¿Cómo se pide una cerveza?

This post was writ­ten in response to a “meme” passed to us from CAAC, and begun on Cul­turil­la Cerve­cera, on how to ask for a beer in your home city. This is a use­ful top­ic, as in Spain every part of the coun­try has a dif­fer­ent word to describe dif­fer­ent mea­sures, as you can see from fol­low­ing the links. There’s even a link here to a Por­tuguese ver­sion if you’re plan­ning a hol­i­day there…

If you’d like to chip in with how to order a beer in your respec­tive coun­try, then do feel free. I remem­ber get­ting total­ly lost when an Aus­tralian tried to explain about “schooners” and “mid­dies”.

En Lon­dres, como en todas partes del RU, se pide “a pint” [paynt] o “a half” [harf] de cerveza que quieres p.e. “a pint of Pride, please”. Se puede usar nom­bres genéri­cos como “bit­ter” o “lager” si hay sólo una opción.

Si quieres beber de una botel­la, sólo nece­si­tas decir el nom­bre (p.e. “A Duv­el, please”). No ten­emos nom­bres dis­tin­tos para tamaños dis­tin­tos. A veces se oye la expre­sión “nip bot­tle” para una botel­la pequeñi­ta, pero nun­ca la he oido en un pub.

NB: Una pin­ta británi­ca es 568ml, y una media es exac­ta­mente eso – pero una pin­ta amer­i­cana es 473ml. En teo­ria, se puede com­prar un ter­cio de pin­ta, pero nun­ca he vis­to estos vasos en un pub, sólo en beer-fes­ti­vals.

Otras cosas muy impor­tantes:

  • Nor­mal­mente no hay camereros en pubs británi­cos o irlan­deses. Se pide la cerveza de (a? en?) la bar­ra, y se paga ime­di­ata­mente.
  • Se com­pra cerveza “in rounds” – se tur­na para com­prar cervezas para sus com­pañeros. “it’s my round” = “me toca a mi”
  • Nor­mal­mente no damos propinas a los bar­manes. Si quieres dar­le una propina a alguien en un pub, dile “and one for your­self” (“y uno para ust­ed”) después de pedir tus bebidas. El bar­man añadirá el pre­cio de una pequeña bebi­da a las que has pedi­do. Pero eso es muy inusu­al – yo he dado una propina en un pub inglés sólo una vez en mi vida.
  • No se olvides “please” y “thanks” – yo sé que los españoles ríen de nosotros ingle­ses en España porque dec­i­mos “gra­cias” todo el tiem­po pero en Inglater­ra no es posi­ble sobreusar estas pal­abras.
  • Si quieres pro­bar cerveza tradi­cional, bus­ca la descrip­ción “cask con­di­tioned” o “real ale”.


Subtle = bland?

What’s the dif­fer­ence between a beer that’s sub­tle and one that’s bland?

There are quite a few terms used in beer writ­ing which are impre­cise.

The one that I ago­nise over most is “sub­tle”. There are some beers which, to me, have lit­tle or no flavour – cer­tain­ly not a flavour worth trum­pet­ing. They’re bland.

And yet I read arti­cles by well-known beer writ­ers wax­ing poet­i­cal about the sub­tle bril­liance of the very same brews. Some­times, the fine flavours are appar­ent­ly so sub­tle that they only emerge when accom­pa­nied by, say, a par­tic­u­lar type of bread, or at a cer­tain tem­per­a­ture.

So, I think Com­mer­cial Lager X is bland; Big Shot Beer Writer thinks it “beguiles with a clean, malty palate, and a sub­tle hint of spicy hop in the after­taste”. Huh?

Is my palate at fault? Per­haps. You might recall that it took a con­cen­trat­ed effort for us to dis­cern what was, to us, a sub­tle dis­tinc­tion between Koelsch and bog stan­dard lager.

Anoth­er pos­si­bil­i­ty – could it be that these writ­ers feel oblig­ed to be nice about cer­tain beers for political/commercial rea­sons? Pos­si­bly.

Most often, though, it’s prob­a­bly just that most of us know when we like or dis­like a par­tic­u­lar beer and set about using words to jus­ti­fy our judge­ment.

So, what’s the dif­fer­ence between a beer with low-car­bon­a­tion, and a beer that’s flat? A beer that’s sub­tle and one that’s bland? Or one with “crisp hop bit­ter­ness” and one that “is dry and astrin­gent”?

Maybe noth­ing except that the crit­ic likes the first beer, but doesn’t like the sec­ond.

Light Lithuanian Lagers – face-off round 1

We’ve enjoyed Svy­tu­rys a lot in the past, and were won­der­ing whether any of the oth­er Lithuan­ian lagers that are often avail­able in Lon­don cor­ner­shops would prove equal­ly enjoy­able.

utenos.jpgSo we popped into our local store and picked up some Kalnapilis (Orig­i­nal) and some Utenos. These were both osten­si­bly “Muench­n­er Hell” types, i.e. light lagers. (NB – both these brew­eries do pil­sners and, more inter­est­ing­ly, baltic porters, but these are less read­i­ly avail­able. Will do a taste test one day).

Kalnapilis had the proud­er boasts (“finest Saaz hops”) etc but it was Utenos that won the day – quite a hop­py taste for a light lager, and very smooth and easy to drink. The Kalnapilis, if it tast­ed of any­thing at all, was rather sweet.

The web­sites for these beers do not fill the real ale / craft beer lover with joy – both are proud­ly boast­ing their “Ice” brand – boast­ing an even milder ver­sion of their cur­rent prod­ucts. And I’m sor­ry, but count­ing the tinned ver­sion of your brew as a dif­fer­ent prod­uct from the bot­tle (when both are pas­teurised) just doesn’t con­vince…

Next round – Svy­tu­rys v Utenos… then we can move away from light lagers and tack­le the heavy stuff.


P.S. the Lithuan­ian word for beer is “alus”. Pre­sum­ably some sign of the old Indo-Euro­pean roots of our word “ale”?

How to order a beer in Spain

Bai­ley and I said we’d try to keep this blog pos­i­tive, so I’m not going to start with a rant about the poor qual­i­ty of Span­ish lager. Tempt­ed as I am.

Instead, some cul­tur­al notes on order­ing beer. “Dos cervezas, por favor” will work, but you won’t sound like a native.

First­ly, the Span­ish rarely say “por favor”. They’re not being rude, we’re just over­ly polite.

Sec­ond­ly, as in Eng­land, you don’t order “a beer”; instead you spec­i­fy the mea­sure, or rather, the type of glass.

To con­fuse things fur­ther, there’s no such thing as a stan­dard mea­sure, and the var­i­ous glass­es have dif­fer­ent names, depend­ing on what part of the coun­try you’re in. In Andalu­cia, the fol­low­ing gen­er­al­ly works;

  • Una caña – (CAnya)- a mea­sure of around 200 / 250 ml, can be small­er;
  • Un tubo – (Too-bo)- a tall glass, usu­al­ly holds around 330ml;
  • Una jar­ra – (HAr­ra – the “j” sounds like “ch” in “loch”, and you should roll the “r“s) – if they have them, this will usu­al­ly be a pint mea­sure, some­times in a dim­pled mug.

Dos canas
Dos cañas

There is no shame in order­ing a caña, even if you’re a bloke.

Also to note – bot­tled beer is more expen­sive than stuff from the tap (de gri­fo), and it’s more expen­sive to drink out­side on the ter­race than inside. Sit­ting at the bar itself can be even cheap­er.