Belgian Beer Board

Right folks, San Sebastián

This was our second visit to this beautiful city in the space of 14 months and to be honest this trip was even better than the first, right down to the weather.
San Sebastián has as much rain as we do here in Greater Manchester but for the duration of our visit we had clear blue skies and temperatures in the low 20's, the only rain we saw was late Saturday when we were on our way home.

San Sebastián is a large curved bay, at one end is the old town and marina with the hilltop fairground at the other.
Last year we stayed at the fairground end whereas this year we stayed nearer the old town with our hotel just one street back from the seafront, yet again Linda picked the perfect hotel and location.

Even though this was our second visit we saw so much new stuff - new bars, new sights, new tastes and kicking things off with new things we did a Sidra (Cider) house tour.
Linda booked this before we flew out, we were picked up close by our hotel at midday by our tour guide and host Maia and driven the half hour inland to the Saizar Sidra House (brewery) all the while Maia giving us lots of local cider facts and information...

* there are 89 cider houses in Spain and of them 69 are located in the Basque region and of those 69, 40 are located in the San Sebastián area.

Back to Saizar and it was located in the rural, rugged, mountainous area near Usurbil. This region  looks more like Switzerland with its chalet style houses and steep wooded hills.

Our guide Maia

Bonelli's Eagles soaring overhead, at one point there was a dozen or so.

Apple orchards surround the brewery, we later found out that the bottles we saw looked the same but one had a red cap, one black and one with a black label - the red cap is the best with apples purely from the San Sebastián area, the black uses apples from the Basque area (including the Basque are of France) with the black label using apples not from the Basque area.

Upon entering the brew house we were taken to a side room for a welcome drink and shown a video about the brewery, we were also given a snack of local Basque Chistorra sausage which had been braised in house Sidra.
These were absolutely delicious, like a soft mild Chorizo that are semi cured and need to be cooked. It'll come as no surprise that we brought some home (note the red top to the Sidra, means top quality).

We were then shown to our reserved table and taken on a tour of the brewery by Maia - she explained the brewing process, the barrels and answered any questions we had.

Two large wooden barrels sit at the far end of the restaurant each adorned with the name of the current owners Grandparents and each capable of holding 50 000 litres.

Steel vats holding apple juice ready to be turned into that delicious Sidra.

Temperature control panel used to regulate the apple juice in the steel tanks, a temp around 10 degrees and no fermentation happens but raise it to around 20 degrees and the brewing process starts

Inside the barrel house, it smelled wonderful in here, a mixture of apples and wood. This is where you come to sample Sidra, they give small (3 finger width) measures but you can have as much as you want.

Included in the tour was a 4 course meal starting with a salt cod omelette, this was absolutely beautiful.

Salt Cod with peppers and onions, again delicious.

Next came the most famous dish, Txuleta - Basque steak cooked black and blue (heavily charred yet rare inside).

Whilst dining you get up and go to the adjoining barrel house to sample the Sidra, the brewmaster opens the tap and fills your glass (well a quarter full).

Apple haircut on the brewmaster.

Finishing the meal with local Idiazabal cheese and Membrillo, walnuts and local biscuits.

What a perfect afternoon this proved to be and we would have no hesitation in recommending this tour to anyone visiting San Sebastián...the Sidra, the amazing food, the relaxed atmosphere and our amazing host Maia.

On with the beer and bars...

The two local breweries are Basqueland and Gross, Basqueland own a bar in town (with the brewery located just outside of San Sebastián) with Gross owning a brewery and taproom just on the outskirts.

Seeing as we didn't get to visit Gross on our last trip we decided that this year we would. So setting off on foot we decided to walk to the brewery, the first half was pretty flat as we made our way through the residential side of town, it was flat until we hit the steepest and longest road we've seen.
Thankfully it was slightly overcast otherwise we'd have hailed a taxi but we trudged on and after roughly an hour after setting off we were in the business area, a trading estate that houses the Gross brewery - this is the Gros area of town with the brewery taking its name (with an extra S added to represent San Sebastián).

Gros trading estate

Gross brewery and taproom

Brewery located at one end of the bar

Time for a beer - a Redemption (Mango and Passionfruit Berliner Weisse) and Nuke Oatmeal Stout.

Even though the bar had been open just half and hour the outside patio area at front was already packed so we decided sit inside and not before long this too was half full, we also noticed a constant stream of locals popping in to buy beers to take out from the fridges filled with fresh Gross beer.

A couple more beers were sampled before we too decided to pay the fridges a visit.

It was whilst paying for the cans that the barman asked if I had a bag for them, I said I did but he insisted on giving me a free Gross tote bag anyway (something we didn't see him do with any other customers, a very nice gesture)

Before leaving the barman also kindly rang us a taxi (we weren't making that trip on foot again) and moments later our cab was out front, a 12€ fare later and we were outside our hotel.

Now regarding Basqueland we of course paid that bar a visit (three times to be exact) and it was just a good as we remember, some great beers and food were sampled with some beers being spanking fresh.

Viva Las Vegas, released the day before

Green Lips, less than a week old

10 Vueletas, just a couple of weeks old

Gyoza and Tacos, totally delicious

There are the two local breweries, of the pair Basqueland just edged it - more central, better food and more importantly better beer but Gross is still super special 🇪🇸

Jay  t_u

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