Saturday, July 30, 2011

Various Latin American Beers

From L to R: Barba Roja Stout (Argentina), Patricia Dunkel (Uruguay), Bucanero Fuerte (Cuba), Patagonia Pale Ale (Chile)
My experience with beer in other Latin American countries is similar to most traveler's experiences with beer in Mexico. If you are lucky you get a choice between clara and obscura, other times you get a choice between a light beer and an extra light beer. So, if I happen to find a beer in Mexico from another Latin American country that looks more interesting I won't hesitate to try it. I don't know if these beers in their own countries are considered cerveza artesanal or not since I've never had them in their country of origin, but they are all at least a step above the usual swill that passes for beer.

Barba Roja - I've only tried this stout from Barba Roja, but I've seen several other less appealing styles they make, like a pale ale with herbs and flowers. According to their website, they make 13 different styles but I've only seen three available in Mexico. (If someone knows where to find their smoked red ale, let me know!). This stout is a fairly standard stout, similar in body and flavor to a Sierra Nevada Stout. It is a little too light-bodied for me, but it is very drinkable and a well made beer. My local Superama has a special section dedicated to Argentine products, and that is where I found this beer. I haven't seen it available anywhere else, although there must be an Argentine restaurant somewhere in the city that serves this beer.

Patricia - Pictured above is a Patricia Dunkel, which I was not a big fan of. It is an ok brown ale, but much sweeter than I like. I've also had their porter and their lager. Patricia's porter is a really good beer and worth trying if you like porters. The lager is decent as well, although not particularly special. I've seen the porter and lager for sale for about 25 pesos a bottle at City Market in Colonia del Valle. The dunkel is available at the Beer Company in Coyoacán (along with the porter). If you happen across an Uruguayan restaurant in the city, you are also likely to find Patricia beers. I've found it available in Uruguayan restaurants in Colonia Narvarte and Condesa.

Bucanero - The Bucanero Fuerte from Cuba is a strong lager with 5.4%ABV. They also make an extra strong lager (Bucanero Max) with 6.5%ABV, but I have not seen it available anywhere in Mexico. I was pretty disappointed with this beer, it isn't much different from a Heineken, but with a slight sourness to it. I've seen Bucanero at The Beer Company and at La Belga.

Cerveza Austral - This Pale Ale from Chile is pretty awful for a pale ale. It is very malty, with almost no hops discernible in the nose or the taste. It is drinkable, but if you are expecting a pale ale this will be a serious letdown. I found this at The Beer Company, along with a few other styles from the same brewery which I am now unlikely to try.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Psicodencia - Cahui 7"

Front cover
Psicodencia were a fairly unique punk band from Mexico City in the 1990s. Prior to finding this record, I had not heard of the band, but the cover intrigued me and so I decided to pick it up. To my ears, Psicodencia's style is reminiscent of the 80s Chicago punk sound, especially some of the later records from the Effigies. They are slightly more experimental and complex than most punk bands I've heard from Mexico, which for me is a definite plus.

Rear cover
From the information I can find, they formed in 1990, went through a number of lineup changes, and then finally stopped playing in 1999. Their earliest release was the 5-track Cahui 7" that came out in 1990. In addition to the 7", they also released three compilation tracks, one each on each of the three volumes of the "El punk no está muerto" series. Psicodencia's final recording was a 13-track demo called "Evo" released around 1995. I like the 7" so much that I'd really like to get a copy of this Evo demo, but I'm guessing that will be pretty difficult.
 Check out the tracks on the Cahui 7" on youtube:
1. La gente sigue riendo
2. Cuanto me podrá costar?
3. Policía, no me dejas existir
4. 2-14, 3-28
5. Lárgate a tu tierra

You can also check out Psicodencia's compilation tracks from the "El punk no está muerto" series.
1. Q2 (Vol. 1)
2. Sol de kuwait (Vol. 2)
3. Monotonia (Vol. 3)

Finally, Psicodencia has an old myspace page up with a few tracks that I can only guess are from the Evo demo. Check out those tracks here.

I was lucky enough to find the Cahui 7" at Retroactivo Records.

Picador Pale Ale

Picador Pale Ale w/Ginger and Honey


0 out of 5

I really have no idea who produced this bottle-conditioned pale ale. It says on the bottle it was made by Guadalajara Beer Tour Ltd., which makes me think it was made for a special occasion and is not produced on a regular basis. That is a good thing, because this beer is really undrinkable. I would like to think that something went wrong in the production of the beer, and that someone did not knowingly bottle a beer so terrible. Imagine a Heineken that was really really sour. That is what this beer tastes like. There is no resemblance to any pale ale I have ever had. I could not tell if there were any hops in this beer at all. The ginger and honey are also completely unnoticeable. After suffering through a 1/3 of this beer, I poured the rest down the drain.

