DAY 1

SUNDAY OCTOBER 25

Welcome to Catalunya! This being check-in day, we won’t plan anything until the evening, so early-arriving guests will have the day to explore. At dinner time we’ll head for the city’s original craft bar, BierCab, for beer and tapas, and then Metro our way to the great neighborhood brewpub, Le Sec.

BIERCAB


Opened in 2013 as Barcelona’s first serious craft bar, BierCab was considered in some circles the world’s best just one year later. Founded by the pioneering Sven Bosch (of Naparbier fame), BierCab remains a local institution today, with its impressive draft rotation, unique interior design, and requisite excellent tapas. Today it’s but one among many top-notch beer destinations in Barcelona, but much-revered and imitated.

BREWPUB LE SEC


This tiny, atmospheric neighborhood brewery is classic Barcelonan, set in a small side street outside the central tourist areas of the city. Female-owned and operated, Le Sec produces supremely drinkable and well-made beers that, in contrast to much of the competition’s offerings, epitomize balance and restraint. A true unheralded gem on the local beer scene and an authentic local bar in its own right.

DAY 2

MONDAY OCTOBER 26

In the late morning we’ll tour the city’s iconic pedestrian street, Las Ramblas, eventually landing at the Mercado de la Boqueria, the world-famous open-air market. We’ll explore the multitude of fruit, fish, meat and vegetable stalls before taking our lunch in one of the myriad cafes surrounding the market. Here we’ll sample tapas washed down with beer, wine, or sangria. From there it’s a few steps into the Gótico neighborhood, where we’ll wander some of Europe’s most intoxicating old streets and squares. Eventually winding our way past the waterfront and its impressive harbor and yachts, we’ll soon arrive at our first two beer destinations, BlackLab Brewery and tapas bar El Vaso de Oro, and sample their excellent Barcelona-brewed lagers and ales. In the evening we’ll dine at the wonderful natural wine restaurant Bar Brutal, and from there choose from an endless list of characterful bars to explore later in the old city.

  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included

MERCADO DE LA BOQUERIA


The most famous of the old markets in Barcelona, the Boqueria sits smack alongside the most busy section of Las Ramblas, inviting visitors from around the world to explore and sample a most colorful array of local delicacies. Its characterful tapas bars are world-renowned, and the area immediately surrounding the market itself is teeming with dining and drinking options of all kinds.

BLACKLAB


Founded in 2014 by a Chinese-Spanish restaurateur and American brewer, BlackLab epitomizes the young, international/expat influence on Barcelona’s enthusiastic brewpub scene. Its approach to beer-making — focusing primarily on perfecting the classic styles, then adding a substantial dash of experimentation — is very much in line with the new Catalan brewing model, while its kitchen adds exotic Asian/New World flavors that pair well with the fresh ales & lagers on draft.

EL VASO DE ORO / Cerveza Fort


Legendary cervesería El Vaso de Oro — the Golden Cup — is rightfully famous for its seaport location, lively local clientele, and classic tapas. But the clincher, as if it needs one, is the liquid on draft — house beers made by the owner’s other holding, Cerveza Fort.

Founded in 2011, Fort specializes in traditional styles: An award-winning IPA, a classic Pilsner and a lovely Steam Beer, among others. Its presence at El Vaso, replacing the commonly found industrial lager, makes the bar the only old-school tapas institution in Barcelona that’s also a brewery tap house.

BAR BRUTAL


One of Barcelona’s most popular destinations, the eccentric taverna-style Bar Brutal serves up serious food and wine and is frequented by visitors and locals alike. Quirkily decorated, but with a rustic vibe, it’s the perfect place to sample authentic tapas, and a magnet for both enthusiasts and debutantes of natural wine.

