Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bop! Libros y Discos

 Bop! is a great new record and book store that opened in October 2010 located in Colonia Roma, just across the street from La Belga and La Nacional.

Their used vinyl selection is one of the best in the city, including large rock and jazz selections, a decent amount of blues, international, classical, and Mexican music, and some metal and punk. The condition on the records varies pretty widely, but the records are priced according to condition and priced fairly reasonably.  If you are looking for those rare rock mexicano discs, this is definitely a place you need to visit.

In addition to a large vinyl selection, you can also find underground/alternative press books and comics, posters, dvds, and a large used cd collection.

I've had a lot of great finds at Bop!, which I will slowly get up onto the blog, but for now I'm just going to highlight one of my most recent treasures, the 1971 self-titled lp from Mexico's Enigma!. Of all the Mexican hard rock bands I have heard, I would have to say this lp is the best and most consistent from start to finish. It is definitely heavier than a lot of other rock mexicano, similar in vein to bands like Josefus, Leaf Hound or Frijid Pink.

I'm not sure how much of an influence this band had, but I first learned about them through a cover of El Llamado de la Hembra by the Mexican thrash metal band Transmetal. I picked up the Transmetal cassette of the same name over 11 years ago on my first visit to Mexico, and I've been looking for Enigma! music ever since. In 11 years, this is the first copy of original Enigma! music I've found.

This particular copy is a 1973 reissue on Okeh, although finding any copy of this record is next to impossible. My copy is pretty trashed, but it is still playable and I'm just glad to have a listening copy

Most of the tracks are up on youtube:
1. Under the Sign of Aquarius
2. The Call of the Woman (El Llamado de la Hembra)
3. Sunday's Coming
4. Simon
5. Live it Up, Mama
6. Countdown
7. 69
8. Save My Soul
9. Intertwine

Bop! is located on Querétaro 103, between Jalapa and Orizaba. From the Metrobus, Linea 1, exit Sonora, walk one block north on Insurgentes, and go east on Querétaro. You can also get there by getting off at Hospital General, either on the Metro or the Metrobus. Make sure to look at the map so you don't get lost.

The store is open Monday-Saturday, 11am-3pm, 5pm-9pm. On Sundays, the owner sells records at La Lagunilla market. He also owns a shop in Cuernavaca if you are down that way. The info for both shops is on this fancy little bolsa de mandado I got the last time I was there. For free! These bags are fairly common around Mexico and I love them, but I'm psyched to finally have one that isn't from a church, a political party, or a supermarket. They're also great for carrying records!

If you are there in the evening, make sure to stop by La Nacional, just across the street, to have a great cerveza artesanal, or walk over to La Belga to get some beers before you go and listen to your records.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Azteca Imperial Stout

Azteca Imperial Stout

??? ABV

5 out of 5

My experiences with porters and stouts in Mexico have been very disappointing. However, the mysterious Cervecería Azteca makes an extremely tasty imperial stout that comes highly recommended. This beer is what a stout should taste like and other brewers in Mexico should take note. As far as I know, this beer is only available on draft. I've had it at El Deposito for 120 pesos/liter, or at Zazá for 55 pesos/pint.

Getting to El Deposito: Metro/Metrobus Patriotismo.

Getting to Zazá: Metro Chapultepec.

Azteca Manzana Ale

Azteca Manzana Ale


4 out of 5

I know very little about the Azteca brewery. My guess is they are located in Mexico City as I have only seen their beers available on tap. Their Manzana, or apple, ale was a big surprise. My own personal mantra is that fruit does not belong in beer, but maybe this is because I've had a few bad experiences and therefore avoid fruit beers at all costs. When I first tried the beer, there was a faint apple flavor, but I was soon overwhelmed by the hops. If anything, the apple flavor is extremely subtle and dry. After drinking half a pint, I no longer even noticed the apple. My assumption was this was going to be a more alcoholic version of Manzana Lift, but instead, this was a very light but nicely hopped ale that was extremely refreshing on a hot day.

I had this Manzana Ale at Zazá in Colonia Condesa for 55 pesos/pint. Most of the Azteca beers I've had have been great, so even if they don't have this particular one, try another. (If you even find their Agave Ale, try it!). Zazà is located at Pachuca 1, and very close to Metro Chapultepec.