You are unlikely to find this beer in Mexico City. I found a bottle at the Beer Company in Coyoacán, but this may have been the last one.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Retroactivo Records

Retroactivo Records in Colonia Roma is the biggest record store I have been to in Mexico City (besides El Chopo). They have thousands of used records of all different genres, although most of their stock is rock and pop. Unlike some of the other record stores in the city that I have been to, Retroactivo also carries a small but decent selection of new records from mostly Mexican groups. They also manufacture vinyl, so for local bands looking to get some records pressed, Retroactivo might be a good option.

On my visit here, I picked up this 7-inch from local band, Los Explosivos. This record was released by Retroactivo Records. Mexico has a pretty large scene of garage and surf bands, and Los Explosivos are one of the better ones that I have come across. Check out the tracks on this record if you are interested.

Los Explosivos - mini rolanroll!!!
1. Bailando!!!
2. Lo que me exita...!!!
3. Moscas y arañas (originally by Los Negativos)
4. Creo que esto

Retroactivo Records is located at Jalapa 125, between Guanajuato and Chihuahua. The closest Metro stops are Insurgentes, Niños Heroes or Hospital General. You can also get here by Metrobus by getting off at the Alvaro Obregón stop on Linea 1, or the Jardín Pushkin stop on Linea 3. Just check out the map to figure out which stop is most convenient for you.

Cerveza Hanna - Jamaica Rubi

Cerveza Hanna Jamaica Rubi (Hibiscus Flower Ale)


2 out of 5

This beer is a little hard to review because it doesn't really taste like beer at all. Hibiscus flower water (agua de jamaica) is ubiquitous throughout Mexico City, but I have not seen anyone attempt to use it in an alcoholic beverage before. On its own, hibiscus flowers are really bitter so I thought it might make for an interesting addition to beer. I have no idea what else is in this ale, but the taste of hibiscus is overpowering. It is more like a fermented agua de jamaica than anything that resembles a beer. This is not necessarily a bad thing, so for someone that generally doesn't like the taste of beer, this might be more appealing. For readers familiar with kombucha, and especially kombucha made by GT, this beer by Cerveza Hanna tastes remarkably similar to their Trilogy or Cranberry flavors. For those that are not, just imagine carbonated agua de jamaica that is slightly pungent.  The color of the beer isn't quite as dark as agua de jamaica, it is more of a strawberry red. The beer is bottle-conditioned, and from my experience upon opening it, the makers added too much sugar because it exploded everywhere. While I only gave this beer a 2, it isn't particularly bad for what it is. If you want to try something unique then this beer is at least worth trying once.

I don't know anything about Cerveza Hanna. On the bottle it says this beer was produced for the Guadalajara Beer Tour, so I'm guessing they are located somewhere in Jalisco. I found this bottle at The Beer Company in Coyoacán, located at M.A. Quevedo 847, but I think it was the only one left at the store.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Graciela, Taller de Cerveza - Part 2

Last week I blogged about a new brewpub that just opened up in Colonía Roma, Graciela Taller de Cerveza. On my first visit, they only had a couple Tempus beers on tap but their menu did state they were going to have a draft pale ale in the future. Well, I just returned from there and their house draft beers are now available. They offer a blond ale, a brown ale, and a pale ale, none of which are available in bottles from Cervecería Primus, the owners of the bar. All three beers are excellent and I highly recommend trying them out. The pale ale is a solid English-style pale, the brown ale is slightly hoppy and very drinkable, and the blond is one of the best I've had from a Mexican craft brewer. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me, but that just gives me an excuse to return soon to take pictures and write up some more detailed reviews of these great new additions to the craft brew scene in Mexico City.

Red Pig Mexican Ale

Red Pig Amber/Pale Ale?


4 out of 5

This beer was very surprising. The brewer, Cervecería Mexicana, doesn't make the most exciting beers, and there is no description on the bottle that told me what to expect regarding this beer. A 4 out of 5 is a little generous, should be more like 3.5, but I don't want to start using fractions.

 Red Pig is a medium-bodied copper colored ale, pours with little head, and tastes like a slightly sweeter version of a pale ale. It is slightly caramely and pretty hoppy, but finishes dry and sort of flat. It is somewhat similar to the Minerva Pale Ale, but I think I prefer the Red Pig for its slightly more complex flavors. If this beer was slightly less watery and a bit more hoppy, this could be a really solid and interesting beer. I find this beer to be fairly drinkable and won't hesitate to drink it again if the price is right.

Red Pig is available at La Belga for 25 pesos/bottle.

Cerveza Rio Bravo

Rio Bravo Pilsner


3 out of 5

This is a decent pilsner. It is pretty boring, nothing really interesting to say about this beer. Its slightly bready and malty, easy to drink, pretty much what one expects from a pilsner. The Rio Bravo beers are certainly preferable over the national beers, but what they do is so close to the macro-brews that their beers just end up being kind of dull.

