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An Assortment of Andalucian Artisanal Ales.

Ok! Ok! I know they're not all ales, but allow me a little alliterative license. I'm giving myself quite a bit of leeway with the artisanal label anyway. After all, it's got to be better than 'Some Spanish Beers.'

Spain and beer? Not a combination that are often considered together. Heineken-owned Cruzcampo and the equally pale and fizzy San Miguel are what immediately spring to mind. But things are not all that bad. Let's have a look at those which I met on my recent cat-sitting stay.

This cat-sitting lark seems to reasonably mutualistic. Delilah's regular food providers, FP1 and FP2 can nip off and explore various parts of the globe without worrying too much about their feline friend. FP3 and FP4 arrive to prevent starvation and the decimation of the local blackbird population. In addition they have the opportunity to ride on different roads, in different weather and to sample different brews.

Let's get underway and have a look at my first beer of the trip, Alhambra Reserva Roja.

Alhambra Reserva Roja.

Coming from a Mahou-San Miguel subsidiary, this doppelbock-inspired brew emerged from the bottle showing hints of ruby in its almost brown body. Served straight from the fridge - don't worry, it soon attained the recommended 6-8°C although a slight chill haze remained - it showed light carbonation and a thin white head which was rather short-lived. So too was the beer. For an industrial beer, with its bucket load of caramel flavours, I found it sweet and frighteningly drinkable. It's even more frightening when one considers its strength - a mere 7.2%. One small bottle (33cl is small, isn't it?) contains more alcohol than a pint of my usual poison in the Duke of York. As I had three that evening I must now be classified as a binge drinker. I'm only glad that FP2 had consumed one of the four-pack prior to my arrival otherwise I may not have managed to get out on the bike the following day.

My second brew of the trip also came from the Granada brewery of Cervezas Alhambra.

Alhambra Especial.

Alhambra Especial is billed as a premium Czech-style lager and like its stablemate above its grain content isn't just limited to malted barley. Whilst the Roja contains some oats this has maize. Unlike its stablemate above I have to say that I wasn't greatly taken by it. There was nothing actually wrong with it, it was just... well, just a beer. Various tasting notes have suggested hints of corn flakes, caramel, apple and even banana. Sorry, but even armed with this prior knowledge a second sampling just gave me... a beer. A pale golden beer. A pale golden beer with a white head. A pale golden beer with a sustainable white head. Yes, all of those things, but in the end it was... just a beer. A premium Czech-style lager with few premium Czech-style traits. Just where were those Saaz hops? For me, Alhambra Especial was a bit of a misnomer. It was nothing special at all.

Thought that whilst I was at it I might as well try the third of the Alhambra taste triptych, the 1925 Reserva.

Alhambra 1925 Reserva.

A strong European-style lager at 6.2% it showed no hint of skunking despite its green bottle. 'What is skunking?', I hear you ask. Well, simply put - and you did ask - exposure to ultra-violet light causes the alpha acids in hops to be converted to 3-methylbut-2-ene-1-thiol. At least, I believe that's right. It is, after all, over four decades since those lectures in the sin city of north Wales. Sufficient to say that without going into the details of singlet states and Norrish Type-1 cleavages, mainly because I've forgotten all the details, we end up with a substance that is contained in skunk spray. Upon reflection it might not be exactly the same, I'm no expert on the Mephitidae, but it has a very similar olfactory effect. Relating all of this back to the bottle, green glass allows more UV through than brown.

No skunking then. This could be down to good storage or a lack of hops. Use of clever hop extracts can also get around the problem, but they weren't around in 1925 from when this brew supposedly dates.

No skunking then, but what was there? Malts and caramel mainly. I didn't get much in the way of hoppiness but it was certainly drinkable and had more flavour to it than the Especial.

Next up in my Andalucian ale tour is Cruzcampo's Andalusian Pale Ale. (Note the two different spellings!)

Cruzcampo Andalusian Pale Ale.

The Heineken subsidiary, Cerveceria Artesanal Cruzcampo, is attempting to produce something on the craft front at its microbrewey in Malaga. In this case the use of Perle, Mosaic and Citra hops in this APA suggests that they were probably trying to emulate an American IPA and, to be fair, it's very drinkable. There's nothing on the label to suggest that this is unpasteurised or bottle conditioned but the yeasty-looking deposit in the bottom of the bottle suggests that it should be poured gently.

Decanted straight from the fridge - this is Andalucia remember - a chill haze was evident. It disappeared within a few minutes of warming, unlike the white head which was pretty long-lasting. It had a slightly flowery aroma, which was repeated in the taste along with a degree of citron as one might expect considering the hops used. All in all, at 4.6%, a rather drinkable attempt at a pale ale. My only real moan is a little lack of bitterness. It has a quoted IBU value of just 25. For an attempt an an APA? Or any pale ale for that matter. Still, I went out and bought a load more bottles so it can't be too bad.

Onto beer number five, or cerveza número cinco as the translate arm of Mr. Google would have me believe that they say in these parts - Cruzcampo Gran Reserva.

A product of the Heineken-owned brewery in Seville this poured bright and clear from the fridge, as one might expect of a product that's been filtered, pasteurised and matured at 0°C. Even though it's an industrial brew, devoid of any living organism, it provided pretty pleasant supping. Did I even get a trace of liquorice in its malty flavours? At 6.2% I doubt that I'd be supping it in great quantities but should I find myself in a position where there was nothing better on offer it would suffice.

The final offering in this batch of brews is one from Cordobeer. A clever or a naff play on Cordoba, where it is brewed? I'll leave that for you to decide. Cordobeer produce four brews, an IPA, a roja, a wheat beer and this Czech-style pilsner.

The only Cordobeer brew that I could lay my hands on.

It poured hazy, and remained hazy, with a thin white head. It smelt of sweetish malt and there was more hop in evidence than in the Alhambra Especial. It tasted much as its aroma would suggest. At 5% it had more about it than the Especial but perhaps the Spanish should leave the brewing of Pilsner to the Czechs.

Of all the brews consumed it was the APA that won the day. Perhaps no surprise given my preference for hoppy bitters and IPAs. However, it was ones like this which were quaffed in the greatest quantity.

The original Spanish alcohol-free beer. First brewed, if that's the right term, in 1976.

From the Cruzcampo above to LiDL's own, from San Miguel to the Estrelle Galicia below. Not really beers, some are nothing more than a mix of water with malt and hop extracts. They are however, more palatable than water or anything else on returning from a hot, sweaty ride. Straight from the fridge, I found them a great way to cool down and rehydrate.

Hailing from about as far from Andalucia as one can get, this one will be well remembered. Served at the Venta Puerto de Galiz. I'd pedalled for about thirty miles in the sun and still had fifteen to do. I was hot, it was cold. I was thirsty, it was great! The frosted glass was a nice touch too.

Whatever my views on the various brews, good or indifferent, one thing is certain. The view that they were enjoyed with was great. I look forward to the possibility of savouring the brews and the views again. Whilst serving as FP4 to Delilah, of course.

Dark beer, dark Toblerone and a light vista.

And what about Delilah? Well, she's still here. Not starving and looking a little like a Thelwell depiction of a pony. Perhaps FP3 and FP4 have been too good at their job.

If Thelwell drew cats...

That's it! For you pub lovers (I was going to use 'pubophile' until I looked it up!) I promise that the next post will be back to bygone boozers. British bygone boozers at that.

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