Ole! Let’s talk about Spanish beer.
Beer is a beloved beverage all across Spain, the warm weather and an icy cold beer easily go hand in hand.
Spain is the fourth-largest beer producer in Europe, with around 37 million hectolitres consumed in 2015, of which almost 35 million come from national producers. Spain’s local producers ensure that there is a beer to suit every season and all its local’s needs and tastes. Due to so much of the beer being produced on home turf, the local beers are usually really affordable and of a decent quality.
Intrigued? Join us as we go on a virtual Spanish beer tour.
Brief History of Spanish Beer
There are several theories about how beer came to Spain.
Some say it was the Greeks who introduced their beer-making formula to the Spanish. Others say it could have been brought to the peninsula by the Libyan soldiers. But what we do know for sure is that Spanish beer flew under the radar on the European beer scene, until emperor Charles V came to Spain, bringing his unique customs along with him.
The king imported beer into Spain whilst he lived there. He hired a brewmaster from Europe to assist in the installation of a microbrewery. This microbrewery functioned from 1537 to 1558 when the King abdicated. By then, the trend had caught on and more and more brewery’s started to open their doors from around 1611. Funnily enough, none of the original breweries were run or owned by Spaniards, this only started happening much later on.
The popularity of beer over wine increased dramatically around the start of the 20th century. This sparked an upward trend in Spanish breweries opening up and producing local beer.
- Mahou (Madrid) opened in 1890
- Águila opened in 1900,
- Cruz del Campo (today Cruzcampo) opened in 1904
- Damm opened in 1910
Does Spain Have Good Beer?
Spanish beer can be seen as good, not so good and mediocre, all depending on who you ask. This is very much down to personal opinion and personal taste. Spain is known to produce some really unique and delicious tasting beers, nowadays the demand for Spanish beer export is higher than ever.
Some people feel that when compared to Dutch or German beer, Spanish beer doesn’t quite hit the spot. In saying that, I’m sure most locals currently sipping on a cold glass of locally brewed ale would strongly disagree.
What Are The Major Beer Brands In Spain?
Today, there are six major Spanish Beer Brands to look out for:
- Heineken España
- Hijos de Rivera
- Compañía Cervecera de Canarias
- La Zaragozana
Keep your eyes peeled for any beers by any of these six brewers and you will be guaranteed quality.
What Are The Different Styles Of Spanish Beer?
The most popular beer style in Spain is definitely a light lager, or rubia, as the locals call it.
There seem to be 3 overall categories of beer that the Spanish indulge in mostly: light lager, pilsner and surprisingly enough: alcohol-free beer!
The first two categories are a wonderful compliment to the commonly eaten tapas (food) eaten in Spain. And the last category makes up for 14% of the beer sales in Spain.
What Are The Best Spanish Beers By Style?
The best, most popular and widely consumed light lager beer in Spain would have to be Mahou. It is the everyday beer, the one you grab at the end of a long and sweaty day.
The most popular Spanish Pilsner would have to be a Pale Pilsen San Miguel, pairing wonderfully with Spanish food and a highly refreshing aftertaste.
And last but not least, the most popular non-alcoholic Spanish beer would have to be Mahou Sin.
What Is The Most Popular Beer In Spain?
This is a tricky one, there seems to be a difference in the brand and beer popularity throughout Spain depending on where you are and where you were born.
Different regions in Spain prefer different beers. Ordering your beer according to where you are from, seems to be part of the Spanish beer culture. For example, if you are in Madrid then you are in the home of Mahou. But if you are visiting Galicia then the first choice would be a cold Estrella.
What are the Best Microbrew or Craft Beers in Spain?
- Arriaca brewery with their Imperial Russian Stout
- Villa de Madrid brewery and their popular Chula Sin, the country’s first non-alcoholic craft beer. They also have a delicious wheat beer called Cheli and a very strong ale called Ziva 2.0.
- Cervezas La Virgen is in Madrid too and Some of their most popular beers are: Madrid Lager, Veraniega, Castañas, Carajillo Stout, Cañonera, MÄRZEN or Trigo Limpio.