DAY 3

TUESDAY OCTOBER 27

After a late night out, we’ll give guests the morning off, but those up early will find this the perfect time to visit sites like the Cathedral or Gaudi museums. At 1:00 we’ll hit Maestró, a tiny new brewery in the elegant Eixample neighborhood, for an early afternoon refresher, and enjoy some excellent tapas afterwards just around the corner, at the popular Cervesería Catalana. Then we’re off on a dual-brewery jaunt, riding the Metro out to the working-class, industrial La Pau neighborhood for a tour and tasting at the newly-built, spacious Almogáver, and doubling back to the taproom at US-expat Edge Brewing nearer the center. After a nice sampling at Edge we’ll walk it off, with a stroll through the city park, until we arrive in the oldest part of Barcelona, El Born, and the Basque café Sagradi, where we’ll sip the best sidras in town while digging into some lovely tapas. From here we’re well-poised to wander over to the many excellent beer, cava, or wine bars to be found in the area.

  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included

MAESTRÓ


One of Barcelona’s two smallest breweries is located in the very center of the city, in this French-influenced restaurant. Here typical Catalan versions of English, German and American-style beers are crafted in super-small batches for in-house or takeaway. Equally-tiny batches of more experimental beers are occasionally brewed for the US market. The brewer is formerly of local company Fort.

CERVECERÍA CATALANA


This elegant tapas mainstay has been serving picky locals for over 100 years, though the interior looks as if it has been cleverly designed in the 21st century. A quirky, seafood-heavy selection of small and large plates is served to a mix of hipsters, foodies, and traditionalists alike, who often wait in line for a chance to taste what some consider among the best tapas in town.

CERVESES ALMOGÁVER


A large, ambitious brewhouse was installed by this former gypsy brewer in 2017, and the products are firmly in the blue-collar camp: Drinkable and well-balanced refreshers, in the Catalan style. Located in a very working-class industrial neighborhood, Almogáver (its name refers to an ancient local warrior class) is a feisty new addition to the scene, and has come a long way in a very short time in the newly-competitive craft beer market.

EDGE BREWING


Edge was established in 2013 by American expats eager to bring the tastes and culture of American craft brewing to Barcelona. In 2014 Edge was voted World’s Best New Brewery by Rate Beer, and soon after they began selling their American-Catalan beer in the U.S., having already also won the title of Best Spanish Brewery.

Their impressive space in the Poblenou neighborhood just northeast of the old city cranks out 2,000HL per year, courtesy of its small, dedicated international staff, and also features a popular tasting room.

Edge Brewing is closely involved in the American equestrian community, devoting parts of its proceeds to charities benefiting retired racing animals.

SAGARDI BCN GÒTIC


One of the best Basque resturants to be found in Catalunya, Sagardi has been located in the heart of Barcelona’s old city for more than 20 years. Here the chefs strive to recreate the flavors of authentic, traditional Basque cuisine with the use of high quality seasonal products and a simple, timeless approach in the kitchen ⁠— “of raw material and fire.”

DAY 4

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 28

Today we kick off a two and a half day road trip through the Catalan countryside. First stop, Cervesa Marina, one of the country’s original craft brewers, located in the coastal resort town of Blanes. Time permitting, we will also visit the local fort with excellent coastal views. From there we head inland, to the small city of Ripoll, and the experimental brewery La Calavera, who will sample us on a particularly interesting range of barrel-aged and other specialty brews. Here we’ll also have a meal at the brewery’s partner restaurant. Later we’ll pop in at the beautiful Cervesera Montseny, located at the foothills of the mountains of the same name, and share a dinner with the brewers at their favorite local restaurant. Finally, we’ll make the quick drive to Vic, where we’ll check-in before exploring the town’s medieval streets.

  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included

CERVEZA MARINA


In 2010, Pep and Kevin McCarry, aka the “Brewer Brothers,” founded Cerveza Marina in their seaside Catalan hometown of Blanes. One of the earliest Spanish craft brewers to go commercial, they began exporting to the U.S. in 2015 while focusing strongly on their local market. Their finest original efforts being typical of the pale and blond ale types that dominated early Spanish craft, they have also created some fascinating beers using local ingredients — notably, a sour plankton ale — and are very connected to top figures in the local food scene. They run their own annual festival, Birrasana.

