Thursday, March 25, 2010

A beer for Amadis fans

Seriously, Legado de Yuste is a historic Spanish beer.

[Detail from Titian's 1548 portrait "Emperor Charles V on Horseback at Mühlberg" on special display right now at the Prado Museum.]


Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, also known as King Carlos I of Spain, (1500-1558) loved novels of chivalry, including Amadis de Gaula. He also loved beer.

After a long and event-filled reign, crippling gout and other health problems forced him to abdicate in 1556. He retired to Yuste Monastery in Extremadura, western Spain, to live his final years in seclusion and peace until he died from malaria on September 21, 1558 – or so the legend says.

In truth, he lived in splendid style, as his infirmities permitted, entertaining many visitors and keeping involved in the events in his realm, with an entourage more than 50 people. It included a staff of 20 to attend to meals and beverages, among them a master brewer from Flanders.

Cruzcampo Foundation and Heineken España S.A. have combined their expertise and resources to recreate the abbey-style beer brewed for the Emperor, the first of its type made in Spain. It's a premium-quality full-bodied amber beer that uses Vienna-style malt made from barley grown in Extremadura. I enjoy it as an accompaniment to fine literature.

In addition, Heineken has created a website of encyclopedic scope, In Spanish, it contains everything you might need to know about Charles V, the monastery, brewing, and regional tourism, such as the popular hiking trail that follows the Emperor's trip across the mountains to Yuste in 1556.

You can also get dozens of recipes from his kitchen, along with information about the Castle-Palace of the Count of Oropesa, where the Emperor stayed while his lodging was being prepared in the monastery; it's now a parador hotel, so you can stay there, too.

Legado de Yuste is only available in selected areas and stores in Spain, which makes it one more reason to visit.

If you can't get to Madrid before May 23, be sure to make a virtual visit to the exhibit at the Prado Museum called "The Art of Power. The Royal Armory and Court Portraiture." Among other treasures, you can see both the Titian portrait of Charles V and the armor portrayed in it, which was made by Desiderius Helmschmid. The exhibit was inaugurated by King Juan Carlos I, who does not wear armor, except perhaps Kevlar. The Prado has created a website, available in Spanish and English, that as usual is a work of art in itself:

You can also play at reconstructing a suit of armor – in Spanish, of course, as a way to learn the Spanish names for the pieces:

Due to Easter Week holidays, Chapter 30 will be posted on Thursday, April 1, rather than on Tuesday as usual. I apologize for the inconvenience.