21 Aug, 2011 @ 15:28
3 mins read

The accent, smoking, beer and red tape

When Paul Whitelock moved to live in the Serranía de Ronda in Spain there were just three things he did not like about the place. The acento andaluz, smoking in bars and the beer. Oh, and the bureaucracy …! Now that he’s been here a while, things have changed. He’s grown accustomed to the locals speaking fast and without consonants; smoking in indoor spaces has been outlawed; and he’s gradually learning how to cut through all the red tape. But … what about the beer situation?

DECENT beer is about the only thing I miss living here in Spain. The best beer in the world without question, in my view, is a cask-conditioned ale from one of the hundreds of micro-breweries in England. Closely followed by German Weizenbiere, Czech lagers like Budweiser Budvar – not the American piss of the same name that Anheuser-Busch makes – and Belgian beers, if you like fruit in your tipple.

With few similar alternatives here in Spain, Mahou is the least appalling of the branded lagers; Alhambra, Estrella Damm, Amstel and San Miguel are also drinkable. Cruzcampo is the worst of the lot.

For home drinking I prefer to spend 25c per can for Steinburg (Mercadona) or Supersol’s own brand, or the Aldi equivalent, Karlsquell, at 22c, rather than 50c or more for a branded beer. Served very cold you don’t notice the difference. And interestingly all three of those own-label beers are brewed by the same company, Font Salem S.L. in Valencia.

Real ale comes to Spain

It’s good to know that there are some quasi-real ales being brewed in Spain now. I say quasi, because they really have to be served as keg beers under pressure because of the climate.

I’ve recently heard of at least three in Andalucía alone.

First of all there’s the Fábrica de Cerveza Kettal (FCK), located in Los Barrios (Cádiz). A brewpub claiming to produce English-style real ale, the brewers use traditional methods and all natural ingredients.

FCK claims to be the first micro-brewery in living memory in the province.  According to owners Mercedes Lynch and Tim Revill, FCK is part of the revolution against mass-produced products, which is growing throughout the food industry.

“Consumers are growing aware that many foodstuffs contain all sorts of chemical additives to give them the flavour and appearance that big companies think the average consumer expects. At FCK we use the flavours that nature provides, with no unnatural additives.”

FCK’s Brewmaster, Australian Jonah Jones, adds: “We brew English-style ales, which are kegged and served chilled and under pressure. CAMRA would not approve, but cask beer just will not survive at this latitude and temperature.”

So, there we have it – it’s not real ale at all, although, having tried it, I can confirm that it tastes better than anything else on offer down here.

FCK has a website at www.fabricadecervezakettal.com

The Saxon Brewery in Vélez Rubio, Almeria, supplies various bars in Almeria and Murcia with UK style real ale. They don’t have a website but owner Ian Orpe can be contacted at [email protected]

La Fábrica in Sevilla is also a brewpub I’d been told about, so when I happened to be in Sevilla one Sunday in May I went to visit.

We got to the Plaza de las Armas and looked around. No sign of it, so I asked in another bar.

La Fábrica? Oh, it shut down about 18 months ago. It’s now called Los Olivos, just over there.

Disappointed, we went there anyway, as the thermometer was hitting 40 degrees and we were hot and thirsty. It’s just an ordinary bar now, but at least it had Mahou on draft, my favourite of the Spanish lagers.

My disappointment at the disappearance of one of the few real ale outlets in Andalucía was tempered, however, when I learned the following day on Facebook that the Bar Allioli in Jimera de Líbar, further down the Guadiaro river valley from where I live, has launched its own real beer, Allioli Weisse Bier (sic), a German-style wheat beer.

Brewed by the afore-mentioned FCK brewery I have since tried it and can vouch for its excellence. Bar Allioli has a website at at www.barallioli.com

90 cask ales

Giving the lie to the assertion that the climate here is unsuitable for cask ales, RealBeeria is a distribution company which currently supplies up to 90 UK cask ales to selected outlets in Almeria, Murcia and Alicante provinces. Their website is www.realbeeria.co.uk

I wonder if there are more real ale developments out there?  Do let us know! ¡Salud!

Paul Whitelock

Anglo-Welsh, born 1950. Two children (b. 1983 and 1987). Retired school inspector, and former languages teacher. Living in Serrania de Ronda. Re-married 2010. Freelance writer, translator and interpreter.


