Beer in Spain has become an art: how to drink it, its name according to the town, how to order it, its characteristics, its history… Whoever knows all these secrets will take the beer throne! Beer in Spain is a synonym for going out with friends, a real social gathering. It has become part of our lifestyle, but sometimes an act as everyday as ordering a beer in Spain can be a challenge.
Beer across Spain or the primitive caelia
The history of beer in Spain began in the Iberian villages. Its consumption was common and it was considered a fermented drink produced from cereals. However, beer has not always been called this way. Its primitive name was Caelia. When the Iberian Peninsula was taken over by the Romans, beer in Spain was relegated in favour of an equally popular drink: wine.
During the 19th century it regained its popularity, although it had to compete with other beverages widely consumed in Spanish society such as liquor. With the technological improvements of the 20th century and the boom in tourism, beer in Spain became a common drink in bars and restaurants. Since the 1970s, beer in Spain has been linked to tapas, which is when its splendour began.
Beer does not have a unique recipe, although its main ingredients do not vary (cereal, water and hops), it is made thanks to different processes and variants that make each drink special.
Types of beer and keys to drinking it
There are many types of beer in Spain and around the world. Thus, any variation in its production results in hundreds of different flavours. For example, according to their colour they can be yellow, amber, brown or black. In the meantime, they can also be divided by their fermentation, which, simplified, would be two types: high and low.
Lager are the low-fermentation beers and can be found from lighter to golden, as well as toasted and black. In Spain, the most common are the Lager Pilsen, which ferment between 0º and 4º. These are pale beers with fresh, light and smooth notes. Depending on their origin, we find Pils/Pilsner or Pilsen type, Vienna, Munich… There are also smoked beers, rye beers, black beers, seasonal beers, Bock beers, Rauchbier beers, Steam beers…
The beers of high fermentation do it reaching temperatures of 24º. There are the Ale, which can be classified according to their origin or production characteristics. The Stout, black, bitter and creamy beers that can be dry or sweet. Thus, the Porter, light, toasted and black..
Spontaneously fermented beers are made from wild yeast strains and are divided into the Lambic, Faro and Gueuze types. The boom in craft beers and non-alcoholic beers opens up a range of possibilities for beer lovers in Spain.
Ways to order beer in Spain
To order any kind of drink, you can say: (Me gustaría/¿Me puedes poner…?/Para mí) una cerveza, por favor. And you can replace the word cerveza with the names of the next paragraph.
Quinto, botellín, doble, zurito, corto and cañón
On the one hand we have el quinto, a 20 centilitre format also known as botellín (even botijo in Madrid). It is called this way in all Spain without reaching controversies, but with a caña it gets complicated. For example, in most places a caña is a tap beer with a measure similar to a quinto or botellín. However, in other places the caña is related to a larger beer.
If you are in the Basque Country, be careful: for them, the caña is what in Madrid is considered a doble (333 ml). In the Basque Country you can also include in your vocabulary the zurito, a beer smaller than a caña of 100-140 ml, which is the typical corto in Galicia, Castile and León and La Rioja; and the cañón, which would be twice as big as a caña.
Mini, katxi, tanque, penalti and clara
Besides corto, very much used in Castile and Leon, and zurito; in Aragon this small format of between 100 and 140 millilitres smaller than a caña also has its own name: penalti.
Those who like beer very much (around 750 ml) can always order a mini in Madrid, a katxi in the Basque Country or cachi in Castile and León and Asturias; and a tanque in Cantabria. You can also order a litre of beer with the names litro, litrona and xibeca (Catalonia).
And if you like beer with gaseosa (soft drink), you have to order a clara. In Catalonia (and some places in the Valencian Community) they usually serve it with lemon soda and it is called champú instead of clara. In Galicia they will serve it with soda. Another names for this comination are: lejía or pika (Navarre, Cantabria, Basque Country) and shandy (Majorca).
Jarra and maceta
You can also order 500 ml of beer asking for a jarra or a maceta (Andalusia).
If we move on to the field of bottles, as we have told you before, beer in Spain is usually ordered in quinto or botellín format. Quinto is called this way because it is the fifth part of a litre, it is usually called this way in the northwest of Spain, and the botellín is the smallest bottle. The people of Madrid also call it botijo.
The tercio is a big bottle, but the biggest one is the litrona. If you want a third of a litre of beer, this is what you get. In Cantabria and Asturias it is called media and in Catalonia mediana.
What to serve with the beer?
The blondes are ideal to combine with seafood, chicken or roast pork dishes and salads. Black beers can be served with fried foods or with spicy flavors, while toasts with smoked foods and meat products.