Until my recent trip to swanky Peruvian restaurant Coya, on London’s Piccadilly, I had only one positive memory concerning Spanish beer. A sultry night in Seville; a lock-in at a neighbourhood bar; some of the beautiful ladies Byron was on about; and one euro bottles of ice-cold Cruzcampo. Could life get any better?
Well maybe not, but my perception of Spanish beers as suitable only for downing on summer evenings and not for the beer nerds among us (of which I am a low level card-carrier) was certainly challenged by the aforementioned evening at Coya.
Why I hear you say? Because a group of fellow hacks and I had been invited along by the nice people from the Alhambra Brewery in the southern Spanish city of Granada to devour our way through a cornucopia of Peruvian-style grub, all of which was to be washed down with the brewery’s flagship 1925 Reserva premium lager.
London’s influx of Peruvian restaurants has kind of passed me by, so Coya was my first encounter and judging by this trip it seems I had been missing out. Our tasting menu started with a variety of ceviches, which were followed by plump tiger prawns fried in an Alhambra beer batter, octopus, Chilean seabass, 72 hour braised beef short ribs and finished off with a salted-caramelly thing, a beautifully presented coconut mousse and a fruit salad to make the man from Del Monte jealous.
So far, so good, but what of the beer? Well, it’s an amber lager, full-flavoured, with a caramel finish and went very well with those beef short ribs. It doesn’t have the massive whack of bitter hoppiness you get with the craft IPAs. But at 6.4%, it does have a similar alcohol content and is more rounded than most beers of this strength, without the suffocating sweetness you get from some of the high alcohol Belgian beers too.
In my ignorance, I didn’t think the Spanish went for more complex beers like this, but they do, and it was great. Not the thing to be downing pint and after pint of after work on a Friday night, but one to have as a pre-dinner sharpener or to wash down something meaty over dinner. I consider myself re-educated as to the virtues of (some) Spanish beers and now you should too!
Alhambra is available in the UK from a growing number of restaurants and bars as well as Majestic Wine and other independent merchants