As he did in Bilbao, Emmet Ryan explored Barcelona through a glass to get to the heart of what makes the city tick through the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
“It is one of the few cities in the world where you can just ask for a beer and there are no questions,” said Monica. The learned beertender at Cerveceria La Resitistencia confirmed the impression I had got from my first few days in town. Catalunya is where Ireland was but a few short years ago. The craft beer revolution is reliant on a few risk takers. La Resistencia worries about its customer numbers and only opens for 6 hours most days. A fact that caught me off guard when I arrived 10 minutes before first orders.
Barcelona as a city prides itself of the success of FC Barcelona. A walk around the Camp Nou tour shows you what the collective success of all of its teams is supposed to mean. Make no mistake, soccer remains the undisputed king. While the museum lauds basketball, handball, and roller hockey, all but a tiny section in the basement of Barcelona’s three storey superstore is devoted to football. These couple of rows remind you that while they are kings of Europe in several sports, there is only one that truly sells in this city.
The rest day here in Barcelona was a chance to survive the humidity on my own terms. A rest in the comforting Caelum cake shop followed by high culture at the contemporary art museum before my search for that beer culture Catalunya is striving for. While Lithuanians and Slovenians have come in numbers, there was no way hoops would control this city with the iron grip the Finns used to rouse Bilbao.
La Resistencia is an island of quality in a city flowing with Estrella Damm. There are however more ambitious projects sprouting up to support their effort. BierCab, near the Urquell metro stop, proudly boasts 30 taps with 30 different beers. In the USA this wouldn’t merit attention but in a city starved of variety it is a beacon of hope for the emerging Catalan brewing industry. Beer Cat’s IPA, brewed in the city itself, is up there with the best I’ve tried from the USA, Britain, or my native land. It was here I met up once more with Sam Meyerkopf of Euroleague Adventures. Sam lived here for 6 months a few years back and proved an able guide drinking through Las Ramblas on Saturday night.
We tried a couple of hostelries of varying buzz, including one with a heavy tie to Moritz lager. Pristine vats graced the basement but beer vats should never be truly clean, they should look like they have been through four quarters guarding Kenneth Faried and ready for more. Instead it was at the end of our mini pub crawl that we found a spot with true character. There are few public houses here with Paulaner on tap and as we talked about where this game is going (including briefly the impossible dream of the USA playing in FIBA Americas out of desire not need), it felt like we had found the true tone of the city. It was relaxed, happy for sport, but not all that worked up.
The most tension I’ve felt in this town since getting here wasn’t in the waning seconds of Turkey’s late escape against Australia. No, it came tonight as I walked home. At 2.30am I went into an all night shop for beer. “It is prohibited…I will sell to you…you didn’t get them here.” He almost forgot to charge me for the Twix.
Tuesday promises action in the arena, particularly with the Euro on Euro clash of Lithuania and Turkey. Wednesday however offers guaranteed excitement. A beer launch, right here in the land of bland lager, back at Cerverceria La Resistencia. Whatever happens on the court, that’s appointment stuff for this correspondent.