Basque is the land of Rioja red wine and Asturias sidra, which is exactly why I wanted to find local beers. Here’s my thinking: if they can perfect the art of wine and cider making, then their beer is going to be just as fantastic. Beer isn’t as popular as the other libations, but give it some time and hop heads will be flocking to the area.
This brought me to Cervecería Etxeberria. The fine folks at Pantori directed me to this glorious watering hole. Located in the city’s north area that houses all of the fine pintxo bars and the must-see San Telmo Museum, the bar is a true local joint who come to experience international beers in a no-nonsense setting. You won’t hear or read English anywhere. The interior is a ramshackle of hand-written signs, menus and beer paraphernalia. Rough around the edges, but comfortable and welcoming.
If you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to meet owner and large-than-like personality Juanjo Cano. His large mug in cartoon form can be seen on the napkins. Ask him (en Espanol por favor) what’s good and he’ll walk you though the 20+ taps and bottle selections from Germany, Belgium, Austria and England.
“¿Qué hay de local?” I asked. Obviously, I was looking beyond Estrella Damm.
Here’s what I had:
Bidassoa Boise by Bidassoa Basque Brewery — Amber color with reddish hues. Intense bitterness balanced by delicate floral aromas and flavors of citrus, with hints of wood and toasted malts.
IPA Dry Hopping by Olañeta-Gipuzkoa — Uses Nugget and Cascade hops. ALE beer produced by the traditional method: Fermented on the package itself, unfiltered, unpasteurized, without injecting CO2 and sediment.
Arauco by Mattinada — American Pale Ale style beer, amber and citrus with a light touch.