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How (Not) To Order A Beer In Spain

By Mr Grumpy - Fri 14th Jan 2011

Every blue-kneed brit taking their yearly pilgrimage to sample the delights of one of Spain's chosen tourist resorts knows that the word for 'Beer' is 'Cerveza'. What they may not know is that there are dozens of ways in which you can order a beer - and, more confusingly, just because your order is understood in one of the bars in your local town, it does not mean that the same order will be understood a few miles down the road.

Another thing to bear in mind is that it is socially acceptable to drink beer at any time of day and at almost any place in Spain (although, I'm not referring to the Stag Party in Benidorm having a Pint of John Smiths with their all day 'Bellybuster breakfast'). If you live in a rural area you will have seen the local farmer having a bottle of beer with his breakfast (usually just a cigarette) at some ungodly hour of the morning. Secondly, beer is commonly ordered by reference to the type of glass that you wish it to be served in rather than the quantity you require - so the volumes can and do vary sometimes. Some of the words and phrases for the glass sizes and types are commonly understood, some being popular in certain regions, but completely unheard of in others.

If I have missed any out then please add them to the comments box, below :

Beer in Spain : A Glossarry

Pinta - A pint. For obvious reasons this tends to be a word that is more widely used and used on the resorts up and down the Costas - more often than not will be served in a 'British style' pint glass.

Tanque - Almost identical to the above, but more widely used away from the costa'. A half- liter of beer as opposed to a pint (that extra 68ml goes a long way when thirsty) and quite often served in the tankard style glass with a handle to stop the beer from getting too warm from your hand. Genious.

Cerveza - Literally, Beer. Makes no reference to how much you want or whether you want draught or bottled beer. Most likely to be used by foreigners and most likely to result in a blank stare back from Barman. Many barmen now simply give said Foreigner a bottle of house beer rather than be drawn into a game of charades with somebody who has no knowledge of the language.

Caņa - An English 'half', or a spanish quarter litre. Served in a glass with a stem and favoured by the Spanish. The Landlord at my local Spanish Bar is always bemused that his British male clientele favour Tanques above Caņas. Apparently the Beer stays cooler if you drink more Caņas as opposed to drinking fewer Tanques. 'Depends how quick you drink' is my usual response.

Tubo - A long, thin straight-sided glass. The capacity can vary.

Tercio - Usually taken to be a 330 ml Bottle.

Quinto - a 200ml Bottle, or 1/5th liter. Not always available in some bars. Can't be more than mouthful anyway, can it ?

Botellin - Same as above, prefered in different areas.

Doble - Somewhere between a Caņa and a Tanque, served in a bulbous glass on a stem.

Caņetta - A Draught version of the 200ml 'Quinto' Bottle, served in what is basically a wine glass. Not many people drink their beer as a chupitto.

Jarra - Basically a jug - more often than not 1 litre and brought with smaller glasses so a party can serve themselves.

Chupitto - (Not really anything to do with beer, really for the benefit of those who didn't get my earlier reference) - A Shot. Often offered 'on the house' by a bar after a night's drinking, or ordered between rounds for something like a euro a pop. Usually brightly coloured or sickly sweet. Stay clear of 'Cathia' : I have seen what it can do to enamled surfaces with my own eyes.

The thing to remember is that if you stay in Spain for longer than the average holiday, and move from one town to another at some point you will get a blank stare when attempting to order a beer. This sometimes freaks a lot of foreigners out who regress to to the pointing and shouting thing that us Brits do well. The interesting thing is that it happens to many Spaniards aswell.

Comment on this Blog

Interesting reading - I can understand why so many expats choose to frequent British or Irish bars instead, where a pint is just a pint.
Harry Sykes - Fri, 11th Apr 2014
It is amazing how a thirsty Englishman can always make himself understood in almost any language
Old Timer - Fri, 21st Mar 2014
They don't like to make it easy, do they ?
Pd Lee - Fri, 7th Feb 2014
Even after 5 years in Madrid, I cannot get a Spanish barman to understand what I mean by 'cerveza'. You'd think they could guess, wouldn't you?
Keefieboy - Thu, 18th Oct 2012
I think this is very helpful, although if I may Iīd correct your spelling of caņeta and chupito (no double tīs in Spanish). I think you bring up a very valid point - that there are lots of ways of serving beer in Spain. The chupito is funny since as you know you get offered a herbal liqueur after a meal and itīs usually pretty nasty. I think Spain must have a huge store of this stuff they just want to get rid of, so they give it out free!
Mo - Wed, 8th Feb 2012

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