Rio Bravo Special Dark Beer Brown Ale


2 out of 5

This brown ale is light-bodied with slight caramel flavors, and is fairly easy to drink. But, it is just another boring brown ale that is only a step above the dark, vienna-style lagers from Bohemia, Negra Modelo, etc.

Both beers are produced by Cervecería Rio Bravo out of Tecate, B.C. Or is it Cervecería Mexicana? The bottle includes both names, so I'm guessing that both companies are the same. These beers cost around 25 pesos/bottle, and you can find them at La Belga and La Gran Vía. Last time I was at La Belga they only had the brown ale. I picked up the pilsner at La Gran Vía. I've also seem the brown ale at Liverpool before.

Minerva Diosa Blanca

 Minerva Diosa Blanca White Ale


3 out of 5

Minerva's white ale pours with little head. The beer itself is a pale yellow, slightly cloudy, and just lightly carbonated. It was very drinkable, had a fruity aroma and slightly fruity taste, but finishes dry and bitter. The Diosa Blanca is not the best example of a white ale, but certainly passable and I wouldn't mind drinking this again. Another example of Minerva transforming what could have been an amazing beer into something bland and boring.

I purchased this 660ml bottle at La Belga for 70 pesos. You can also find it at El Deposito.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cerveza Toro Mestizo con mezcal!

I am a big fan of the original Cerveza Toro, and they just announced a new beer made with mezcal! Toro is distributed in Mexico City by The Beer Company and The Beer Box, but I'm not sure they will have this beer in stock yet. The idea of mezcal with beer sounds really interesting to me so I hope some of the 1000 bottles they are producing make their way to D.F.

UPDATE JULY 21: Cerveza Toro told me that their new beer should be available at the Beer Company (in Coyoacán) in a "couple days." I'm going to head down there this weekend to see if I can get my hands on a few bottles of this mezcal beer.

Record Show in D.F. August 5th-7th

I don't know much about this other than what is on the flier, but I do plan on attending. If I find out more info before the show, I'll be sure to post it on the blog.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cerveza Colonial

Cerveza Colonial Brown Ale


4 out of 5

If I never have another cerveza obscura from Mexico, I would be perfectly happy. Every brewer here tries their hand at what in my opinion is an extremely boring style with little innovation. I was ready for more disappointment before cracking open this bottle of "Cerveza Colonial Black," but I was completely mistaken. Instead of the bland vienna-style lager, I was treated with a well-crafted brown ale that was medium-bodied with a very nutty flavor. Nut browns are not my favorite style of beer in general, but this brew produced by Cervecería Valladolid is high quality and worth trying if you happen to like brown ales.

I don't know anything about Cervecería Valladolid since I could not find any information online, nor is there anything on the bottle. The only thing I could find was a reference to two other beers produced by them: Cerveza Valladolid and Cerveza Bullshark. I definitely look forward to trying these other beers as soon as I can find them.

I found this bottle at The Beer Box.

Delicatessen La Gran Vía (Beer and Fashion)

 Beer and Fashion is primarily an online store where people can order cervezas artesanales and have them delivered to their door. While it is called Beer and Fashion, there is, as of yet,  no fashion to be found on their website. However, they have recently partnered with a small delicatessen near the center of Coyoacán to sell some of their beers. In addition to the partnership with La Gran Vía, Beer and Fashion also has another brick and mortar location in Colonía Prado Churobusco in Coyoacán which I have not yet visited.

La Gran Vía primarily sells cheese and pork products, plus a small selection of other foods like amaranth and chocolate. The beer selection is decent, with beers from Cucapá, Minerva, Rio Bravo, Ed Hardy, and Brew Dog, plus other imported beers from Germany, Belgium, Japan, and Canada.  To get a better idea of what is available, check out the Beer and Fashion online store. You should be able to find just about anything listed on the website at La Gran Vía. In addition to beer and food, you can also find glasses from national and international breweries, if you are looking to build up a collection or need a gift for a fellow cervecer@.

La Gran Vía is located at Higuera 48, a few blocks east of the Cathedral in downtown Coyoacán. From the plaza, look for La Guadalupana and just walk down the street next to it, which happens to be Higuera. The owner was very friendly so if you happen to be in Coyoacán and need to pick up some beers, I highly recommend checking this place out.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mexican Craft Brew: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly*

A few weeks ago, a homebrewer and beer aficionado from DC came down to Mexico City. In the short time we had, we sampled as many craft brews as possible. I asked him if he would be willing to write up something for the blog summarizing his impressions.  What follows is his response. - bicyclepirate

American craft beer lovers can’t help but snub their noses at Mexican beer.  Back in May, published a guest post for Cinco de Mayo that summed up this sentiment nicely.  I may be butchering the article’s pithy-ness, but it goes more or less like this: Mexican macro-beer-water is bad, Brooklyn Lager is delicious with Tex-Mex food, celebrate this more-American-than-Mexican-holiday with American craft beer.  While all of this may be sound advice (I do recommend reading the whole article), I have a different suggestion for fighting the “evil corporate juggernaut” that is Corona and co., drink a Mexican micro-brew instead.