- La Socarrada brewery is located in Xátiva, near Valencia. They are most well known for their Socarrada bockbier, Er Boquerón, and Toro.
What Are The Spanish Beers That Have Won The Most Awards?
The Spanish brand to receive the most awards, locally and internationally is Mahou. The Estralla brand has 3 top awarded beers under its brand: The 1906 Special Reserve, the 1906 Red Vintage, ambar made and the black lager 1906 Black Coupage. Cervesa is also an award-winning beer and made its debut in 2019 at the world beer challenge.
What Are The Best Spanish Beers To Pair With Spanish Food?
Any local will tell you that one of the best and most respected traditions in Spain is eating tapas and drinking a cold beer. Tapas is a plate of “snack-like” foods that are light and incredibly delicious. This beer pairing is a match made in heaven.
Sitting down to a plate or table full of tapas on a hot and humid Spanish afternoon, sipping on a cold glass of light beer is a tradition not to be skipped.
Here are some examples of tapas and which Spanish beers they best complement:
Mahou goes best with: Olives – manzanilla or arbequina olives, bread with tomato and garlic, almonds fried in olive oil topped with salt, pepper and paprika, aioli – strong garlic paste on bread.
San Miguel beer goes best with: Gambas a la Plancha – prawns sautéed in salsa negra or garlic, cured cheese topped with anchovies.
Estrella Galicia or a Soccarada Bockbier beer goes best with: Champinones al aj illo – aj illo mushrooms with olive oil, garlic and dry Spanish sherry, chorizo al, Vino – Chorizo sausage cooked in wine, Mariscos – anchovies, sardines, squid or mackerel in olive oil,
Carajilo Stout craft beer goes best with: Patatas bravas – potatoes with mayonnaise, herbs and garlic, Rajo – pork seasoned with garlic and parsley.
Best Spanish Beer To Pair With Paella
For a delicious seafood paella, you want to try a lighter beer. Something with a crisp and fresh aftertaste that complements the seafood and the paella spices. Paella can be a heavy dish, choosing a light ale will bring a refreshing supportive and cleansing taste to your dish.
How To Order A Beer In Spanish
The only two things you need to know about ordering Spanish beer in Spain are the size of beer you are ordering and the correct phrasing. We have put together a guide to ordering beer in Spain below:
- Caña – this is the smallest size available and is roughly the size of half a pint
- Doble – this is usually twice the size of a caña
- Botella de Cerveza / tercio – this generally refers to a normal size bottle of beer
- Pinta – this refers to a pint, and is generally served in a pint-size beer glass
- Jarra – this is a large mug or jar of beer. It’s the most wallet-friendly way to order beer in Spain if you know you will be having more than one and sticking to the same brand all evening
Here is some phrasing ideas to use when ordering a beer in Spain:
- I want a beer please. – Quiero una cerveza por favor.
- One [size] of [brand] please. – Un(a) [size] de [brand] por favor.
- Do you have [brand]? – ¿Tienen [brand]?
- Please bring me another one. – ¿Me puede traer otra por favor?
- Do you have beer on tap? – ¿Tienen cerveza de grifo?
- What beer do you have on tap? – ¿Qué cerveza de grifo tienen?
Now you’re ready to order the Spanish beer that takes your fancy!
Jake has been a craft beer and homebrew enthusiast since his college days. He loves scouring Europe for unique and unusual hops to add to his beers.
Founder of Jake’s Brew Haven – he currently hosts beer-tasting sessions at select local pubs in Baltimore.
Jump To a Section Below
- Brief History of Spanish Beer
- Does Spain Have Good Beer?
- What Are The Major Beer Brands In Spain?
- What Are The Different Styles Of Spanish Beer?
- What Are The Best Spanish Beers By Style?
- What Is The Most Popular Beer In Spain?
- What are the Best Microbrew or Craft Beers in Spain?
- What Are The Spanish Beers That Have Won The Most Awards?
- What Are The Best Spanish Beers To Pair With Spanish Food?
- Best Spanish Beer To Pair With Paella
- How To Order A Beer In Spanish