As you may have realised, I like good beer. And, while I’m not adverse to the odd lager when nothing else is available, I was wondering how I’d feed my beer addiction on our recent city break to Valencia. After all, on my previous trips to Spain, the only beers that were available were local mass-produced lagers – usually San Miguel or Estrella Damm.
I needn’t have been concerned. While not in the same league as the cities in traditional beer-drinking European countries like Belgium and the Czech Republic, Valencia has a modest but growing craft beer scene. And, while most of the hundreds of bars that dot the city haven’t cottoned onto the fact that beer lovers like to drink something different with their paella and tapas, there are a handful of bars and restaurants where you can get good beer.
Valencia’s own Birra and Blues brewery leads the way in this respect. Starting life as recently as 2011, Birra and Blues now brews more than 10 regular beers at its seafront brewery in the province of Alboraia a few miles from the city centre. It sells its beers on draught at its two flagship bars. Birra and Blues beers are also available by the bottle in various shops and bars in the local area.
The bar is in a great location on a V at the end of a long row of buildings between a busy shopping street and a cobbled alleyway near the Central Market. There’s a large seating area outdoors, shared with other bars and restaurants. Like some of the trendier craft beer pubs in the UK, the bar has modern decor. There’s a long curved bartop along the back of the narrow room with various comfy seats, sofas and stools dotted around the place. There’s also a cosy seating area hidden behind the right side of the bar – we missed this on our first visit.
As well as 10 of the brewery’s most popular beers on draught, it also sells its seasonal beers in bottles. Plus, there are cocktails and soft drinks for those who prefer not to drink beer. Birra and Blues does food too – pizzas and various tapas dishes. Disappointingly, the only link to blues music seems to be the odd reference to vinyl records and a beer called “John Lee Blues”. The bar doesn’t sell any “guest” beers from other suppliers or fresh beer to take away.
The draught beer selection at Birra and Blues covers off just about every type of popular European beer. There’s an IPA, a German-style wheat beer, a stout, a blonde, an amber ale and a Belgian-style Tripel, among others. The weakest beer comes in at 5%, and most are a little stronger than what we’re used to in the UK – how a good beer should be, some might say. They’re available in 300ml and 500ml servings, all priced around the €3 mark per 300ml. There’s also a taster option, where you can try a selection of small servings of their beers for €6.
The first time we visited Birra and Blues, I managed to persuade Tiff to try a beer. She went for the “Red Wheat” (5.2%) while I decided to sample the “IPA Blues” (5.3%), which reminded me of the 6% Flower Pots IPA I had at the Southampton Beer Festival.
On our second visit a couple of days later, I continued working my way through the beer menu. I had a “John Lee Blues” (6.4%) and then “The Blonde” – a 5% pilsner. The John Lee Blues was delicious, but I wasn’t so keen on the pilsner because it reminded me of the lagers than I’d become bored of on previous visits to Spain.
We also had a couple of pizzas from the food menu to devour as we quaffed our drinks. They were a bit soggy in the middle, but we still wolfed them down while watching the comings and goings on the street outside.
Birra and Blues is certainly worth a visit, even for those who don’t usually enjoy a beer. Just don’t expect a British-style real ale or Belgian dubbel – although it’s the breweries in more established beer-consuming countries that have influenced Birra and Blues, the drinks here are most certainly Valencian. And, that’s a good thing.
Info: Birra and Blues’ old town bar is at Avinguda de María Cristina, 12, 46001 Valencia, Spain.