Like so many others, your intrepid liquor reporter spent much of the month of June watching the Spanish national football team clean up at the Euro 2012 championship.
Since Spain also won the Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, they are currently both the European and World champions.
As you can imagine, there were many cans of Spanish beer cracked open during the games, and your intrepid liquor reporter did his part by drinking only Spanish beers while cheering on the players.
Similar to Canada, the Spanish domestic beer market is largely controlled by just a handful of megabreweries.
The big 3 breweries are Heineken España, Mahou-San Miguel, and Grupo Damm, which collectively control 80% of the Spanish beer market.
We’ve all heard of Heineken; they seem to have a brewery in nearly every country I’ve ever vacationed in, so it’s hard to think of Heineken as an import.
The Mahou-San Miguel brewery was originally just known as Mahou as far back as 1890, but changed its name in 2000 following the acquisition of the San Miguel brewery from the Phillipines.
Mahou Clásica was the first beer brewed back in 1890, and is still the most popular brand in Spain. Like most Spanish beers, it is a light lager, similar to a Keiths or Stella Artois.
Due to the hot Spanish climate, darker beers are less popular, as the light-tasting lagers are the most crisp and refreshing when enjoyed straight from the ice bucket. Sadly, it means you will be hard-pressed to find a Guinness during your next vacation in Madrid.
Grupo Damm (that’s the Damm Group for you anglos) makes up the rest of the triumvirate, and produces the beers that you actually see the most often in Canada.
My hot-blooded Spanish paramour knocked back many frosty cans of the Estrella Damm lager during the soccer matches, hooting excitedly when the Spanish team scored again, and drowning her sorrows when the opposing goalie was able to deflect the ball.
After a few beers into the game, our bartender was roused from his duties with calls of “another round of Damm beer”.
Luckily, no comical misunderstandings ensued, and round after round of Estrella Damm would magically appear on our table over the course of the game.
For those who haven’t sampled this particular beer at their local watering hole, Estrella Damm is the flagship beer from the Grupo Damm brewery, and has been brewed in Barcelona since 1876.
The Damm family emigrated from their native Alsace due to the Franco-Prussian war, and settled in Barcelona in 1872. Coming from a long line of brewers, they quickly founded a new beer company, and the locals quickly took to their new local brew.
Today, Grupo Damm is still owned by the Damm family, and is on the eleventh generation of master brewers, a sacred honour passed down from father to son over the years.
The word estrella translates directly to star in both Spanish and Catalan, following the time-honoured tradition of beer marketeers using any excuse they can think of to make their beer the star of the show.
Maybe next week we’ll have a showdown between Lone Star Beer from Texas, Stella Artois from Belgium (yep, stella is Latin for star), and Blue Star Beer from Newfoundland.
Getting back to the topic at hand, Estrella Damm is a damm good beer.
Made in the Pilsner style, this beer was a bit revolutionary in its time, as the Pilsner beer style had only been invented a few decades earlier in the Czech town of Pilsen, about an hour west of Prague.
Estrella Damm uses a unique strain of hops that gives the beer a creamy hop-flavoured froth, with just a bit of pine needle aftertaste. Like many light lagers, Estrella Damm uses both rice and corn as adjuncts, instead of the 100% malted barley used in a more traditional ale.
The use of rice and corn not only keeps the cost down, but provides the pale-straw colour and mild taste that is so popular in the mass market.
When you’re looking for a crisp and refreshing summer beer, take home a 6-pack of the Estrella Damm tall boy cans from your local booze merchant, and class up your next backyard BBQ with a Spanish beer.