Of course we do
Beer snacks you say? After two weeks in Portugal and Spain I think I can say these guys have a handle on beer snacks – especially the Spanish.
Okay, there’s some cheating here – tapas goes with beer just as well as with wine, and eating tapas (or pintxos, the tapas on a spike usually served on bread) is something of a national sport.
There are a few ‘standard’ items on a tapas menu like olives, anchovies, and calamari that are obviously good beer snacks, though hardly only available in Spain. The fact that it’s available on every corner means they do it with good ingredients though.
Olives and anchovy fillets; yeah, that works
Oh, and beer – well, the available almost everywhere on tap local Estrella Damm or (why is this everywhere?) Heineken – is cheap at somewhere between 1.30 and 1.50 Euros a glass. I must say I don’t mind the Estrella for a mass-produced beer. It’s a pilsner, so pretty easy drinking, and has a very fine, creamy head. Apparently the bottled stuff is nowhere near as good.
Also what’s interesting is that the whole microbrewery thing doesn’t seem so big here. One reason may be the pricing – when the majors are so cheap, competing is not going to be easy. That said, I did find a few nice, hoppy ales – Espiga Garage IPA and a Cervesa del Montseny – in a hipster bar in central Barcelona called B-Rita.
What is hot right now – hotter than Hansel in Zoolander – is gin and tonic. Traditionally the Spanish make it in a large goblet full of ice, which makes for nicer presentation than the usual tumbler. The bar at the Hotel Urban in Madrid had literally pages of gins and tonics from which to choose, though at around 15 Euros I can see why they’re keener on serving these than beers.
At Carmelitas in Barcelona, the G&T selection was more limited, but at 7.50 Euros better value – and the bartender had a very heavy pouring hand.
But back to the beer snacks.
Jamon is like a religion in Spain, and when you get the proper jamon Iberico belotta (made from black Iberian pigs fed on acorns), resistance is useless. I’m a convert. It was on my breakfast plate, almost always a component of lunch, and on the pre-dinner tapas menu too.
Do you have any jamon? Just another store in Madrid
Some Spanish friends tell me that their vegetarian friends eat the stuff. It is that good. With its strong flavour and saltiness, it is the perfect beer snack.
But deep fried – anything deep fried – is almost always something that goes with beer, and croquettes are the ultimate.
Portugese style croquettes: Good, but there’s better
You get croquettes in different flavours, and bacalao, or salt cod, is pretty common. I had some in Portugal – though these were made with potato, rather than béchamel, which is the preferred Spanish method. The former were a bit dry and chewy, whereas the latter almost always yields a hot, creamy, salty, fishy mouthful. I’m hungry just thinking about it.
Forget the flavoured croquets; I’ll have the jamon
But when croquetas are made with jamon, that’s a combination made in heaven. The ultimate beer snack? I think so.