Mexico now has a young and very small, but potentially exciting craft beer movement – think American beer in the 1980s.  A lot of them go very well with Mexican food without the blandness of the macros.  Guided entirely by this blog, here are some highlights, organized by brewery, of the Mexican craft brews I was able to taste in a week’s time.

The Good
Only available in a few select spots throughout Mexico City, Cucapa Brewing Company offered by far the best beer I had in Mexico.  Of their beers, the Green Card Barley Wine, Runaway IPA, and Chupacabras Pale Ale were all phenomenal.  These were also probably the most similar to the American craft beers that I’m familiar with, as Mexico’s brewers seem to be more inspired by European-style brews.  There’s nothing here that extreme-beer lovers would get excited about, but these are solid, drinkable, and unique enough tasting beers that if I had access to them in the US, I’d probably make them regulars.  The Green Card is sweet and caramel-y and apparently aged in Tequila barrels, though there is no mention of this on the bottle.  The Runaway IPA is not as strongly hopped as most American IPAs, but is a good mix between an English and American IPA (think somewhere between a Brooklyn EIPA and a Dark Horse Crooked Tree).  By far, I drank more Chupacabras than any other beer, as it was more widely available – so to speak, it’s still hard to find – think of a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but decidedly more bitter and with a little more body.  If you’re in the mood for something a bit lighter, look for their Honey Ale, it’s quite good as well. 

Even harder to find than Cucapa, but always worth it, were the keg-only beers from Azteca.  Apparently a rogue brewer from Mexico City’s Beer Factory, Azteca had a Kolsch, an Imperial Stout, and an Agave Ale on tap at a couple bars while I was in the city.  The Kolsch poured a bit cloudy, but it was a decent representation of the style, light with a bready finish.  The Imperial Stout wasn’t as big as say, a Yeti, but it was chocolatey and roasty without being over-powering.  While a little too watery for my tastes (this was a common trend in many of the beers I had), this was almost certainly the best stout I tried in Mexico.  The Agave Ale was my favorite Azteca beer.  It’s a refreshing, lightly hopped, deep amber colored beer.  The kicker is the addition of agave cactus, which gives it an intriguing vegetable aroma and a bit of sourness.  While this might not sound appealing to some, it’s really a well-balanced beer with the touch of unique “Mexican” flare that I found lacking in most of the other craft beers I tried.  I hope to see Mexican brewers produce more beers like this in the future.  I also look forward to trying their Manzana Ale.

Cerveza San Vicente only makes one beer, but after Cucapa and Azteca, it was among the best I had.  Claiming to be a Belgian Wit, I’d consider it more of a mix between a Wit and a Saison.  It has a light spiciness from the yeast and is flavored with cilantro and orange.  I could be wrong, but it seems to also have a healthy addition of East Kent Goldings hops.  While a bit fizzy, this beer was very well done.

Two other breweries that belong on the ‘good’ list, but are perhaps less exciting, are Cerveceria Minerva and Cerveceria Primus, which produces a beer called Tempus.  Both offer a selection of very decent, well done lighter beers that may just be what convinces the unassuming Groupo Modelo drinking majority that there’s something better out there.  These were also the two most widely available Mexican craft beers throughout Mexico City.  I recommend the Minerva Imperial Tequila Ale and the Tempus Doble Malta, a double Alt beer.  Primus also just opened a small brewpub in the city called Graciela, with what I think is a small 15-gallon brewing contraption.

The Bad
While I want to focus on the good Mexican craft beer has to offer, there are a couple unfortunate duds that I think, with a little more time, could eventually turn into something quite good.  While I only sampled two of the 6 or 7 beers available from Cervecería Calavera, I was sorely disappointed.  Focusing primarily on Belgian-style beers, Calavera makes an American Pale Ale that leaves much to be desired.  It’s the right amount of bitter, but it has almost none of the “abundant” Cascade hop aroma it claims to contain on the bottle, and is entirely too carbonated and watery to be anything beyond just drinkable.  More disappointing was the Mexican Imperial Stout.  I was excited to read on the bottle that it contained chilies and goes great with molé dishes, however, it pours way too transparent and tastes way too watery and astringently bitter to go well with any food.  Nevertheless, I support the spirit behind the idea of this beer, and wish Calavera all the best.

Beer Jack was another disappointment.  Better classified as a homebrewer with a license, Beer Jack is only available in a couple of places in Mexico City.  He has a Brown and a Chocolate Stout, both pour sludgy and more resemble wort than a finished beer.  The Brown could have promise with a few more tries, but the Chocolate Stout – please, use more chocolate malt and less Hershey’s chocolate syrup!  Interestingly, the brewer is also apparently a teetotaler.   