LA CALAVERA


Originally a homebrewing project, La Calavera was founded in 2012 as part of a work cooperative shared with a local restaurant, La Barricona. This partnership remains while the brewery expands into the international market. The name Calavera ⁠— “skull” ⁠— reflects the founders’ anti-fascist, punk origins, and the branding reflects a strong aesthetic association with these movements. The tiny 12 HL brewhouse produces a dual range ⁠— clean, traditional beers for the local market, and barrel-aged ones for the international.

COMPANYIA CERVESERA DEL MONTSENY


La Companyia Cervesera del Montseny (CCM) is among the most well-established modern Catalunyan craft breweries. Following its humble beginnings as a hobby for a group of beer-fanatic friends in wine-dominated Spain, CCM offered its first commercial products in 2007, just two years later becoming the first such company to export to the United States. The brewery has enjoyed steadily rising sales and expansion since its inception, and in 2016 achieved worldwide recognition by being vote the best artisanal brewery, and top medal winner, at the first Barcelona Beer Challenge.

EL TINNEL


Founded in 1898, El Tinnel has been a favorite meeting place for locals in the Montseny mountain region for many generations. In addition to its old-world ambience and extensive wine list, it has the added bonus of being situated directly acorss the road from the excellent Montseny brewery, making it a beer destination as well.

VIC


Vic is a town of ancient origin. Well-known in Roman times, it played strategic roles in various conflicts dating back to the 8th century, and from the 17th century until the present has been a hotbed of Catalan independence sentiment. Its central Square, Plaça Major, retains its original medieval feel, especially during the weekly Tuesday market.

DAY 5

THURSDAY OCTOBER 29

In the morning we’ll make the thrilling drive up to the area’s most famous and dramatic peak, the Monsterrat, and explore the mountaintop monastery village with its stunning views of the valley below. Around midday we’ll head to the impossibly rustic Masia Agullons, one of Spain’s original craft breweries and an artisanal treasure. We’ll be served lunch prepared in an ancient kitchen, and draft beer from a bar built into the farmhouse. Whenever we manage to tear ourselves away we’ll make the short trip into Vilafranca, in the wine-making Penedès region, where we’ll check in to our hotel and, after settling in, walk to the colorful, lively BeerCat brewery, taking in a tour and dinner in the popular restaurant. Vilafranca being an old cava capital, post-dining we’ll have the option of sipping bubbly at any one of the numerous local wine bars, or sticking with beer at the brewery.

  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included

MONTSERRAT


The Benedictine Monastery Santa Maria de Montserrat is located atop a 1,236 meter high mountain about 45 km northwest of Barcelona. A striking view of the peaks is a feature of any drive in the vast countryside around the city, and the mountaintop itself offers a magnificent view of the Catalonian hinterlands. The rocky backdrop against which the monastery walls were built is dramatic, but many visitors come here mainly to view the statue of the Black Madonna, patron saint of Catalonia. The 12th-century figure is enthroned above the high altar in the basilica, and at 12:00 a boys’ choir sings in the Saint’s honor.

MASIA AGULLONS


At the turn of the millenium, Carlos Rodriguez began experimenting with home brewing in his farmhouse outside the Catalan mountain village of  Mediona.  Tinkering gradually became a passion,  and, after having already launched his own amateur craft beer festival, Carlos went professional in 2009, inspiring many other brewers through his example and encouragement. By the beginning of the next decade, there was a wave of new, commercial craft producers in Catalunya, all inspired by this “Godfather” of craft beer. Today Carlos oversees an ever-expanding village festival and farmhouse brewery, while fully retaining the local character of both.