  1. He is welcome in my bar. Provided he does not speak a horrible English accent where I have to say sorry don’t understand every time. By the way, Spanish does not have accents. Andalucians leave out some consonants, but all the sonants are the same all over the country. An accent is when you change the sound of the whole word. Like the English do, the Irish or the Belgians. Much more difficult to understand than an Andaluh, provided your general Spanish is good. Smoking is another issue. Thise that really hate smokers are not clients one would like to have. As far as the beer, when he wears a t-shirt, decent shoes, no flipflops, does not say the f word five times in every scentence, any beer he likes will be available and specially bought or imported. Even Thai Singha beer or Chinese beer. The only thing I agree on is bureaucracy. That is horrible.

  2. I wouldn’t worry about the beer too much, if we have a long wet winter with the smoking ban there might not be many bars left to drink it in. We have lost two in our village already.

  3. The Robin Hood Estepona, next to the Crown Plaza still has our Real Ales, stored in Casks in their air conditioned cellar, piped to the bar through a cooled python and served from a jacketed Beer engine. Nothing quasi about that. It is a true real ale, CAMRA and Cask Marque would I’m sure approve.
    Have a pint and let me know what you think. We are looking for a couple more suitable outlets in the costa del sol area.
    If you have any suggestions or if you would like to visit our brewery let me know.

  4. Thanks, Nik! I was in a brewpub in Seattle as long ago as 1998.
    Sorry, don’t understand your response, anon (don’t you have a name?)
    Peter, that is truly a concern, though I know of no bars that have closed round here since the smoking ban came in in January. Smokers are quite happy to step outside.
    Ian, thanks for clarifying that your Saxon Ales are indeed “real”. Well done and keep up the good work. I’d love to visit the brewery. I’ll check out the RH next time I’m in Estepona.

  5. We now have a web site see saxonbreweryspain.com and yesterday we set up The Lounge Bar in Bonanza, Benalmadena, apparently the beer is going well 50 litres on their first quiet day.

  6. The Lounge Bar, Bonanza, Benalmadena is doing well, we are now looking for more suitable bars in the Costa del Sol area, or even Granada as we pass by. Any suggestions?

  7. I could suggest some outlets near to where I live, but I suspect they wouldn’t shift the volume you’d be interested in.
    However, try the Hotel Montejaque, Montejaque; Hotel Molino del Santo, Benaoján; Hotel Molino del Puente, Ronda; Bar Allioli, Jimera de Líbar; Hotel El Gecko, Estación de Cortes de la Frontera. All English-run, so they might be interested. Good luck!

  8. Hi Paul
    Thanks for the info. Yes sorry to say, we have had an uphill struggle getting the local Spanish to appreciate a Real Ale.
    “English” bars with good turnover have been the way to go. I will let you know how we get on. Please give us a call if you are our way. The Lounge Bar is going from strength to strength.
    Cheers Ian and Iwona

  9. Hi Paul, Lounge bar Benalmadena, still going well, plus AlFi’s bar Benalmadena, now also has Saxon Bitter.
    At the moment the Ronda area is too far.
    Cheers Ian and Iwona

  10. The Robin Hood might have had real ale in the past, but it certainly doesnt anymore. We went yesterday and came away disappointed. The closest was Tetleys on keg. :-( oh well.

  11. Anon – “Smoking is another issue. Thise that really hate smokers are not clients one would like to have.”

    I agree and that is the sentiment I’ve seen expressed from every bar owner I know. No one forces anybody to go to a private establishment and if the environment is unhealthy (e.g. smoke in the air) they aren’t obligated to be there. It’s 100% optional.

    But let’s legislate health and force it upon everyone. God forbid we compromise or let the market handle it naturally – like, say – having some bar owners who decide to cater specifically to non-smokers?

    (Oh wait, they would probably close down real quick with no patrons. Better force it upon everyone with special interest groups feeding the government money to get the laws passed.)

  12. Saxon Brewery seems to have thought it all through properly. They have various solutions for drinking real ale in the summer and the winter in Spain without it necessarily being a pressurised keg.
    FCK awful awful awful.An Australia Master Brewer?..come on.
    Packaging and labelling …simply terrible.
    However, this is a brewery with BIG potential..has all the gear and the backing but seems to be little more than a hobby for its owners?
    The BrewPub is in an INDUSTRIAL ESTATE!
    Folklore says the original intention was to build it in Gibraltar but the water quality is appalling there, if not expensive.
    The huge investment is little more than a bottomless money pit as it is. Marketing is notable by its absence
    Seriously, with some focussed management it could be brewing big time.

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