Dish of the Day: Spain’s finest beers

Rory Elsome

La Socarrada 300x225 Dish of the Day: Spains finest beersSpain is not a place I associate with fine beer. Asking for “dos cerveza grande, por favour” usually delivers an ice cold lager in a frozen glass – after all this is a country with the climate for making wine.

It was therefore a pleasant surprise when on a recent break to Nerja, by seemingly divine intervention, our hotel was located next door to an incredible independent and curiously named beer shop called “La Doma Dora Y El Leon” (Dora The Lion Tamer and the Lion). The shop had a great range of ales, and was self-proclaimed to be the most diverse beer shop in the south of Spain, offering beers from Belgium, Denmark, Britain, Germany, Norway and the US, amongst others.

However, most pleasing to see was the large range of Spanish beers on offer. There were bottles from all over Spain, although the two main camps of microbrewers in Spain are those of Andalusia (the South) and Catalonia (the North). The owner, giving us a brief lesson in Spanish beer, said the breweries of South produce beers with more traditional British flavours, while the North produces more American style well hopped pale ales – although there is much cross over.

Some highlights for me were the beers of the Kettal brewery, based in Cadiz and set up by two British expats. They brew real ale in a typically English style, although due to the climate everything is keg based. Their “El Almiar IPA” was a golden pale ale with a well balanced hop character and kick of bitterness due to the late addition of Cascade hops. It was definitely more akin to the traditional English IPAs as opposed to the American ‘hop bombs’ and was perfect refreshment after a day in the sun.

The Cervesera Alcoiana (Spigha) breweries’ “Gurugú” was a slightly unusual brown ale from Alcoi, Alicante. Gurugú, named after a central street in Alcoi, was an intensely dark brown ale with rich roasted malt notes coming through, both in the nose and on the palate. It reminded me more of a Belgian Brun beer, possibly due to the dark toasted flavours ending with a dry, almost lightly acidic, finish.

One of the more unusual brews was “La Socarrada”, a pale golden ale flavoured with rosemary and rosemary honey and originating from Xàtiva, Valencia. I thought the addition of rosemary would overpower the taste but the balance of flavours was excellent. The beer itself was golden in colour and the balance of sweetness and bitterness was well matched between the malt, honey and hops. The hints of rosemary lingered more in the nose than in the palate, but served to add another layer of flavour that perfectly complemented the beer. An unusual beer that was well balanced and not just novel for the sake of it.

So, much to my surprise, Spanish ‘Cervezas Artesanas’ are being lovingly produced by a new generation of Spanish (and occasional expat English) brewers. Although they may not be widely available they are definitely worth seeking out if, like me, you are particularly bored of your ice cold Cruzcampo.

Follow Rory at @RoryElsome

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  • albertcornercrew

    Try Alambra’s 1925. Stunning, simply stunning.

  • TheRealMrBlobby

    I concur, Alhambra is a fantastic beer. I’ll never get bored of an ice cold Cruzcampo though – it’s the perfect beer for the beach.

  • GeorgieBowlocks

    I always think that the dreaded San Miguel tastes like the glue they use to stick the label on with!

  • Javi Leon Lora

    Thank Rory. We never expect something like that talking about us, about the natural and craft spanish beer and of course the good news about the spanish non industrial beer. Now the people can taste in Spain excellent beer and chose which quality on food and drink can consume, in Málaga, in Nerja La Domadora y el león is your craft beer store.

  • Rory Elsome

    Glad you found this article Javi! I certainly enjoyed drinking lots of new and exciting Spanish beers. Hopefully I will return one day to try even more…


    When I get to Nerja I’ll look for that shop.


    Watch out for a CAMRA bus trip to Nerja

  • flamboozled

    Probably putting my foot in it here and I confess I am no beer expert. Surely many countries make fine beer? , the Germans and Belgium’s spring to mind. I live in Spain so really a cold beer is , at least to me, infinitely preferable to ambient temperature beer. I am, and this is where my inexpert valuation may be at fault, perturbed by the usual nature of these type of articles which seem to be written more for the glorification of the writer than for any real information. I don’t go to Nerja very often and have never seen any of the beers mentioned in the article. They may well be very good but I cannot for the life of me see why Alhambra 1925 Especial should not qualify for a good beer status even if it is commercial. Even my scoffing friends from England who refer to any beer other than warm English beer as gnats piss admit on trying it that this is a very good beer. A worth while article would be the one that evaluated those products that are easily available. Oh incidentally I know a little restaurant in Frigiliana, very close to Nerja where an old lady makes the most perfect green tomato soup. Oh sorry there I go getting esoteric!!!

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