Spanish Beer - Brands, Bars and how to order una cerveza like a native - When in Spain episode 13

Updated: Apr 7

Cerveza! Yes, a whole episode dedicated to beer! Salud!

Spain is the 4th biggest beer producer in Europe and the 10th biggest in the world.

But, ordering a beer can be a confusing experience.

Do you order a caña or a tubo? What’s the difference between a copa and a doble? How big is a tanque? Can I just order a pint? Maybe.

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Beers in Spain come in all shapes and sizes, and how you order them will often depend what region, city or bar you’re in. I try to clear up the confusion in this episode by hitting some bars and drinking some beers. All in the name of research of course!

Beer preferences around Spain - Top Brands by region
Beer preferences around Spain - Top Brands by region

I also look at the regional beer brands found across Spain and find Málaga’s Victoria beer on tap in the centre of Madrid, to my surprise. I chat to a butcher turned bar owner about people’s changing tastes and find a craft beer store that caters to Spain’s increasing demand for more exotic flavours.

Two dobles at Cervezería Sierra in Madrid

Estrella de Levante - Murcia's most popular beer


Una Caña

A caña is the size par excellence. You can order a caña in practically all of Spain, but they will not always serve the same thing. Of course, it will always be on tap. While in areas like Madrid the size of the glass is 200 ml, in other places the size is bigger. Thus, if a Basque wants to drink 350 ml of a Basque caña in Madrid, they will have to ask for a doble, which is the most similar measure. If you don’t specify when you order a beer, this is what you are most likely to be served.

Un Corto, Zurito or Penalti

People from Castilla Leon tend to go short. In provinces such as Valladolid or Salamanca, draught beer is served in smaller glasses than the traditional caña. These are known as cortos and normally they measure between 100 and 140 ml. But, be careful, in the Basque Country it is better to call it un zurito and in Aragón un penalti.

Un Tubo

This one comes in a taller, skinnier glass, hence the name - a tube - it is usually a 200ml - 250ml serving, so about the same size as a caña, perhaps slightly larger.

Un Doble

If a caña which is 200ml is the most common size of beer ordered in Spain then a doble is probably the second most common. Literally a double caña and 400 ml should be the official measure, but this is not always the case. To obtain 400 ml of beer, for example, in the Basque Country it would be necessary to order a cannon.

Una Jarra or Un Tanque

The Jarra is simply a beer glass with a handle. The direct translation is jug. It is designed for serving about 500ml of beer. Often the “jarra” glass may be kept in a freezer and be served with a layer of frost on it , helping the beer to keep cool over a longer period of time.

The largest draught beer comes in the size of 750ml. It is called Katxi in the Basque Country, and Tanque , literally a tank in many other parts of Spain. In Madrid this huge beer is counter-intuitively called a Mini. Sometimes you will find these larger than life beers served in glasses but more often in plastic cups and often served at ferias so people can wander round clutching them. It really is a party beer!

Una Pinta – Spanish word for pint, usually a standard size of draft beer served in a British-style pint glass. Not commonly drunk by Spaniards.

Botellín or Quinto

A Botellín - little bottle, is 200ml of bottled beer commonly ordered in un cubo, a bucket with ice with bottle opener attached to the side. Many bars have special offers and it is common to order a bucket of six botellines for around 5 euros. Great for sharing with friends! In Cataluña these little bottles are called Quintos - literally translated to a fifth of a litre.

Un Tercio, Una Media or Una Mediana

Of the bottles served in bars and restaurants, Un Tercio is the largest, 330ml - literally a third of a litre. In Asturias or Cantabria it is better to say Una Media and in Catalonia Una Mediana .

Una Clara

Want to make you beer even more refreshing? Why not order Una Clara - a shandy.

There are two types of shandy in Spain. Una clara con limón - beer mixed with lemonade, usually lemon Fanta. The other is Una clara con Casera - beer mixed with soda water. In Majorca it is known as cerveza con gaseosa. Apparently, in Valencia una clara with soda water is called Un Champú - a shampoo!?

Which brand of beer will the bar serve?

Bars in Spain typically only have one brand of beer on tap - de grifo or de barril. So whatever size of daught beer you order it will be that specific brand. For example, in Madrid it is nearly always Mahou. A useful way to see what brand of beer a bar is serving is to check out the branding the bar has on its chairs, tables and umbrellas on the terraza. Of course, if you order by the bottle you will have more different brands to choose from.

One last thing - a sure fire way to know that your beer has been poured well is to see if beer rings are left on the side of the glass as you sip it. These are called sucros. A mark of pride from any discerning bar staff.

A ´doble´ of Mahou beer with a tapa of gambas
A ´doble´ of Mahou beer with a tapa of gambas