The Ugly
Unfortunately, when a craft beer scene is so small, the really bad ones still make it to market.  Stay away from Cervecería Hacienda and Ocozol!  Both seem to have a propensity for making beer styles that aren’t supposed to taste sour taste like Sour Patch Kids.

Granted, unless you live in San Diego or probably one or two other places in the Southwest, you’re not going to find any of these beers outside of Mexico, at least for now.  Here’s to drinking a Cucapa for some future Cinco de Mayo, and, of course, any other day you feel like “fighting the forces of the moneyed aristocracy,” or just drinking good craft beer.

*Above text written by kereva. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cucapá Obscura

Cucapá Obscura Brown Ale


2 out of 5

I love Cucapá. If given a choice among Mexican craft brewers, I'll pick their beers over any other. But, I do not love this beer. Cucapá's Obscura is little different than the myriad brown lagers that litter the Mexican landscape. It is light, watery, and very boring. The only thing that makes this better than a Bohemia Obscura or a León is that Cucapá's version has a more noticeable roasted flavor. But that is it. I'm being harsh because I know Cucapá can do better. For what it is, this beer is very drinkable. However, I would prefer to drink just about anything else.

You can find this beer at La Belga, El Deposito, The Beer Box, La Nacional, and Graciela.

Cerveza San Vicente

Cerveza San Vicente White Ale (Belgian Wit)


5 out of 5

Of all the Belgian-inspired Mexican craft brews I have tried, Cerveza San Vicente from Guadalajara is the cream of the crop. The brewers call it a Belgian Wit, but with the cilantro and orange added to the beer, the beer better resembles a Saison Ale. Not quite as good as Saison Dupont, but much better than some of the saisons I've had by the better American craft brewers such as Great Divide and Dogfish Head.

As you can see in the picture, this beer pours with an enormous amount of head. It has a wonderful spicy aroma, with noticeable, but not overpowering, wheat, orange, and coriander flavors. This beer is also extremely easy to drink and quite refreshing.

I have only seen this beer available at La Belga. This 750ml bottle cost 125 pesos and was well worth it. It seems that the makers of this beer only produce a small amount at a time, so if you want to try it, get over to La Belga asap.

Cervecería Hacienda

Catrina Red Ale, <7%ABV, 0 out of 5
Hidalgo Stout, <7%ABV, 0 out of 5
Jaguar Pale Ale, <7%ABV, 0 out of 5
Cervecería Hacienda made by Hacienda San Juan Pueblilla out of Hidalgo, produces three different beers, a red ale, a stout, and a pale ale. The best thing I can say about these beers is that they have really cool labels, and it seems other people agree. It may be that there was something wrong with the batch from which I drank these beers, but I sort of doubt it. In the Fall of 2010, I had tried the pale ale and the stout and remember them being rather unpleasant. For the sake of the blog, I decided to give these beers another shot. The stout and the red ale I drank in Oaxaca at El Olivo, the pale ale was purchased at La Belga in Mexico City. All three of these beers were incredibly sour, and did not even remotely resemble the style of beer. A pale ale without the taste of hops? check. A stout without the flavor of roasted malts? check. The red ale? I don't even know what they were attempting there.  The closest thing these beers resemble is a poor attempt at a home-brewed cider.

It is really unfortunate that these beers are completely undrinkable, I really wanted to like them. I'm a bid fan of Hidalgo state, and want to see some quality beer come out of there. Hopefully the brewers at Cervecería Hacienda spend some time on their recipe and engage in some serious quality control. My guess is that something is going wrong in the bottling process that is ruining the beer, but I could be wrong.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Graciela, Taller de Cerveza (Brew Pub)

Outside view of Graciela
 Graciela is a brand new brew pub that just opened up in Roma. It is owned by Cervecería Primus, the makers of Tempus beer. It is about time one of the local breweries did something like this!
Inside Graciela
 The inside of Graciela is really nice, there is a front room with a row of tables, a small bar, and then two back rooms with more tables. There is also the small brewing room pictured below where they are currently working on a brown ale.
 Since Graciela just opened, it doesn't seem like they have reached their full potential. They only had Tempus Doble Malta and Clásica on tap, but the menu mentions that there will be a pale ale. A Tempus Pale Ale? I can't wait to try it!
The bar, with twelve taps!
 The bar has space for 12 taps. What are they going to have? If they manage to keep all twelve operational at the same time, Graciela may become the beer bar of choice in Mexico City.
A half liter of Tempus Doble Malta
For their tap beers, you can order a half liter for 50 pesos, or a full liter for 100 pesos. They come in these enormous mugs, pictured above. In addition to the tap beers, you can ordered bottled beer from Cucapá, Minerva, Baja Brewing Company, Brew Dog, and a few other breweries. There is also a small menu with sandwiches, fries, and other non-Mexican inspired bar food.

