Beer is. In Spain, or at least the lovely part of it I was in. The little town of Orgiva is full of bars (and the great unwashed). We didn't try them all - the bars that is - preferring a couple in the centre and two on the long walk back up the hill to our rented place, some distance out of and above the town. (For the record, we didn't try the various great unwashed at all.) Beer in Andalucia is it seems, a cold pale tasteless fluid that means so little its brand name isn't even listed in most menus. You have to find out by a quick shufti at the bar on your way to the bogs, or take a punt that the name on the napkins or chairs is actually what is being served. I am pretty sure that over the piece we had, in no particular order, San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Alhambra, Mahou and Estrella. All much of a muchness, as was the own brand stuff from supermarket chain "Dia", which at about €6.50 for 24 x 25cl, was just as good as the rest really, made a good poolside sun quencher and had the straight to the point and perfectly logical name of "Lager".
What was interesting too, was that most of the bars seemed to be thriving inside, even though we sat outside, sun starved as we were. The recent smoking ban seems not to have dampened down enthusiasm much and all seemed lively most of the time. Another oddity was the prevalence of non alcoholic beer and its relative popularity. So while it is bloody freezing here, it is nice to be back and have to have a genuine choice of beer again, both in brand and in style. Not that I drank that much beer, preferring often to have a cold glass of white wine, though I do confess to the odd "tubo". I can't say I missed beer that much, though perhaps tellingly, before going home, we headed straight to the Angel in Manchester, where the Hawkshead Windermere Pale didn't touch the sides. Hops. Yes I missed hops.
Despite complaints about this and that, it is a useful reminder that we are a beer country here and that makes me both pleased and grateful. Actually, Alhambra Especial, despite the maize, wasn't too bad, with better body than the rest.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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