Lager is king in the Canary Islands and nothing beats cooling down on a hot Canarian day with a cold one. Although Tropical and Dorada (from Gran Canaria and Tenerife respectively) dominated the lager market for many years, newcomers like Reina have made some inroads.
Lager in the Canaries tends to be a little stronger than its UK counterparts (usually 4.5-5% ABV). Light pilsner-style lagers take the largest slice of the market with the ‘Especial’ varieties (stronger, heavier export style) coming a close second.
For ale lovers, I’m afraid you may struggle. There is no problem finding a mass-produced commercial lager in a cafe, restaurant, hotel, supermarket or anywhere else that serves alcohol. You may, on the other hand, find it much more difficult to find a craft-style beer or, for that matter, heavier ales (and certainly not on tap). Although areas with a high amount of German tourists often sell heavier beers such as Warsteiner, Erdinger and Paulaner.
Botellin (20-25cl small bottle)
Botella (33cl bottle)
Caña (20-25cl, a little less than a half pint)
Jarra (500ml, just under a pint)
Many bars (and pretty much all locally-owned ones) keep their beer glasses in a fridge/freezer – this light frosting keeps your drink cooler for longer.
If you want a shandy you should ask for a ‘clara’. This is usually mixed with Gaseosa (a light soda) or Fanta Limon (very refreshing). If you don’t specify or are not asked, then you will usually be served the gaseosa version. Tropical also sell lemon shandy in a bottle.
La Tropical Brewery was originally founded in 1924 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, but soon went bankrupt. A group of local entrepreneurs bought the company and founded Sociedad Industrial Canaria (Sical). Tropical is served in a green bottle/can with the image of the head of a ‘Perro de Presa’ (a large Canarian dog) surrounded by laurel leaves. Bottles of Tropical now have a very useful optimum drinking temperature indicator; the dog’s head will turn blue when the larger is ready to drink, thanks to thermocromic paint.
Along with the regular pils at 4.7% ABV, Tropical also offer:
Bandido (with tequila 5.9%),
Premium (export style 5.1% ABV),
Siroco (light 2.7%ABV),
Lemon (shandy 2%),
Sin Alcohol (0.1%)
Compañía Cervecera de Canarias (CCC) is a brewery based in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Founded in 1939, Dorada had some teething issues (like its cousin Tropical) and due to Civil and World Wars, the machinery that was purchased in Germany did not arrive at the factory for some time. Brewing did not get under way until July 1948, almost 10 years after the company’s foundation.
Dorada is served in a brown bottle with a red label (or red can) with the image of Mount Teide in Tenerife as its logo.
Along with the regular Pils at 4.7% ABV, Dorada also offer:
Especial & Especial Extra Maduración (pale 5.5%),
Especial Miel de Siete Cañadas (honey 5.9% limited edition),
Especial Roja (Amber 6.5% limited edition)
Especial Selección de Trigo (Hefeweisen 5.7% limited edition),
Sin Alcohol (0.5% ABV )
Despite their long standing rivalry in the Canaries, the Sical (Tropical) and CCC (Dorada) companies merged in 1994. The joint Canarian company then became part of the SABMiller group, which in a massive 2016 merger became part of the world’s largest brewer, ABInBev.
Other Canarian Commercial Beers
Reina (brewed by Mahou-San Miguel in Tenerife) is a pale lager-style beer (5% ABV) and has been around since 2000. It can be found in supermarkets throughout the islands, though it is not commonly stocked by bars in the Eastern Islands.
J&M Cerveza Pilsen (brewed by Comercial Jesuman S.A in Santa Cruz de Tenerife) – they also make a non-alcoholic lager.
Craft beer hasn’t taken off in the Canary Islands, as it has elsewhere in the world. Although there are a small number of micro-breweries and brew-pubs, they are few and far between and their produce isn’t well-distributed. A few to look out for are:
|Cervecería Viva||Gran Canaria||Lager, (Trigo) Wheat Beer, Premium Pils, Morena (brown), Libre (sin alcohol)||Brewery|
|Malpecado||Las Palmas||Joven, Autentica and Sensual||Microbrewery|
|Cerveza Isla Verde||La Palma||Danza del Diablo (Black Beer), Pícara (Golden Ale), Indiana (Wheat Beer)||Microbrewery and attached Restaurant-bar|
|Cerveza Fiera||Gran Canaria||Microbrewery|
|Cerveza Tamaragua||Gran Canaria||Amber, Brown and Pale Ale||Microbrewery|
|Cervezas Guaberze – Tierra de Perros||Los Realejos, Tenerife||White, Pale, Summer, Saison, Wheat, Brown ale||Microbrewery|
|Tacoa Cerveceria||El Sauzal, Tenerife||Various brews including wheat, pales, amber, porter, pilsner, honey and bock||Brewpub|
It may not be from a micro-brewery but keep an eye out for:
Estrella Damm Inedit Beer – designed by world-famous Michelin-starred chef, Ferran Adrià, Juli Soler and El Bulli’s sommeliers’ team, I think this is a stunning beer, capable to be served instead of wine with a meal. It is light, yet aromatic, with subtle spices and a decidedly creamy taste too. I’m not a beer reviewer, but if you see it, buy it and give it a go, I don’t think you will be disappointed (large Hiperdino stores seem to stock it).
Other Spanish beers that you may come across:
Estrella Damm (August Kuentzmann Damm).
Mahou & San Miguel (the Mahou-San Miguel brewery also brew Reina along with Carling and Kronenberg 1664 under license).
Cruzcampo & Amstel (Heiniken España).
Estrella Galicia (Hijos de Rivera).
If you really want to delve into what the Canaries has to offer for beer and larger drinkers, then head to the Beer Festival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is usually held around mid-October.