October 31st, 2012
Here we go. We have taken a road trip tasting the wine of Spain, travelling north to south.
Now let us make the reverse journey seeing the towns and cities that are home to some of the most famous beers of Spain.
Those names you may be used to in your home country, or some new tastes for you when holidaying in Spain.
So let us begin this tour in the permanently popular city of Barcelona. There are few secrets left to discover about this magnificent and vibrant city. But did you know that it is home to the Damm brewery? They produce some of the most popular beers in the country.
Voll-Damm lager is brewed in the city. What is that? You have never tried this beer? Correct that immediately. When next sitting outside one of the atmospheric bars in Barcelona, order a bottle of Voll-Damm with its 7.2% alcohol volume and its gothic design label. It tastes much like a strong German beer. Indeed the word “voll” means full or complete in German.
Other beers brewed by the Damm company in Barcelona include the widely available Estrella. You will find yourself being served a glass of that all over Spain. It is much lighter in colour and less powerful. A very refreshing drink in summer.
Barcelona also used to be home to the beer called Moritz. Today it is brewed in the beautiful city of Zaragoza. And thereby hangs a tale.
The Moritz brewery was formed in the mid nineteenth century by a French immigrant called Louis Moritz Trautmann.
The beer was brewed in a factory at Ronda de Sant in Barcelona for one hundred years but had to close in 1966.
As recently as 2004 the family relaunched the Moritz ale under licence in Zaragoza.
Meanwhile, the former factory in Barcelona has been saved from falling into disrepair and now houses the company offices, a beer museum and offers visitors free tastings.
They also brew beer in the green and gorgeous part of Spain called Galicia. This area is so often overlooked by holidaymakers because it has a higher than average annual rainfall. But Galicia is beautiful and there is so much to discover there. Great food and wine and, yes, some nice beers.
Estrella Galicia is brewed there and has been since 1906. Indeed, in 2006 when King Juan Carlos went to the brewery to join in the centenary celebrations, the company brew a special beer in honour of the anniversary. They called it, not unreasonably, 1906.
Be sure to go to locations in Galicia such as Pontevedra, the coastal destination of A Coruña and the magnificent city of Santiago de Compostela. Lots of people walk vast distances on a religious pilgrimage to Santiago, but you don’t have to be religious to go there or appreciate its splendour.
Be sure to drink the locally brewed beer in Galicia but you simply have to accompany it with some of the wide array of splendid local dishes. To drink and not eat in this region would be crazy. The food on offer is arguably the best in all of mainland Spain.
The menus you come across will display dishes using some of the finest fish and seafood landed locally. Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician octopus in paprika) or Caldeirada (Galician fish stew) or, on days when a cold wind is blowing in from the Atlantic ocean, a nice warming Galician soup. It is full of fresh vegetables, beans, chorizo and a ham knuckle.
If you need to eat ‘on the run’, then there is no better snack to enjoy than the classic Galician Empanada. A signature food of this area. Pastries packed with a variety of ingredients.
Mahou is one of the weaker beers in Spain. If you want to stay sober then you will be fine supping a few glasses of Mahou. But the company itself is much stronger.
They bought seventy per cent of the previously powerful San Miguel – a beer known the world over. Then, in 2007, they got their hands on Cervezas Alhambra, a company that still brews in the great city of Granada.
But the powerful 1925 Reserve beer they produce is still brewed in Granada. Long may it remain that way. This is one of the strongest and best beers to come out of Spain.
I am not sure I have enjoyed a glass of this special beer more than when sat in the sunshine up at the nearby Sierra Nevada ski resort.
The best beer, the best suntan I have ever acquired and, the best bit… watching people dressed in bright clothing falling over in the snow. Personally, a day out in Spain doesn’t get much better than that.
Mahou has its HQ in the capital city of Madrid. A destination that has grown ever more popular with those seeking a holiday in Spain that does not involve a nice sandy beach. Madrid is such a cultural city that you should rent a holiday home here for a week or two if you are to come close to doing justice to all that is on offer.
People flock to Madrid to see all that is on show in the Prado museum, and rightly so. That is great for the adults. But the little ones can get bored. Fear not. There is plenty to do with the children in Madrid.
After which our beer tour of Spain heads further south, to Andalusia.
The San Miguel name lives on in Spain. How could it not do? Those of you arriving in, or departing, Spain from Malaga airport will first see the large San Miguel brewery that is located just outside the airport buildings.
The front of the brewery faces on to the main airport approach road. The rear faces one of those overlooked museums in Spain I have written about. The Malaga airport museum is a little delight and an ideal place to visit if you have time on your hands.
Not only can you step back in time to an era of aviation in Spain when flying was exciting, but when the brewery is busy opposite, you can breath in the smells of all those hops at work. When going to Malaga airport I never fail but to inhale. Not kerosene and aircraft fumes. But San Miguel beer. When not drinking it, I breath it in.
Malaga remains a great place to spend a holiday. There is, like Madrid, an awful lot to see in the city itself. Wonderful tapas bars such as El Pimpi. Plenty of museums, including that displaying the works of Malaga’s most famous son, Picasso. And some serious shopping is on offer in Malaga.
But, of course, lots of people don’t come here purely for the beer. They will drink Spanish beer while on holiday but, more than likely, it will be at a bar along the ever popular nearby Costa del Sol coastline.
The brewing industry worldwide has been evolving for decades. The increasingly popularity of wine, including fine Spanish wines, has hit the beer industry hard.
But some of the very best beers of the world are brewed in Spain. Let us try to keep it that way.