BEERCAT


BeerCat was established in 2013 with a mission to add a brewing presence to the illustrious wine, olive oil and fine dining culture of the Penedes region. The building housing the bar and brewery is a typical example of early 20th century Catalan industrial wine architecture, with stone and brick walls supporting a wooden ‘A’ frame structure under Arab tiles. The brewery produces a range of accessible English and American-influenced beers, poured to accompany the mostly locally-produced, seasonal and ecologically-minded dishes ⁠— everything from meaty to vegan.

Beer Cat

VILAFRANCA


Founded in the 12th century, “Vilafranca del Penedès,” as it’s traditionally known, features a 13th century palace as well as a number of historical churches and townhouses. But it is best known as a center of wine production, being the only sizeable town in the rural Penedès region, an area recognized internationally as the home of Catalan sparkling wine, or cava. Many of the town’s buildings are or have been owned by local wineries, and there is a thriving wine tourism industry.

DAY 6

FRIDAY OCTOBER 30

Sparkling wine in the morning? Yes, please. We’ll tour the old Mascaró winery right down the street from our hotel, exploring the fascinating underground caves, toying with ancient bottling gear and sampling some amazing straight and flavored cavas, vermouths, and more.  In the early afternoon it’s a quick train ride back into Barcelona, and our last hotel check-in of the tour. We’ll have a welcome few hours’ break before meeting up to head out to Shelton Brothers’ own European-partnered beer festival, MASH. This annual event, featuring some of the finest local brewers as well as heavyweights from Europe and the US, is considered the most cutting edge, high-end beer event in Spain, and we will all have VIP passes. Post-fest we are invited to an exclusive after party, held in a neighborhood brewery.

  Breakfast included

BODEGA MASCARÓ


A multi-generational family company, Mascaró has since the 1940’s produced cava, wine, liquor, brandy, and vermouth in Vilafranca, the small capital of the Penedès region. Dedicated to the belief that that the essence of a product is in its origin, the company sources grapes for all its wines and cavas from self-owned local vineyards, allowing full control of the entire production process and guaranteeing the highest quality of the final product.

MASH


Barcelona breweries Edge and Garage presented the first edition of this festival in 2017, to a small but appreciative local beer public. Since the second edition in 2018, Shelton Brothers have been involved as partners, and MASH has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity, drawing some of the world’s most talked-about brewers to Barcelona for what has quickly become the most highly-regarded international beer event in Spain, and one of the edgiest in Europe. Attendance has risen dramatically each year as the audience for craft beer grows rapidly in Catalunya and the rest of the country.

DAY 7

SATURDAY OCTOBER 31

Recovering from MASH and its afterparty, we may need a strong coffee in the AM. But our farewell lunch beckons at 1:00 ⁠— not to be missed, as we can’t plan a farewell dinner due to MASH Mach II this evening!

Post-lunch, guests will have several hours free for last-minute shopping or sightseeing. In the evening we’ll head out for the festival’s final session, after which we’ll grab a late bite at a quaint café in a nearby neighborhood square, followed by the MASH afterparty II blowout, again an exclusive affair at a nearby brewery. No rest for the wicked in Barcelona.

  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included

EL PORRÓN


Described as a cross between a wine bottle and a watering can, the porrón allows groups of imbibers to consume communally without touching their lips to the vessel — particularly desirable when drinking is accompanied by food. Originating in Catalunya (where it’s called a porró), its proper use — held aloft at full arm’s length, allowing the liquid to sail through the air in a tight stream towards the mouth — is enforced rigorously, often to comical effect. Until recently, the porrón was reserved for wine, but nowadays the craft brewing community in Catalunya has taken to filling it up with sour beer.

DAY 8

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 1

Our tour has ended, but guides will be available in the early part of the day to assist anyone needing help getting to the airport or regional/international trains.

For those continuing their holidays, Barcelona is of course a main air and railway hub for Catalunya, Spain, Europe, and the globe.

  Breakfast included

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