – but to find out that it was now brewed by Damm in Barcelona. I thought that at least I´d be able to recommend it on environmental grounds.
Still, at least it´s not Heineken, who really do dominate San Seb (although they tend to hide under the Cruzcampo brand).
San Sebastian is considered to be a bit of a foodie paradise, with lots of local wines, ciders and spirits to match. I hadn’t been expecting to find any basque beer, but I was on the lookout, and I struck gold early on with a couple of offerings from Euskal Garagardoa S.A. in their “Pagoa” range – Orhi, a pilsner and Gorri, a “Red Ale”. I gather from various internet searches that there is (or was) also a stout (Zunbeltz) available but I’ve not been able to find it.
The beers are described as “traditional Basque beers” and the ingredients are just barley, hops, water and yeast. Both are 4.9%. There’s no other information on the bottle.
These beers got a bit of a slating on Ratebeer but I have to say I really enjoyed them. Possibly in contrast to the standard Spanish fizz and the disappointing offers from the various French microbrewers that we tried in the last couple of weeks (possibly more to come on that, but I don’t want to slag off microbrewers who are trying their best).
The Orhi in particular was very pleasant. I was reminded more of a koelsch than a pilsner (malty, fruity flavour, low carbonation, medium body, long finish) but it was great to have a beer where you could taste the malt and the hops. It also went very well with the spicy chorizo stew I was eating.
The red ale reminded me of an Alt, with a toasty malt taste, and again quite fruity and not particularly carbonated.
Definitely worth seeking out if you’re in Spain.
PS Sorry about the lack of photo – I have one, but no way of transferring it onto this computer at the moment.