When Tom and I travelled to Spain to visit The Spanish Yard hop farming cooperative in Castille y León a couple of years ago, the beauty of the place really floored us. Lush green fields of hop bines reaching up to the hot summer sky, blue-hazed mountains in the distance — it was not a Spain we’d ever experienced before.
León itself is a beautiful city, ancient and modern in equal parts, on the cusp of craft beer yet still hanging on tight to traditional tapas culture. In León, to “ir de tapas” is as common as heading out for a carvery is over here in the UK. Okay, so Spain is famous for its tapas culture all over. But in León especially, there’s the rule of the “corto” to take into account.
In hundreds of local tapas bars you’ll find a corto on the menu. It’s a tiny beer, around half of a caña. Mini. Cute.
Oscar, Tom, Gerardo and Oscar, out on the town in León <3
You order a corto because you fancy a beer, but mainly because you want to eat something tasty. It’s the smart thing to do. If you order a corto for around €1.20, you get a plate of whatever the bar’s speciality snack is on the side. Some serve ham and cheese. Some prefer morcilla Leonese – a soft black pudding local to the area (umm, yes please). Some serve white anchovies and olive oil on a slice of bread. One of my favourites had bowls of hot homemade crisps served with paprika and salt and a red pepper sauce.
So why did we choose “Corto” to be the name of our bar?
We loved the spirit of sharing and snacking that cortos represented in León. We get the warm fuzzies whenever we think about our friends who made us feel so welcome there, who were so happy to show us the best ham place, the best cheese place, the best beer place. We might not be a tapas bar, nor do we want to replicate one, but we wanted to bring a bit of that vibe to Clitheroe.
All the lomo, cheers
Plus, we just like the word. It’s good to say. It has this warmth behind it that comes from drinking with people you like, talking with your hands, enjoying delicious things as you go — because you only really have a corto with friends when you’re out for a tapas crawl, or if you feel like watching the world go by. You are welcome, and there’s no rush. There’s a generosity about it; it’s a small measure of beer, but you get so much with it too.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our trip to visit The Spanish Yard and Four Lions Brewery in León, I wrote about it for the wonderful Pellicle magazine.