Graciela is located at Orizaba 163, just south of Querétaro. La Nacional is right next door, along with La Belga, a new pulquería, and Bop! Records nearby. To get there, exit the Metrobus on Linea 1 at Sonora, or on Linea 3 at Hospital General and use the map to figure out how to get there. The metro stop Hospital General is also close by.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

El Olivo Bar in Oaxaca City

El Olivo Bar located in downtown Oaxaca is a neat little cocktail bar with a relaxed atmosphere. They have a wide variety of drinks and small snacks (like tapas, but not quite). Their beer selection is fairly interesting, although I preferred La Biznaga since they had Cucapá on their menu. On my visit, they had beers by Tempus, Hidalgo (Catrina Red Ale and the Stout), Calavera (the Pale Ale and the Mexican Imperial Stout), and Minerva. They also have a small selection of imported beers from Europe.

El Olivo is located at Francisco Murguía 218, near Reforma. The linked map doesn't seem exactly accurate, but you'll see the intersection close by. You can also follow them on twitter.

Upcoming Beer Fests in Mexico

July 15-17, 2011 in Queretaro, Qro.
July 15-16, 2011 in Tijuana, B.C.
August 5-6, 2011 in San Miguel de Allende, Gto.
September 1-3, 2011, Ciudad de México, D.F.
October 14-16, 2011, Guadalajara, Jal.

You can find more info about these festivals here or click on the individual links.

Monday, July 11, 2011

La Biznaga in Oaxaca City

Outside view of La Biznaga

La Biznaga is primarily a restaurant offering creative versions of traditional Oaxacan cuisine. According to the number of reviews of this place online, individual opinions of this place seem pretty polarized.  The service varies from awful to tolerable, some of the food seems overpriced, and most customers are foreigners.

Walking into La Biznaga
La Biznaga's Beer Menu
I've experienced all this, but the great thing about La Biznaga is their beer selection. I took a picture of their beer menu, which you can see above. They offer bottled beers from Cucapá, Calavera, Tempus, Minerva, and other Mexican craft brewers, draft beer from Cosaco, plus a wide variety of imported beers.

I like the food here just fine, but I found myself coming here more to have a beer (and a mezcal!), rather than to eat dinner.

The other interesting thing I learned is that the bartender (or owner?) makes his own beer called Cabuche. Unfortunately, there wasn't any available when I was in Oaxaca, but he told me that in about a month there would be some available. He's made a porter and a hefeweizen in the past. I almost want to go back to Oaxaca soon to try this beer!

La Biznaga is located at García Vigil 512 near Plaza Santo Domingo.

Metal Warriors in Oaxaca City

This blog is about records, beer, and Mexico City, but this post is about none of those things. I created the rules so I can break them right? Anyway, I spent a few days in Oaxaca City, and I thought I would share some of my finds that are relevant to the blog.

First up is this small little shop called Metal Warriors that is located just south of the Zocalo. It is mostly t-shirts and other metal paraphernalia, but the shop does have a small but well chosen selection of Mexican metal CDs, and a few cassettes. The owner of the shop, Edgar, was nice enough to talk to me for a while and play me several different discs of modern Mexican metal. One thing I have been trying to do while living in Mexico is learn more about some of the obscure bands that rarely get noticed. I found a couple CDs I had been looking for, and learned about a few others, which is material for a separate post. Edgar also organizes metal shows in Oaxaca, in case you happen to be there long term.

If you happen to go to Oaxaca City and like metal, check out the shop. It is located at Trujano 301, between J.P. Garcia and Diaz Ordaz.

Poe Brown Ale

Poe Brown Ale


3 out of 5

Cervecería Pública Condesa has been producing this brown ale since 2009. It is a decent example of a brown, although a little bland and watery for my tastes. It is certainly drinkable and much better than any cerveza obscura you are going to find by the two major companies in Mexico, but it is not the finest example of a brown.

The Poe had not been available for a while, but a new batch is now available for sale. You can drink it at Makena and El Deposito, or buy a bottle at La Belga.

Ocozol Tripa

Ocozol Tripa (Belgian Trippel?)


2 out of 5

I think this is supposed to be a Belgian Trippel, but it is unlike any Trippel I have ever had. There is the slight spiciness one expects from Belgian ales, but this beer is way too sweet. If you took a mediocre Belgian ale and poured a few packets of sugar in it, it would approximate this beer. Nevertheless, this is the most drinkable beer I have had from Ocozol and it is certainly not unpleasant. If they work on the recipe more they may end up with a solid Belgian Ale.

The Tripa is available on draft at Makena in a 10oz serving for 45 pesos, or a pint for 60 pesos.

