Basque Fact of the Week: The Rise of Basque Craft Beer

When I lived in the Basque Country, from the fall of 1991 to the summer of 1992, I spent more than my fair share of time in the ubiquitous bars and taverns. But, for all of those hours, I drank maybe three different beers: San Miguel, Fosters, and Heineken. Once in a while, we got a Guinness, but that was rare. And, to be honest, despite the strangeness of Australia’s version of Coors being everywhere, I didn’t mind. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I went to school in Seattle, that I developed a taste for hops. And the story might have ended there, if it weren’t for the sudden rise of craft beer in the Basque Country. I’m sure this list won’t do the Basque beer scene justice, but consider it a sampler to whet your thirst.

Some of Basqueland Brewery’s colorful and exotic offerings. Photo from Craft Beer Nomads.
  • Basqueland started in 2015 in Hernani, Gipuzkoa. Since that time, they have brewed over 300 different beers and have won the Barcelona Beer Challenge as best brewer of the year two years in a row. While the owners – Kevin Patricio and Ben Rozzi – are from the United States, Oscar Sáez, the brewmaster, is from Donostia. They also have a gastropub in Donostia. In addition to their core staples such as Imparable IPA and Santa Clara lager, they have a number of limited edition specialty beers such as Berry Cobbler, a fruity sour; Home Slice triple IPA; and several hazy IPAs like Cat Show, Zumo, and Wilson Coconut. You should have no problem getting your fill of hops here! They just need to get a version of their webpage in Euskara!
  • Mala Gissona is another brewery in Gipuzkoa, this time in Oiartzun. Founded in 2014 by Iban Zabala Rivero and Manuel Murillo Martínez, Mala Gissona started out in the Gros neighborhood of Donostia. Inspired by the often-troubled history between the Basque Country and Iceland, Mala Gissona – bad men – also makes a number of IPAs and double IPAs: Endurance, Sor Dana, Albaola, Arrebato, La Ostia, and many more. They also have a smoothie sour – Dembow – and a lager – Koi – amongst many other offerings. They also need a Basque version of their website.
  • Naparbier comes from Noain, Nafarroa. Their slogan is “Hil Arte” – “To Death.” Their core collection of beers includes Paradise?, ZZ, Aker, and Zukua, which are a pilsner, an amber, an IPA, and a hazy APA, respectively. Naparbier started in 2009. The name comes from Napar – for Nafarroa – and the German word for beer. They started with just a pilsner and a dunkel, but now have more exotic offerings such as a Pumpkin Tzar Russian Imperial Stout and a barley wine aged in whisky barrels.
  • Boga is inspired by the strong connection the Basques have to the sea. Started in 2014, Boga is based in Mungia, Bizkaia. They have a diverse offering, not quite so heavy on the IPAs. Argia is a pilsner, Tosta a brown ale, Betlza an extra stout, and Martzela a weissbier. They also have Libre, an alcohol-free beer. And, of course, there is an IPA, which Boga has dubbed Lorea. This is all in addition to their special edition beers.
  • This is only the tip of the iceberg. You can find a listing of some breweries in Iparralde here. Craft Beer Nomads has a writeup on some breweries in Hegoalde.

Primary sources: 7º aniversario de Basqueland, Noticias de Gipuzkoa

Inspired by a post by Eneko Ennekõike.

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