Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece are best known for the amazing wines and spirits they produce. However, they also produce some good beers that are extremely drinkable, especially for the climate. Although not the greatest beer drinking countries in the world, they definitely have more to offer than most people think.
Like the other countries in Southern Europe, Spain is definitely a wine culture. Despite this, there are some extremely tasty and refreshing Spanish lager beers on offer. When most people think of Spanish beer, they think of San Miguel. However, San Miguel was originally produced in the Philippines, albeit by Spanish settlers. The Spanish San Miguel that is currently available is purely Spanish though, having separated from the Asian brand a number of years ago. San Miguel is an excellent lager beer, with a crisp taste and excellent bitter finish. It is both refreshing and full of flavour, and is very much suited to the climate. Another particularly good Spanish lager beer is Cruzcampo, a beautifully refreshing beer, although perhaps lacking the flavour of San Miguel. If you want to try something a little more obscure, then go for La Zaragozana Ambar 1900 Pale Ale. Although not a Pale Ale or Ambar, this Spanish lager beer is more complex than most, with a slight hoppiness and a dry finish. Brewed as a recreation of a beer than won Gold medals in London and Paris at the turn of the 20th century, it is definitely worth seeking as it is more complex than many other Spanish beers.
Portuguese and Greek Beer
Portugal and Greece don’t have a huge variety of beers on offer, but the ones they do have are better than many other lager beers. The main beer in Greece is Mythos, produced by the brewery of the same name. Mythos is one of the first authentically Greek beers, and is a beautifully dry and hoppy lager beer that for a first attempt at beer making is really rather good. Portugal has slightly more choice, with the two main beers being Super Bock and Sagres. Both have more character than your average lager beer, whilst still being very easy to drink.
Of the countries in Southern Europe, Italian beer is undoubtedly the best. The beers on offer are of a better standard than many in Southern Europe, despite the fact that Italians still much prefer wine. Large brewing companies own many of the most popular beer brands, although they are still extremely good lager beers. The best lager beers in Italy are Birra Peroni and Birra Moretti. Both are medium-bodied lager beers, with a good level of malt and a clean hoppiness in the finish. They are very easy to drink, but have more flavour than their Spanish counterparts. However, where Italian beer really wins is the microbreweries. These microbreweries produce a wide variety of high quality beers, and provide something more interesting than the regular lager beer. Other high quality beers in Italy include Menebrea and Peroni Grande Reserva. Menebrea is over 150 years old, and has won many awards for its easy drinking beer produced with a mixture corn and malt. However, the real gem of Italian beer is Peroni Grande Reserva. This beer is a double malted, or doppio malto beer, and is beautiful rich and full of flavour. At 6.6% it is stronger than many Italian beers, and is a full-bodied lager beer with some of the richest malt flavours for this kind of beer in the world.
Although Southern Europe is known for its wine, there are some great beers on offer, from the refreshing lager beers of Spain to the malted beers in Italy. If you want to try something different on your next Mediterranean holiday, then reach for the beers of Southern Europe.