Sunday, 12 June 2016

Cat Bar, Barcelona

Hot on the heels of my recent trip to Valencia, last week I was back in Spain. This time Barcelona was the destination and, since we were there for the Primavera Sound music festival, there was considerably less time available for beery pursuits. I didn't even scratch the surface of what seems like an interesting beer city, but on the first night before the festival properly kicked off, we stumbled across Cat Bar. We found it whilst researching vegetarian-friendly restaurant options, and I jumped at the chance to check out a bar with a fully vegan kitchen and a broad range of Spanish craft beer.

It’s a fun place - cramped and candlelit, all mismatched furniture and low ceilings, just on the right side of the bohemian/divey spectrum. The burgers we ate were fantastic, and even if the dominant accents around the tables were British and American, the draught beer is heavily skewed towards the local. I drank the Powerplant saison from Barcelona’s own Edge brewery, which was sadly drastically under-attenuated and under-carbonated and should be approached as a faintly phenolic pale ale to avoid disappointment. There are some nice lemon and lime flavours, with just a hint of juniper and pepper. It stood up well to a big, bready burger and patatas bravas with lots of paprika, which is high praise.

Also from Edge was Padrino Porter, a beer with a rich, decadent chocolatey malt depth that suits after-dinner drinking. There’s a certain earthy, Shredded Wheat hop character (East Kent Goldings?), but also a hint of New World fruitiness before a light bitter finish. It’s a little thin bodied for the style, but was also served at a temperature that suits the close Barcelona evening which makes this less of an issue. I'm rarely so refreshed by a dark beer.

Paying my tab on the way out, I decided to take advantage of the pub’s CAMRA discount, more for the novelty value than the 60c it saved me – I always forget about it and so have never used it at home, and I like the idea of doing so in Spain at a bar serving precisely no cask beer. I'd guess that not many people redeem this generous offer as it completely baffled the bar staff. The British ex-pat proprietor seemed delighted to oblige, though - he explained that there's only one bar in Barcelona that sells cask, as few bars have cellars and the climate means that a cask goes off almost instantly. He did reassure me that all his beer was KeyKeg - "beer in a bag!"

I also stocked up at Beer Store, a great bottle shop recommended to me by Joan at Birraire, via Steve at Beers I’ve Known – thanks guys! Since all conventional accommodation in the immediate vicinity of the Primavera site books up within minutes of tickets going on sale, we ended up staying on a boat in a nearby port. Heineken is the only beer available at the festival, so I established a routine of sampling the wares of Barcelona’s craft breweries on the deck before consigning myself to the Dutch fizz. A separate post detailing those nautical brews will follow soon.

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