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¡La Cerveza en Gran Canaria!

What better time to travel than wintertime in CNY! (Just ask all our snowbird friends who spend half their year in Florida!) This edition of Brew Time features my travels to the big island of the Canary Islands —or Gran Canaria as the locals call it— and a few of my beer experiences during my two week holiday!

A few things to get us started … Gran Canaria is a Spanish island,150km (93.2 miles) off the coast of Africa. It happens to be a hot vacation spot for Europeans, especially Spaniards and Norwegians. In just our first few days here, we have found out that these islands do not get very many American visitors. Everyone is genuinely (& pleasantly) shocked to see Americans, hardly anybody speaks a lick of English (thankfully, hablo
Español un poquito), and we have yet to meet any
Americans ourselves, and I just might creepily hug them the moment I find them, like some strange family reunion of sorts. I also have not necessarily been drinking much beer … Because when in Spain, drink Sangria! … & I will have likely consumed my weight in Sangria by the time I leave for the states.

SPAR is the main local grocery store chain here on the island. Unlike in the states, you can buy all of your alcoholic beverages in one place – beer, wine, and liquor. You can also buy
individual cans/bottles of beer, like the Wegmans’ (or Green Hills!) make-your-own 6-pack that we all know and love, except you’re not required to purchase a total of six. Which has been great for writing this article! Purchases have also been far cheaper than back in the states. Even though we as Americans have a crap exchange rate because of our weak dollar (1 euro for about a $1.25) the cost of things —especially food items— have been cheaper altogether. For instance, a bottle of aged Spanish Tempranillo wine bought at a local shop was 3.30 euros. Or another
example was ordering a mojito and a whole margarita pizza at a local restaurant for a total of 13 euros.

¡Número Uno!

The first brew I had the pleasure of trying on vacation was made right here in the Canary Islands! Compañía Cervecera de Canarias (Canary Islands Brewing Company) is the name of the brewery, and the beer is Tropical Bandido Cerveza con Tequila which literally translates to Tropical Bandit Beer with Tequila. This is not a small local brewery, but is instead a macro brewery, not unlike Budweiser in the United States, (which, ironically, was the only American beer I was able to find on the island), and is a staple brewery of this area. The logo for the brewery is a dog (“perro de presa” or a large Canarian dog) and with a lighthouse in the background, (surrounded by laurel leaves on some beverages) and the can itself displays neo-traditional artwork. At 5.9% ABV, it’s a pretty easy drinking lager, especially considering the tequila in it. I found the beer to be light, sweet, with a delightful lime presence that was not at all “fake-tasting.” The tequila was evident with a very slight burn in the back of your throat at the end of a swig. Somewhat like what we would consider a shandy here in the U.S.A. and a perfect accompaniment to a day at the beach or drinking beside the pool. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit this brewery during my vacation as it is located on the island of Tenerife, a different island in the Canaries.

¡Número Dos!

Now we have to remember that nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is in English, so I’m just guessing at what I’m pulling off the shelves to try. Next up is a lager from Finland —Karhu A— with a big, angry brown bear for a logo, who is in reality, kinda cute. (Can you tell I’m pretty much picking beers off the shelf that have fluffy animals plastered across the front?) The macro brewery this comes from is called Sinebrychoff, the oldest Nordic brewery, which is now actually a subsidiary of the famous Carlsberg brewing group – I think most of us have heard of it, or have seen the green, gold, and white logo with the hop leaf and crown which is based out of Copenhagen, Denmark? Either way, this 5.3% ABV lager is brewed with water from Lake Päijänne and barley malt grown in Finland and is considered “the strongest in it’s breed” and “full-bodied,” and I would heartily agree with both statements. It is a malty, strong lager. While it’s not my personal favorite, there is something to be said for it being the number one selling beer in Finland, and if you’re looking for an inexpensive lager that doesn’t taste watered down, then this hits the nail on the head.

¡Número Tres!

The third supermercado cerveza I randomly pulled off the shelf was a dark brew, because those are usually my favorites of the bunch. (Next to a hazy, hoppy, juicy IPA… & doubly good if the IPA is earthy and pine-y!) I digress … Erdinger Dunkel, by macro brewery Erdinger Weissbräu, is a 5.3% ABV dunkelweizen. Dark chocolate brown in color, this dark wheat beer is both robust and flavorful with roasted malts and a slight note of raisins on the very end. Rather lovely and enjoyable to say the least! This particular brew was first created in 1989, as a birthday gift to the brewery’s owner,
Werner Brombach. The family-owned Erdinger Weissbräu, located in Erding, Bayern, Germany, has been brewing Bavarian beers for more than 130 years. They also happen to export their brews to over 90 countries, which means I will definitely be on the lookout for more of this particular beer when I get back in the states. I may even plan on visiting this brewery when I head to Germany this coming fall, (future article alert!), as they have brewery tours Tuesdays through Saturdays, complete with a tour, tastings, food, and a souvenir photo of your tour group for 17 euros per person and the tour actually lasts THREE WHOLE HOURS! (Those Germans take their beer seriously, what can I say?) In addition, I can literally stay on the brewery premises overnight, because the former brewery was
transformed into a 4-star hotel. It’s literally a Bavarian beer lover’s Disneyland.

I haven’t even begun to touch the surface of all the different brews that were available to me from a vast array of breweries throughout Europe and beyond during my many outings, day trips, and restaurants while on my vacation in Gran Canaria. (& let’s be honest, I was likely busy submerging myself face deep into a pitcher of Sangria.) My hope is that I’ve been able to give you a bit of new knowledge to the different brews out there —beyond our macro and micro breweries in the US— & that if you do find yourself venturing out to new and strange places, that you’ll seek out and try the local brew offerings even if you don’t have a clue as to what the can or the bottle or the draft list translates to in English, because immersing yourself in another culture is half the fun! ¡Salud!

Kristin Merritt
Just a brief introduction that I’ve joined the Table Hopping crew as your new craft-brew-loving gal who will be bringing you your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope that I can give a few recommendations for your grocery lists, event suggestions and local hotspots for an afternoon out with friends or planning a date, and if not for nothing, perhaps enlighten you with some random knowledge that you can amaze your teammates with at trivia night – or at least give you and your pals a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! I have some mighty large shoes to fill that my friend and fellow Syracuse Women of Craft Beer member (& founder), Gloria Rakowsky, left for me, but I hope that my style (and shenanigans) will keep all y’all coming back for more each month. Cheers!