Alhambra Negra is reviewed by Chris Hall.
Cervezas Alhambra, Spain
Black lager, with its sharp, clean clarity and rich, roasted barley bittersweet texture, is underappreciated. Overlooked by lager drinkers and snubbed by craft beer geeks (with their Black IPAs, White Stouts, loud music and PacMan video games), it is more often found in Italian restaurants than in pubs. It seems very much a Mediterranean thing (though excellent examples are made by Asahi, BrewDog and Freedom Brewery), and is a rare treat for lovers of cool, complex refreshment. Alhambra make an utterly textbook, and therefore delightful, version that you should keep your eye out for.
It’s a feisty pour, generating lots of appetising, cappuccino-coloured foam. There might be a little mahogany tinge at the edges, but nothing to call up the Trade Descriptions Act enforcers about; this is black lager. The aroma doesn’t offer a lot of what you might expect, though. The roasty flavours are subdued by a syrupy, cereal sweetness. However, there is a rather exciting hint of tobacco smoke threaded in there somewhere.
This isn’t a taste-bud thumping, heavy-bodied beer. It doesn’t need to be. It’s sweet, sharp, light-bodied and perhaps a little watery. But there’s a pleasant stickiness to this beer, a bonfire-toffee-thick slab of mocha that is quickly brushed aside with a fierce smack of bitterness that keeps you coming back. It’s not a pilsner, or a stout, but it provides just enough of each to make you look at it and say: ‘Nice work, beer’.
Keep your eyes peeled for this in beer shops and tapas bars, where it is sweet and sticky enough to go great with chargrilled meat and spicy sauces. When you want a lager, but you also want just little more than a lager, you could do much worse than this classy Catalonian.