Beer, Wine & Spirits: Beers of Southern France and Spain

Posted on: June 20, 2023

This month I will take you on a beer tasting tour of Provence and the Riviera in Southern France and the Costa del Sol in Spain ending in Barcelona. We just got back from a 15 day escorted tour starting with 4 nights in Nice (visiting Cannes one day for the red carpet film festival where Tom Hanks arrived the day we were there), and another day in Monaco where they were setting up for the Grand Prix that weekend. Then we boarded the MS ‘Anne Marie’ French barge for 6 nights sailing the Rhone delta channels from Arles to Sete. Needless to say we had fabulous rosés from Provence and wines of the Languedoc too, but that is another story.

Many in our group tried ‘Kron 1664’: Kronenbourg owns the brand ‘1664’ which is very appreciated by the French. Kronenbourg was founded in Alsace in 1664 under the name of Hatt Brewery. it’s only in 1947 that Jérôme Hatt changed its name to  “Kronenbourg” in homage to the district where his brewery was located, the Cronenbourg. The original 4.2% kro’ with hops and citrus notes is still as pleasant as ever and its fine bitterness, mellow texture and malt-hop finish are still as refreshing. The 1664, however, is the tastier variant of the kro’ and comes in several ranges: blonde, gold, white, vintage. Kronenbourg beers are still the cheap beers for parties: pleasant but commercial like our mass produced light beers in North America.

Spanish people aren’t only passionate about their siestas, soccer, and sangria. They’re incredibly passionate about their beer – and for good reason! With a warm climate all year round, beer is the perfect refreshing beverage to enjoy under the Mediterranean sun. And by the way, FC Barcelona women’s football team won the championship game in Eindhoven coming back in the second half down 2 nothing to win 3 -2! We left in the morning for Canada before they arrived in Barcelona when the city streets would surely be jammed! 

Another popular and widely available choice was Estrella Damm Lager made in Barcelona, Spain. (LCBO#531400; 500ml @ $3.75; 5.4%abv). Bright and clear golden colour; lemon, light fruit and hop aromas; light body; grain flavour with nice bitterness and clean finish. Made with barley from local farmers and malted by Damm with Mediterranean rice, a delicious way to enjoy a hot summer day. Estrella Damm is a refreshing Spanish beer inspired by Mediterranean culture, with a recipe dating back to 1876. The blend of barley malt, rice, and hops (pilsner and toast and Perle Hallertau) is all-natural and the delicate bubbles bring the aroma of fresh spices directly to your nose. The most popular beer in Barcelona with its crisp and clean, slight bitterness and hints of toasted grains, made this one a versatile choice for many of us. In fact, it was recognized as the “best Spanish beer of the year” in 2015 by the New York International Beer Competition jury, winning the Spain Brewery Awards.

Moritz Epidor was first crafted in Barcelona in 1923, and reinvented in 2009; this triple malt beer boasts a unique body, taste, and unique color with aromas of caramel, toffee and dried fruits. You’ll taste flavors of caramelized malt and a hint of fruitiness from the fermentation process and the pure character, intensity and aromatic expression of malt. The body and long fermentation process give rise to an intense experience with added power (7.2%abv) when you sip and savor a Moritz Epidor which finishes dry and pleasantly bitter. Brewed with mineral water and floral hops, this Spanish beer packs a delicious punch with a strong finish, thanks to its extended fermentation process. Besides the taste, another unique feature of this beer is that the entire label is only in Catalan. And instead of saying ‘Gracias’ (Spanish), Catalans say something sounding like the French ‘Merci’ but sounding like ‘Mercy.’ They will smile and like you more for speaking their own language!

Spanish draught beers are typically served at bars and restaurants and offer a fuller flavor experience. Draught beer is often more vibrant in flavor than lager beer, and it is also less carbonated, making it more pleasant to drink. A lager typically has a more subdued flavor and is highly carbonated, which some beer drinkers find appealing. We found ourselves saying, “Quiero una cerveza por favor” (I want a beer please).But in the end, our tour overall favourite was Heineken Lager Beer, a Dutch pale lager with 5%abv. which I have featured and described before. Heineken launched its first non-alcoholic beer in 2017, naming it “Heineken 0.0”. I found it to be the best of all the non-alcohol beers on the market. It was evaluated positively with “almost the same taste” as the full-alcohol version, and lower in calories and sugar than a soda! All in all, it was a great journey experiencing the land, the people, the local food and beers…OK some great wines too! Until next month, enjoy the summer!

Column by Brian Preston

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News