Ocozol Porter Pimienta

Ocozol Porter with Black Pepper


0 out of 5

The picture says most of what needs to be said about this beer. It looks like a porter, but is extremely sour. The pepper is definitely apparent and makes the sourness all the more unbearable. Three people could not even drink half of this beer.

I wish the best for Ocozol, and applaud them for trying to make some interesting beers, but they really need to work on their recipe and their process.

The Ocozol Porter is available at El Deposito and Makena.

Azteca Agave Ale

Azteca Agave Ale


4 out of 5

This deep-red ale made with agave is probably one of the most unique beers I have sampled from the Mexican craft brew scene. The taste of agave is apparent, which gives it a slight sourness but also a strong vegetable flavor. The taste of vegetables may be off-putting to some, but I find this beer to be very drinkable.

I hope in the future more craft brewers like Azteca experiment within uniquely Mexican ingredients to create some truly original beers.

The first time I had the Agave Ale was back in the Fall of 2010, and then it disappeared until recently. I am glad to have it back, if only for a short while. Right now, you can find this on tap at Zazá and El Deposito.

Azteca Kolsch

Azteca Kolsch


4 out of 5

Cervecería Azteca rarely disappoints, and this Kolsch is no exception. It is a good, easy to drink light beer with a nice breadiness to it that isn't overpowering.

I have only seen this available on draft at El Deposito, though it may eventually be available at Zazá and Makena.

El Deposito World Beer Store

 I can't believe it has taken me this long to write something about El Deposito, one of the most important beer bars/stores in Mexico City. At El Deposito you can find nearly all the Mexican craft brews, a large selection of imported beers, and a constantly rotating selection of imported and Mexican craft brews on tap. What is also nice is that all the beers you can buy here for takeout are also available to drink at the bar, in case you want to spend an evening out sampling a variety of beers.

There are a couple downsides to El Deposito, which means I don't go as often as I would like. First, they have a small, but largely terrible selection of food. They do have popcorn, which is what I usually get when I come here, but if you are hungry, go somewhere else first. Second, this place is very expensive. Draft beers usually run anywhere from 60-120 pesos, and some of the bottled beers have a pretty steep markup if you want to drink them at the bar. Even buying beer for takeout here is more expensive than at La Belga.

On the weekends, this place is usually packed, so it doesn't seem like the prices are driving enough people away, and they typically do have several beers on draft that you won't find anywhere else. On this particular visit where I took the pictures, they had draft beer from Tempus, Cosaco, Ocozol and Azteca. On previous trips they have also had beer by Fuller's and Calavera. In addition to beer, you can also pick up some glasses from local and international breweries if you are looking for a souvenir.

El Deposito is located at Baja California 375 in Condesa. The easiest way to get there is from the Metro/Metrobus stop Patriotismo.

Cosaco Blond Ale

Cosaco Güera/Rubia/Clara Blond Ale


2 out of 5

This Blond Ale by Cosaco goes by many names, depending on where you find it. The first craft brew I ever had in Mexico City was a Cosaco, and so I have had their beers many many times. Cosaco was my gateway into the world of Mexican cervezas artesanales, so I definitely thank them for that, but now that I have had many other craft beers in D.F., I tend to avoid Cosaco beers primarily for their terrible inconsistency and off-putting flavors.

The Blond Ale is my favorite of the three Cosaco beers (Blond, Red, and Porter), but it is by no means refreshing. The breadiness is very extreme, almost like a liquified baguette. I do consider it fairly drinkable, but I wish they would work more on their recipe. The Blond is also much more consistent than the Porter or the Red Ale they produce.

If a bar or restaurant is going to have craft beers on tap in Mexico City, the most common beer you will find is Cosaco. To sample Cosaco, go to Lucille's, Zazá, or Makena. The Cosaco webpage also has an incomplete (and potentially out of date) list of other locations where Cosaco is available in Colonia Roma, Condesa, Portales, Coyoacán, and Mineral del Chico. The cheapest place I have found to drink Cosaco is Cafe Toscano (@45 pesos/pint), right on Plaza Rio de Janeiro in Roma Norte. The linked map says it is on the corner of Orizaba and Puebla, but that is not right. Cafe Toscano is right on the corner of Orizaba and the Plaza, the only cafe on the plaza. Cafe Toscano is within walking distance of Metro/Metrobus Insurgentes.

International #IPA Day, August 4th!

Coming soon, a worldwide celebration of the India Pale Ale! If you are in Mexico, August 4th will be the perfect day to track down and enjoy the Runaway IPA by Cucapá. Maybe this event will also serve as a catalyst for more craft brewers in Mexico to start making IPAs? I can only dream...

For more info on the worldwide event, check out the official site and Beer Advocate.

