Monday, December 27, 2010
Spain: The World of Beer
A beer-related drink that's popular in summer all over Spain is the clara. A clara is a mix of beer and casera. Casera is a sweet clear soda that has been sold in Spain since the 1940s. A clara looks like urine and tastes like bad candy. Another such drink, that I have no respect for either, is tinto de verano ("summer red"). Tinto de verano is another mix (cocktail is too fancy a word to describe it), consisting of the cheapest red wine you can find (possibly sold in a box) and casera, the same soda used for the previous abomination. Don't ask me why people drink these things, because it's a mystery to me. My own mother drinks clara in the summer, especially at the beach.
As long as you avoid the drinks above, beer in Spain is cold and cheap and often decent. Each region in Spain carries different types of beer on tap. I usually prefer wine to beer, and I've spent years thinking the beer in Spain is not exceptional. It turns out things have changed and there's excellent beer in Spain. In the last year of living in Madrid, I've made two great discoveries: Rosita and Inedit.
Rosita is an artisanal beer from Tarragona, in the Catalonia region of Spain. I am very impressed with this beer. It comes in three varieties: the original (yellow label), ivory (white label), and black with hazelnuts (tan label). All of them are delicious, big flavored and have a strong body. All three beers taste toasted and fruity, with a complex aftertaste. The original and the ivory are both pale lagers (although the ivory is paler). They are made in small batches using only water, malt, hops, yeast, sugar and honey. No preservatives are used. The black beer with hazelnuts is my favorite: it is dark with a hint of sweetness, and I love it. I am not sure this beer can be found outside Spain, but it is worth looking for it. In Spain, it costs 2 euros per small bottle at the supermarket.
Another great beer is Inedit. It comes both in 75 cl and 50 cl in dark bottles with a star. This is a pale lager the color of straw. The most remarkable thing about this beer is that it has tiny bubbles, kind of like champagne, which give it a fabulous texture. The flavor is complex, with a hint of fruit and a pleasant soft bitterness. You can taste the mix of barley and wheat. It is made by Estrella Damm, one of the largest beer breweries in Spain. Adrian Ferra of El Bulli with his team was in charge of developing this gourmet beer. Inedit, the large bottle, costs 4.50 euros in the store.