If anyone has more information on this brewery, please let me know in the comments.

UPDATE June 18, 2011: I had this beer again at Makena and it tasted extremely different. It had an overwhelming alcohol flavor, more hints of apple, slightly sour, and very lightly carbonated. It was pretty unpleasant.  I'm not sure why, but the lack of consistency across draft beers in the city is pretty common and very unfortunate.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Discos de Ayer

Discos de Ayer is a great little shop tucked away in an impossible to find location in the Centro Histórico. The two LPs featured here I bought from the owner of the shop on eBay, and then picked them up in person at the shop.

The first LP, El Ritual-s/t, is a classic rock group from Tijuana that was around in the early 70s. I don't know much about them, but this record was recorded in 1971. The LP I bought was a 1987 reissue. Their music is not particularly original, a little Deep Purple, a little Jethro Tull, and a lot of satanic imagery. If I was to pick one group most similar to them, it would be Black Widow (but Black Widow is much better). While not particularly original, I'm a sucker for these forgotten rock bands of the 70s and as far as rock mexicano goes, El Ritual was one of the better bands.

All the tracks are available on youtube:

1. Satanas
2. Peregrinación Satirica (Satanica?)
3. Groupie
4. Muerto e ido
5. Easy Woman
6. La tierra de que te hable
7. Bajo el sol y frente a Dios
8. Conspiración

The second LP I picked up from Discos de Ayer was the Silencio Nocturno LP by Next. Next is a Mexican thrash band that is still around, but this LP I got is from 1989 on the defunct Avanzada Metálica label. This is fairly crude thrash, somewhat along the lines of early Sepultura or Transmetal, but still pretty enjoyable. As far as thrash bands go, this band probably takes the cake for worst name and worst cover (they really couldn't come up with something better??), but don't let that put you off.

You can check out a few of the tracks on youtube, though I'm pretty sure some of these recordings are not the same as the LP:
Silencio Nocturno, El Juicio, Vamos a Escapar.

While I purchased these LPs on eBay through Discos de Ayer, they do have a decent selection of other rare Mexican rock LPs in the shop, plus your standard fare. Surprisingly, most of their LPs are in pretty great shape. If you are at all familiar with LP digging in Mexico, it is not easy to come across a place that cares about LP grading and prices accordingly. Last time I was there (which was several months ago), they had LPs from La Revolución de Emiliano Zapata and the Dug Dug´s. Obviously they were expensive, but if you are looking for those rare slabs of rock mexicano, this is the store to check out.

Discos de Ayer is located at Balderas 32, interior 209. It is pretty difficult to find if you don't know what you are looking for, and even google maps can't find it exactly. The store is on the east side of Balderas between Juarez and Independencia, between Fortes Donuts and Sanborn's Cafe. There is a sign that says Edificio Beaumont, which basically looks like an apartment building. Walk in, there will be a doorman, and tell them you are going to the record store ("voy a subir a la tienda de discos"). Go up the stairs to the segundo piso (the second floor in Mexican terminology, otherwise the third floor). Check out their website for more info. Discos de Ayer is open Monday through Friday, 9am to 3pm, 4pm to 8pm, and Saturdays 9am to 5:30pm. They just expanded their hours, so make sure to check their website before going in case they change again.

The best way to get there is get off at Metro/Metrobus Juarez and walk north on Balderas, or exit Metrobus Hidalgo and walk south on Balderas. If you go Monday through Saturday after 2pm, there are also a number of street stalls on Balderas between Independencia and Artículo 123 that sell records. I'll blog more about those stalls in the future, but they are worth digging through.

Cucapá Chupacabras

Cucapá Chupacabras Pale Ale

5.8% ABV

5 out of 5

Cucapá, based out of Mexicali, is hands down the best brewery in Mexico. Their Chupacabras Pale Ale has to be my favorite microbrew in the country, not only for its quality, but its versatility and price. It has a great full body with a nice golden color, a wonderful hoppy aroma and taste, with a slight malty finish. This beer works great with a meal, on its own, or as a session beer. It is also fairly easy to come by (relatively speaking of course). The Chupacabras pale ale generally runs around 25-30 pesos a bottle, which makes it my favorite local beer to keep a stock of at home. One could argue Cucapá's Runaway IPA or Lowrider Ale are better beers, but their high price means I rarely drink them.