Cucapá Lowrider Ale

Cucapá Lowrider Double Rye Ale


5 out of 5

I love barley wines. However, they are often too strong to drink on a regular basis. The Lowrider Ale is a nice compromise when you don't feel like sipping on a single beer for a few hours. You get the body and flavor of a decent barley wine without the high alcohol content. This full-bodied copper colored ale is dry due to the rye, and tastefully hoppy. Cucapá definitely hit a grand slam with this beer. I do wish the rye flavor would come out more but that is certainly a minor complaint for this very well-crafted cerveza artesanal.

The Lowrider Ale is available in 650ml bottles for 120 pesos from La Belga.

Tijuana Güera

Tijuana Güera Pilsner


4 out of 5

Similar in style to most Mexican lagers, just done a whole lot better. Why drink a Bohemia when you can drink this?

The TJ Güera and Morena are also some of the cheapest craft beers you can find in the city. At Al Andar, you can drink these for 30 pesos a bottle. They are also available for 23 pesos a bottle at La Belga, and for more at El Deposito and Corazón de Maguey.

Tempus Reserva Especial

Tempus Reserva Especial Scottish Ale


3 out of 5

I took this particular photo at Lucille's in Colonia Roma. The Reserva Especial is sometimes called "Maple" depending on where you drink it (such as at Al Andar). Maple is a fitting name, because this golden-colored ale does have a pretty strong sweetness to it that resembles maple syrup. It also has a slight caramel flavor. I am not very familiar with Scottish Ales (the ones I have tried I didn't like), so I can't say much about how close this resembles that particular style. However, it is fairly drinkable. The sweetness makes it difficult to have more than one, but if I drink Tempus beers, it is a toss-up over whether I choose the Reserva Especial or the Doble Malta. Both beers are drinkable, but not particularly exciting. I look forward to the day Tempus branches out into other styles that are more appealing and original.

The Reserva Especial is slightly less available than the other Tempus beers, but still fairly easy to find. You can drink it at Lucille's in Roma or Al Andar in the Centro Histórico. You can buy a bottle at La Belga or El Deposito.

Cerveza Querétaro

Querétaro Amber Ale


2 out of 5

Cervecería Querétaro only makes this one Amber Ale. This medium-bodied ale is copper colored and cloudy, and has hints of vanilla and malt. It is a drinkable beer, but not great. The brewery does have potential though, so I look forward to any future beers they make or a new version of the Amber Ale.

Finding this beer in Mexico City is not easy. I found this bottle at the Beer Box for about 30 pesos, but I have not seen it available anywhere else for sale or to drink. 

Minerva Colonial

Minerva Colonial Kolsch


3 out of 5

The Minerva Colonial is a very decent light beer. It is easy to drink and has a nice bready and malty flavor. It reminds me a bit of a better quality Pacifico.The Colonial is not a particularly exciting beer, but certainly preferable over a beer made by the two giants of the Mexican beer industry.

You can find Minerva beers in many different places in the D.F., including supermarkets like Superama and Soriana. You can also pick this up for takeout at La Belga, El Deposito and The Beer Box, or drink it at El Deposito, Lucille's, and Corazón de Maguey.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cucapá Runaway IPA

Runaway India Pale Ale


5 out of 5

This is the best IPA made by a Mexican brewer, hands down. It has a nice golden hue, aromas of citrus and flowers, and a good amount of hops that is not overpowering. It is also a very drinkable IPA, especially compared to some of the more extreme IPAs made by American craft brewers.

You can find the Runaway IPA in a 650ml bottle for 120 pesos at La Belga. It is also available for slightly more at the Beer Box and El Deposito.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jack Brown Ale

Jack Brown (Porter?)

4.5 - 5.5% ABV?

1 out of 5

First, sorry for the blurry picture.

The Jack website considers this beer to be a porter, but it is much closer to a brown so I'm just going to call it a brown. There is no description on the bottle, hence the confusion. I've had this brown before and thought it to be a fairly good example of a brown ale. My most recent experience though with the beer was pretty bad. It had a very alcoholic taste, poured very muddy and cloudy, and really just tasted like bad homebrew. My guess is the Jack operation is very small and they do not make very consistent beers. The only time I had their Chocolate Stout I thought it was a well made beer, but this attempt at drinking the brown is making me rethink trying Jack beers again.

You can try Jack at Al Andar in the Centro Histórico, and at Casa Azul (a pizza place), El Deposito, and Frankfurt in the Condesa.

Cucapá La Migra Winter Imperial Stout

Migra Imperial Stout (Winter 2010-2011)


3 out of 5

This imperial stout by Cucapá is made with oatmeal and Oaxacan chocolate. The chocolate gives it a very bitter taste. It is a little too weak-bodied to be a solid imperial stout, but it is still a good beer. There is also a nice hint of hops that complements the bitterness from the chocolate.

I have never seen this for sale in the store, but I did recently find it at Al Andar in the Centro Histórico. My guess it is out of season and no longer available, but for some reason Al Andar has several bottles. This 650ml bottle cost 180 pesos, which is a little too pricey for a stout that is not very well made.