Beer Tourism outside Belgium
- Written by: Jason Baxter
- Category: Beer Tourism outside Belgium
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Well folks, we're off on our travels again, it's Linda's birthday this coming Friday and so she's booked us a last minute 3 day break to San Sebastián and we leave this Saturday
Here we go folks...
We left Manchester and boarded our 5pm flight to Bilbao and just under two hours later we landed, suitcases already on the carousel as we cleared customs, this was one of our quickest landings yet.
With Bilbao being so far from San Sebastián a taxi transfer was out of the question (about 160€) so the obvious choice is a coach and luckily as you exit the airport the coaches pull up right in front, so it was just a 30 minute wait until we boarded our coach for the 1 hour journey to San Sebastián
After being dropped off in the centre of town we grabbed a taxi for the short journey around the coast to our hotel, a quick check in and bag drop and we stepped out for our first look at San Sebastián.
Now despite it being around 10.30pm we walked the short distance to a bar just down the road from our hotel named Bar Pepe and entered to a very full bar and managed to bag the only empty table for a couple of well deserved drinks from tap (not sure what but they were nice and malty) when ordering we were told that the kitchen would be closing in 20 minutes time so if we wanted food order now - so a plate of ham croquettes, crispy chicken strips and some of the biggest and best chicken wings we've ever had before making our way back to our hotel
Woke to a rather cloudy and grey Spain but at least it was dry so we decided upon a walk along the promenade towards the old town on the other side of the bay...it was time to explore.
Wondering through the maze of ancient back alleys we stumbled across the infamous Bar Néstor and despite it not being open forever another couple of hours we couldn't miss the opportunity so we'd return at 12 midday to hopefully place our order but in the meantime Linda had something else rather special in mind to pass the time...Basque Cheesecake, so it was to La Vina we trundled, home of the very best cheesecake.
A modern looking bar it was clear that this place was all about one and one thing only, the walls were lined with cheesecakes, the counter full of them and in the kitchen cheesecakes being prepared...so a portion of Basque Cheesecake it had to be (which btw is 2 slices) and 2 cappuccino for the very reasonable price of 10€
The cheesecake looks almost burnt from the outside but is pure white and very creamy inside and quite unlike any cheesecake you get at home, it was so creamy and vanilla packed a true thing of beauty
A walk around town picking up a few store cupboard ingredients before heading back in the direction of Nestor but seeing as it was only 11.30am we had a coffee at the bar opposite and sat outside waiting for signs of life...we didn't have to wait long as a couple stood outside the closed bar (clear what they had come for) so we quickly finished our drinks and joined the growing line in positions 7+8 with more joining behind us (still with 20 minutes to go)
At 12 the shutter on the window was raised and orders placed, everyone ordering the allocated 1 slice of tortilla per person (that is what Néstor is world famous for) when we placed ours almost half the tortilla had been ordered - Bar Nestor make just 1 tortilla a day making just 16 portions, we were told to return at 12.45 so we wandered around until our time but as luck would have it there was a large precession full of people dancing wearing traditional dress and playing musical instruments making its way through town so this was the perfect distraction before excitedly making our way back and lucky us we were first in line.
At 12.45 the shutters went up and we entered the small one room wood panelled bar, asked if we had come for tortilla we were told to take a place at the bar.
An expertly poured Basque Sidra (cider) and local Txakoli wine were ordered before the single tortilla was marched in and briskly cut into irregular portions, the lucky recipients name called from the list, ours would be the 4th name called.
The world famous Nestor tortilla is simply served with on a small plate with a piece of Frech stick (as almost all Pintxos were) it was as lightly cooked as I thought it would be but any worries about it being "too raw" quickly vanished on my first taste, the exterior crisp with a creamy potato, green pepper and gooey egg interior...simply perfect, overcooked hard UK tortilla a shambles by comparison.
Everyone in the bar was in total silence as they indulged and yet all the time people entering trying to order tortilla only to be turned away (clearly they had heard of this place but knew nothing about the pre-ordering)
Tortillas consumed I ordered 2 more Sidra and paid our bill -10.30€, amazing value for 4 drinks and 2 portions of tortilla.
Next it was beer time so a quick walk around the corner to Bar Etxebirra, my this place was absolutely rammed and I mean completely but our luck held out as we bagged an empty table at the rear of the bar.
Now with every available inch of floor space taken up with customers and you having to order at the bar I thought a couple of cans would be the best bet and most likely to make it back to our table intact.
The friendly owner serving suggested a couple of IPAs from Basqueland, these were happily consumed all the time in awe of the owner doing all the work single handed and also enjoying the hustle and bustle of this packed locals bar.
Time for more from Basqueland so set off for their brewery owned bar and no doubt some great beers, 15 minutes later we were there.
This is a minimalist bar with polished concrete and a Japanese food theme, our first order two recent releases in the form of Oh my Gatos IPA and Bone Broth DIPA, these were just what I'd been hoping for...incredibly juicy, hoppy and fruity - what an incredible start.
Food was ordered in the form of Boa buns I then opted for a Pohjala colab named Chocomel Caralate - 11% Imperial Stout with cocoa, chocolate, caramel, vanilla and salt...delicious stuff.
After buying cans and bottles to bring home another bar was in order.
Mala Gissona was what we opted for, this was a large open plan one room bar, our first orders a dark fruit sour a DIPA, both excellent before ordering a Verdant DIPA and a portion of crispy wedges served with a garlicky Aioli and spicy Bravas sauces.
More cans were bought and a Mala Gissona T-shirt before making our way back to our hotel to drop off our shopping then it was to Bar Pepe to finish our last day off perfectly with beer and Pintxos...day two to follow.