Beer. The world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage and the third-most popular drink overall (after water and tea). The Spaniards' relationship with beer ("cerveza" en español) got off to a rocky start when Charles V arrived from Flanders in 1516 to rule and introduced his favourite tipple to the country. They hated him and his beer. Nowadays, Spain is Europe's fourth-largest producer of beer and in sultry Andalusia they drink it with great enthusiasm, icy cold.
To preserve the glacial quality of the cerveza (phonetically pronounced "thehr/BEH/thah"), right down to the last droplet, Andalusians usually order "una caña" - a small glass of beer, less than half-pint sized. These little glasses of arctic ambrosia generally cost just €1.00, and ordering a tapa alongside is the norm (although sometimes they are provided for free!).
For a longer drink, try ordering "un tubo", "una doble", "una copa" or "una jarra" (there are often regional differences, so at around €1.00 a pop, just keep going until you find the correct phrase!).
If you order a "cerveza", you are more likely to be asked which kind you would like. Cañas and tubos, etc are poured from whichever draft beer is on tap, but a cerveza is more commonly interpreted as a bottle of beer. The big boys in Andalusia are Mahou/San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Estrella Damm and Cervezas Alhambra (technically also Mahou San Miguel...).
Mahou San Miguel are a 100% Spanish-owned company that opened their factory in Madrid way back in 1890. They make 34% of the beer that is produced in Spain and have 45 national brands of beer, including options that are organic, gluten-free, mixed with fruit juices and alcohol-free (be careful though - not all cervezas 'sin-alcohol' are completely alcohol-free). It could take some time, but we assure you that we are performing due diligence on your behalf to confirm the quality of each and every one, and will report back... umm... when we are able.
Cruzcampo have been making their lager pilsner since 1904: the only unpasteurised draft beer thanks to its cold filtration system. They merged with El Águila in 2000 to form Heineken España and produce 7 types of beer, including fruit fusions, and gluten- and alcohol-free choices.
Estrella Damm followed hot on the heels of Cruzcampo in 1910, and have to have one of the coolest adverts at this time featuring Game of Thrones star, Peter Dinklage. Working directly with local Mediterranean farmers and 100% natural ingredients, the Damm brewery also make a number of other brews, including Victoria beer (made in Málaga) and an Andalusian cerveza, Estrella del Sur.
Alhambra Beers was founded in 1925, but has been produced by Mahou-San Miguel since 2007 under the name Cervezas Alhambra. The range of Alhambra beers follows strict quality criteria during the brewing process, carefully using the best quality ingredients: a variety of hops, beer malts, yeasts and water of excellent quality that comes from the Sierra Nevada. The foremost beer of the brand is Alhambra Reserve 1925, launched in 1997. In recent years, the brewer has been honored with various medals and awards for its innovation, commitment to the client and artisan quality.
As the majority of Spanish beers have a tendency to be a little on the gassy-side, true adorers of the amber nectar may appreciate the growing Spanish industry in artisanal beers. Look out for:
- Taifa Toast in Sevilla (a 100% handmade pale ale);
- Son in Córdoba (3 types: a German-style wheat beer, a more complex American-style, and a roasted-malt dark beer);
- Far West in Almería (including a blonde with sweet notes and a “Red Wine Ale” offering a vinous, spicy taste);
- Tierra de Frontera in Jaén (an unfiltered, unpasteurized craft beer featuring natural re-fermentation with bottle gasification);
- Maier in Cádiz (brews include an American pale ale and 'Lola' - a beer specifically created as a tribute to women: soft and easy to drink (their words!), very refreshing and aromatic due to the floral hops added, and part of the sale price is donated towards breast cancer research);
- Mammooth in Granada (types include an IPA, pilsner and stout);
- Rebeldía Beer in Málaga (produced in an ecologically-responsible process, with natural methods and ingredients, using hops, barley malt free from transgenics, cane sugar and mineral water;
and, made right here in Ronda:
Cerveza Artesanal Rondeña: Just up the street from Ronda's bullring, in Calle Lauria, is Celedonio Arias microbrewery. A former car parts salesman, industrious Celedonio spotted a niche market that might produce a better source of income during Spain's financial crisis, and created his brewery in June 2015. Celedonio explains: “I started this after watching videos on YouTube. There was a gap in the market for really well-made beers”, adding “I do everything from fermenting the beer to bottling the product, it has been a lot of hard work but it is paying off.”
The brewery produces three craft beers: a refreshing blonde which Celedonio recommends as a aperitif; a full pale ale designed to be enjoyed with food; and a chocolaty stout that’s the perfect after-dinner drink. Rondeña cervezas can be found in many bars and supermarkets within the region, but you can also make a reservation to tour the brewery by contacting Celedonio via his website.
For more ideas on keeping yourselves entertained during your visit to Andalusia, take a look at our 'Things To Do' blog articles, or simply get in touch with your questions - we're always happy to help.
Is anyone else feeling thirsty now? Salud!