A while back I was able to get several bottles of Chupacabras at my local Superama supermarket since they had a special display of the "100 Best Beers in the World." While their selection of beers certainly did not warrant the label, at least Minverva and Cucapá were handsomely represented. You would think supermarktes would get the picture that people want these beers, since all the local microbrews ran out in a few days (I know because I went everyday until they ran out!). Superama was stuck with a lot of very expensive Belgian and German imported beers, which they are now trying to get rid of on clearance. Several months after the fact they still have these imported beers, but no Minerva or Cucapá.

It is unlikely you will be able to regularly find the Chupacabras at a supermarket, but there are many other places to get your hands on it in the D.F. Chupacabras can be purchased for takeout at La Belga (for 27 pesos a bottle) and El Deposito (about 30 pesos a bottle), or you can sit down and drink a bottle at La Nacional (for 55 pesos) or El Deposito.

Getting to these locations:
El Deposito: Exit at Metro/Metrobus Patriotismo, Av. Baja California 375.
La Belga: Metrobus - Linea 1, Sonora stop; or Linea 3, Hospital General stop. Metro - Hospital General.  (You'll need a map to walk from these stops to La Belga)
La Nacional: Located right next door to La Belga, on the corner of Querétaro and Orizaba in Colonia Roma.

Minerva Imperial Tequila Ale

Minerva Imperial Tequila Ale

4 out of 5

I first found this beer at a local Superama while they had a special display for the "100 Best Beers in the World." While Superama should probably be held accountable for false advertising, I'm not complaining since they did introduce me to this wonderful beer from Minerva. Generally, I'm not typically impressed by Minerva's brews (see this previous post), but this Imperial Tequila Ale is definitely an exception.

I'm still puzzled by this beer, although I have had it several times now. When I first tried it, I had to tell all my beer enthusiast friends about it and I was completely enamored. Now, each time I drink it I want just a little bit more from it. It has a very light body, making it very easy to drink. But, I am always expecting it to be an imperial IPA aged in tequila oak barrels, not a mild ale aged in tequila barrels. Maybe it is because of the name. I love hops and I think some more hop flavor in this beer would make it spectacular. The tequila flavor is there, mostly in the finish, which to me is the best part of this beer. There is a lot of potential here, either for Minerva, or other brewers, to use tequila barrels to age their beers. Minerva´s ITA is definitely a good start, but I can imagine something better, which is why I've only given this beer a 4 out of 5. I´ve seen a picture of a beer made by Cucapá aged in tequila barrels but I've never yet seen it for sale in D.F. Hopefully I will be able to find one soon, as I can imagine Cucapá nails it. Still, Minerva's ITA comes highly recommended.

At Superama I paid 50 pesos a bottle for this, but good luck finding any at a Superama now. Luckily I stocked up and still have several bottles, but if you are looking to try it, you can find it for sale at El Deposito in Condesa for 70 pesos (takeout price). You can also order one to drink at El Deposito but I think it will cost you at least double, if not more. Unfortunately, La Belga doesn't carry this beer and I'm not sure why. I´ve asked them if they will get it in (since their prices are always a little lower than El Deposito), but so far I haven't seen it there for sale.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Minerva Pale Ale

Minerva Pale Ale
6% ABV

3 out of 5

Minerva, based out of Zapopan, Jalisco, is one of the bigger microbreweries in Mexico. Or at least I think they are big since their beers are fairly easy to find in the D.F. supermarkets.

Minerva beers are always a little disappointing. In general, the style of beer labeled on the bottle rarely comes close to what is inside. And, they tend to leave me with the impression that I'm drinking a typical Mexican lager but with more flavor. Every one of their beers I have sampled has a weak body, almost like they made a good beer and then watered it down. Is this on purpose? Since most Mexicans have only ever had cerveza clara o oscura, Minerva has the chance to become popular since their beers are not too far away from what most beer consumers already know.
Is this beer really a pale ale? There is a good aroma of hops (East Kent Golding hops according to the label), but the taste is very mild and it finishes very flat. On the bottle it says 2010 Gold Winner, English Style Mild Ale. I think that is about right. Definitely very drinkable and a good session beer, but if I want a top quality Mexican pale ale I´m going to stick with Cucapá's Chupacabras.

