22 March 2012

Beer in Madrid

Jarra of Mahou Clasica from Cerveceria 100 Montaditos
The weather was unseasonably cold for my first visit to Madrid in March 2012 so we did not get the anticipated opportunity to sit outside a bar in the sunshine with a refreshing cool beer. However, we did go inside several bars, drink some cañas (small glasses) and jarras (glass tankards) of draught beer and take the occasional photo for this blog. The most popular beer in Madrid seems to be Mahou (pronounced like (Chairman) Mao) but we also spotted domestic beers originally hailing from Barcelona (Estrella Damm) and Seville (Cruzcampo). International brewers are also represented e.g. Amstel and Heineken.

Shelf behind the bar at Cerveceria Santa Barbara, Plaza de Santa Barbara, 8
Bars seemed to vary between the very small local bars, cervecerias - bigger and often brightly lit and atmospheric neighbourhood bars with subdued lighting that may specialise in cocktails and tasteful music.

The price of a beer would also vary accordingly from one euro at the 100 Montaditos cerveceria chain for a jarra (when purchased with food) to three euros for a caña at Cafe Belen, Chueca (served with complimentary nuts).
Cafe Belen - Calle Belen 5
Cerveceria Santa Barbara prides itself on the quality of the beer and the method of serving at its bars where the bar staff wear smart white uniforms. Cerveceria Santa Barbara - Beer webpage (English version)
However, in several bars the beer would be served with a big foamy head despite (mainly ineffective) efforts by some bar staff to get more liquid beer into the glass. Based on this experience, perhaps the best advice would be to choose an interesting bottled beer, when a choice is available.

Naturbier - Plaza Santa Ana
Some research before the trip revealed that Naturbier in Plaza Santa Ana brew their own beers and these are served unfiltered. Their website claims their beer is 'the only natural beer brewed in Madrid.' Naturbier home page (English) This square, which is quite near the central Puerta del Sol Metro station, contains several bars and cervecerias including Cerveceria Alemana and Cerveceria Santa Ana which are on the same side of the plaza as Naturbier. This makes Plaza Santa Ana a good place to aim for if you want to sample a variety of beers inside or outside in the plaza.
Helles & Dunkles beer with complimentary olives at Naturbier
Another area with several good cervecerias having space for outdoor seating that we visited was Plaza Santa Barbara, by Alonso Martinez Metro station. The original branch of Cerveceria Santa Barbara and one of the Cerveceria 100 Montaditos branches are on the east side of the Plaza. Just beyond the southern end of the plaza, Cerveceria Cruz Blanca, serving Cruzcampo beers, has a branch at Calle Horteleza 118. Large tiled brewery scenes decorate the walls of the bar (photo below). Cerveceria Cruz Blanca webpage (Spanish)
Their trademark is a penguin with a barrel marked with a cross and this is reflected in the beer font on the right hand side of the bar (photo below)
and the novelty figure just outside (photo below). 

A number of small craft breweries are establishing themselves in Spain and some of these concentrate on producing bottled beers. In Madrid you may come across draught beer or bottles from these new small breweries: 
Cervezas Las Cibeles (Madrid) Cervezas Las Cibeles webpage (Spanish)
Cerveza Sagra (Toledo) Cerveza Sagra webpage (Spanish) 
Calvin's Beer (Madrid)  Calvin's Beer webpage (English)
Fabrica Maravillas (Madrid) Fabrica Maravillas webpage (English)
Cervezas Lest (Colmenar Viejo) Cervezas Lest webpage (Spanish)

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