Culture Series: La Caña & La Tapa

IMG_20150313_213109There’s nothing more that the Spanish love than drinking and socializing, and they’ve got a concept for a drink that completely reflects that. It’s called una caña.

La caña. It’s small, quick to drink, and super affordable at only 1.50-2 euros per caña. While it’s not necessarily the best beer in the world (think cheap, industrial, watered down beer), it reflects a culture that appreciates the art of socializing over drinks, and not  drinking with the sole aim of getting drunk.

Now, you might be wondering what’s so great about a glass of mediocre beer. The fact of the matter is, Spanish people go out everyday. Though drinking a craft beer is (for me) obviously the better option, if you’re meeting friends every day, or every other day, that can quickly add up in cost. Whether you’re meeting for a quick catch-up after work, or bar-hopping for the night, ordering a caña or two is the way to go.

While the cheap price is a definite plus to ordering the small drink, if you’re in the right place it gets even better with a free tapa to go with it. Tapas are finger foods that some bars offer when you order a drink. Where does this free goodness happen? It depends on the city and the region. Some cities are well known for their tapas culture, especially in Andalucia.

My old hometown of Linares had free tapas with their drinks and it often turned into a complete meal, because with three drinks and three tapas, you’re pretty much full- and you’ve only spent about six euros at the end of it all. This is pretty cool since you can order IMG_20150311_211405different types of food. This is smart on the bars’ part too, as it keeps regulars coming back with a variety of tapas to keep their palates interested.

Up north, rather than tapas you’re more likely to get a tiny dish of olives, nuts or chips. If you’re hungry you can order a pincho to go with it, at an extra cost. Though it’s not as great as free, there are several cities in Northern Spain that are really well known for their great pinchos, such as Leon, Bilbao and San Sebastian.

Free food or not, I’ve definitely come to enjoy the benefits of the caña, especially in those rare craft beer bars where you can get a caña sized craft beer. Without having to order a full bottle of each beer, you can try several in one sitting- a bonus those of you who are real beer lovers.

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