This particular bottle was purchased at a Superama for 19 pesos. One of the cheapest Mexican microbrews you will find and not all that bad for the price. You can also pick up this beer at El Deposito in Condesa, and La Belga in Roma for a few more pesos per bottle.

Getting to El Deposito: Exit at Metro/Metrobus Patriotismo.
Getting to La Belga: Metrobus - Linea 1, Sonora; or Linea 3, Hospital General. Metro - Hospital General. (You'll need a map to figure out how to walk from these stops to La Belga)

Jack Beer - Chocolate Imperial Stout

Jack Chocolate Imperial Stout
7.5% ABV

3 out of 5

This chocolate imperial stout is made by Cevercería Jack, which is based in Mexico City. I've had two different beers by this brewery (the other a brown ale) and their beers are definitely high quality, but the styles they produce are not my favorite types of beers to drink. This stout has a full body which one would hope to find in an imperial stout (but which is all too rare for most Mexican-made stouts). However, the chocolate flavor is a little overpowering, which for me means that I won't be drinking this beer all that often. Worth a try if you like chocolate in your beer, but I see this more as a novelty beer than something to drink regularly . Find more info about Jack Beer here, here, and here.

This beer is available for purchase at El Deposito in Colonia Condesa, Baja California 375. It cost 55 pesos to drink it at El Deposito, a fairly standard price for most cervezas artesanales. You can also buy bottles for takeout at a cheaper price.

How to get there: Metro/Metrobus Patriotismo.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Short list of bars and restaurants

Publimetro just put up an article on where to try cervezas artesanales in Mexico City (in Spanish). Some of these places I am familiar with, others I am not. Can't wait to check out some new spots!

I highly recommend La Nacional in Roma, where you can enjoy some bottled brews by Cucapá, as well as a large variety of other nationally made drinks like Mexican vodka (?). Zazá is also a great place. They only serve draft beers, primarily Tempus, Calavera, Cosaco and Azteca. However, since they only have beers on tap, and taps run out all the time here, it is really anyone's guess what they'll have available on any given day. They also make amazing pizzas at Zazá, so go hungry.

One comment on the article. At the beginning they state: "These national drinks are considered some of the best in the world for their aroma and variety." While Mexican microbrews need all the help they can get, this is a little over the top. Some of them are very good, some of them are very very bad. This industry is still in its infancy and they are bound to make a few missteps. Nevertheless, most of them are at least better than the beers produced by Modelo or Cuauhtémoc.

I'll reprint the list here (with the correct address for La Nacional, Publimetro got it wrong). I've divided up the places by colonia with the name of the place first, followed by the street address. I'm excited to check out the place in the Centro Histórico, since (in my somewhat limited experience) it is generally a wasteland for good food and drink.

Pujol, Petrarca 254
Jaso, Newton 88

Boca 21 Deli, Amsterdam 36-A
La Nacional, Querétaro esq. Orizaba
El Deposito, Av. Baja California 375
Makena, Tamaulipas 56.
Zazá, Pachuca 1 esq. Veracruz.

Centro Histórico:
Miralto, Madero 1, Piso 41 Torre Latinoamericana.

Barraca Valenciana, Monterrey 220.

Centenario 107, Centenario 107.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Introduction to the blog

I am an American academic living in Mexico City for the forseeable future. This blog is not about my job. Or my research. I spend way too much time on that already, and blogging about it seems like too much of a chore.

Instead, this blog is intended to be a travel guide for anyone coming into the city looking for vinyl records and locally made micro-brews. These are two of my passions, and while it may seem an odd combination, what's better than listening to a bunch of dusty old records and enjoying an IPA (or two) among friends?

Now that I live here full time, I've spent much of my free time exploring the city looking for new digging spots, and any place that serves Mexican-made microbrews. Since this information is hard to come by (even in Spanish), I have decided to put together in one place everything that I have found in my wanderings through the city.

I am certainly not a professional beer/music critic, I am just doing this for fun. Hopefully it serves a purpose for other travelers/locals that share my interests. I am always looking for new beers to try, new places to enjoy those beers and new digging spots for LPs. If you have any suggestions, please comment on any of the posts!