Howdy – been a while since I rapped at ya. That’s because me & the family took our first international trip in a ridiculous number of years the past couple of weeks to Spain and Portugal. No, it wasn’t a beer-drinking trip per se – although beer consumption did, in fact, occur. I knew that these two Southern European countries would be exceptionally beer-unfriendly, and even my frantic Googling of “Spain AND Belgian beer” or “Madrid AND beer” turned up very little. I resigned myself to a wine-drinking, tapas-ingesting, paella-gulping sojourn, and by and large that’s what I got.
I’ll be frank with ya: though beer/cerveza/cervejia is everywhere here, GOOD beer is quite difficult to find, and the local macrobrews are mostly swill. Spaniards and Portuguese tend to drink a beer or a glass of wine with lunch and with their late-night dinners, so getting a pale, yellow pilsner is no problem. Even the “snack bars” and little food-serving corner stores always have something on tap. In Spain it was usually CRUZ CAMPO; in Portugal it was usually SUPER BOCK, which is neither a bock nor super. Of the two, I prefer the SUPER BOCK, though that’s like saying I prefer the thumbscrew to the rack. I rated the thin, weak, hop-free CRUZ CAMPO a 2/10, and I believe that’s probably overly generous. Now I did have a couple of decent, refreshing pilsners there, especially in Madrid and Toledo. They weren’t “craft brews”, but they washed down my meals about as well as they could. I think one was called ALHAMBRA. I don’t know, I wasn’t really taking good notes this time – and most meals were spent in the company of a “vino tinto”, or glass of red wine, as opposed to a glass of yellow beer.
There was one beer-related excursion, on our second night in Madrid. I read about a brewpub (Spain’s only!!) called NATURBIER that made its own beer on site, and that said beer was actually pretty good. Some research indicated that NATURBIER was actually only a kilometer or so away from our hotel, so I snuck out that night and paid the place a visit. It’s a fun place – very light, very social and appears to be a cool place to hang out for a long evening. They make two beers and that’s it. The first is their HELLES BIER, which they call “jarra de cerveza rubia” (jug of beer) as opposed to their other one, “jarra de cerveza tostada especial” (jar of DUNKELS BIER). The HELLES BIER is a cloudy yellow and light, malty lager that stands up well to similarly-styled beers I’ve had elsewhere. It has a vague lemon and clove taste to it, and it’s pictured up above you there. Hedonist Beer Jive gives it a 6/10. The NATURBIER DUNKELS BIER, pictured to your right, defies description. It’s much more ale-like, very malty, and orange in color. I seriously could not find the words to describe it. It was “a beer”, better than most I had on the trip. Also a 6/10.
In Lisbon, Portugal I discovered a fantastic port wine place that would have to be the port wine dork’s dream bar, if such a microgenre-specific dork exists. Like a TORONADO of port wine, a total church of port where hundreds of different bottles are being poured, along with tons of vintage & aged bottles. It’s called SOLAR DO VINHO DO PORTO, and if you ever make it to Lisbon, you gotta go there and just randomly order three of them like I did – a “tawny”, a “ruby” and a “white”. Oh, and there’s this cool vegetarian restaurant in Lisbon called OS TIBETANOS that stocks bottles of DUVEL (the beer), which I had several of.
So that’s what we did the past couple of weeks. I have since come back to the United States and resumed my drinking of exceptional craft beers from around the globe, and will be reporting on them presently.