Apologies for my recent silence on the blog front. Due to a very busy period work-wise, my blogging had to take a slight siesta. I’m back now and we will pick up where I left off – the sunny Mediterranean.
Name of beer: Alhambra Reserva 1925
Beer description: 6.4% imperial pils
Spanish word for beer: cerveza
Date joined the EU: 1986
Have I visited? Yes (ish)
Spain is probably the European country I have visited the most but seen the least of. When I was younger, we regularly passed through the ferry ports of Bilbao and San Sebastian en route to the south of France. I vaguely remember service stations with bad food. Rather stereotypically, I also visited Marbella where one of my school friends had a second home. I distinctly remember the excitement at being granted permission to walk to Blockbuster by ourselves (to hire Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion on VHS – not exactly classic Spanish cinema).
Finally, I visited Barcelona on a school band tour. This primarily involved theme parks and bad alcopops. On the one day we visited the city centre, I went to El Corte Ingles to buy stationery then had a brownie milkshake in Starbucks. So it’s fair to say I haven’t really experience Spanish culture to its fullest, something I hope to be able to remedy in the coming years.
I also hope to get the chance to try some Spanish craft beers in the not-to-distant future. My research for this blog has led me to discover that Spain has a claim to the world’s oldest beer, after prehistoric brewing artefacts were found on the outskirts of Barcelona dating back an estimated 6400 years. Despite this early start on the beer scene and despite also being one of Europe’s largest beer producers today, Spain is more often associated with its wine. And when one does think of Spanish beer, images are likely to be conjured up of refreshing but relatively simple lagers that serve the purpose of quenching your thirst on a hot day, but not much else.
According to Draft Magazine (one of my new fave reads), the Spanish craft beer scene is on the verge of take-off. The Brewers of Spain estimate that there are now almost 300 microbreweries – microcervecerías – throughout the country, with the Basque region, Catalonia and Andalucia leading the way. With all this in mind, I’m definitely due another visit, perhaps with a bit more culture this time. Or more beer at the very least.
The Cortes Generales is a bicameral parliament made up of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. The Congress comprises 350 deputies elected by PR, whereas the Senate is partly directly elected. The remaining senators are appointed by the parliaments of Spain’s autonomous communities. Reform of the Senate is a longstanding topic of discussion as part of the wider delicate debate about federalisation in the country.
Although the Prime Minister can call for elections for just one chamber, parliamentary polls to date have always been on a bicameral basis. The most recent election took place on 20 December with all 350 Congress seats and 208 out of 266 Senate seats up for grabs. The result was the most fragmented parliament in Spanish history, with the ruling People’s Party failing to win a majority and two parties gaining seats for the first time – Podemos and Ciudadanos. Despite this historic shift to multiparty politics, the media has primarily focussed on the inaugural appearance of dreadlocks in the chamber of the Congress.
The cerveza at our disposal was Alhambra’s Reserva 1925. The Alhambra brewery is based in Granada, but has been owned by the Mahou-San Miguel Group since 2007. The Reserva 1925 brew is a 6.4% imperial pils, ostensibly “slow brewed” at a low temperature. It was inspired by early Alhambra beers and is therefore made using traditional brewing methods. We accompanied it with manchego cheese, Serrano ham and a fresh salad in order to maximise the Iberian experience.
The beer came in a lovely-looking embossed bottle which I really appreciated, despite my usual aversion to green-glassed beers. When poured, it was an appealing golden colour with an off-white head and honey aromas. Gareth and I agreed that the taste was strong and sharp. The sweetness of the honey kicks in early, with a pleasant maltiness lingering on the tongue.
It was surprisingly complex for a pils beer, but paired really nicely with the manchego cheese. Gareth described it as “not an easy drinker”, adding that the taste became more appealing the more you drank. After a short pause, he concluded that the beer was a “grower, not a shower” at which point I confiscated his reviewing pencil and notebook.
So far, southern Europe has pleasantly surprised us with its unexpectedly above-par pils. Let’s see if the rest of the Iberian peninsula can continue to impress.