American Craft Beer Comes to Mexico

Carmen Beer CoWhen you think of Mexican beer, light lagers like Corona, Pacifico, and Negro Modelo probably come to mind. But American-style craft beer also has been gaining market-share for years. With 60 million potential customers and $20 billion in annual revenue, the Mexican beer market is an appealing target.

Some U.S.-made stouts, ales and other hearty beers currently are imported to Mexico. Most full-flavored microbrews, however, are being produced by local breweries.

As best anyone can tell, the craft brew trend began in the mid-1990s. Which brewer came first is unclear. Some say it was Pepe y Joe’s brewpub in Mazatlán. Others point to Cerveza Cosaco microbrewery in Hidalgo or Cervecería San Angel in Mexico City.

Small brewers got a boost in 2013 when the Mexican Federal Competition Committee banned some of the most egregious protectionist practices of big brewers. No longer would the big boys be permitted to lock bars and retailers into exclusivity agreements that shut out smaller competitors. Starting a small brewery in Mexico remains a challenge, but perhaps 300 of them have sprung up.

Continue reading “American Craft Beer Comes to Mexico”

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Taking a Vacation from Hop-Bomb Beers

riegele-doppelbock-hell
Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar

Do I like America’s hoppy ales? Absolutely.

I had my first one maybe 20 years ago. I can’t for the life of me recall what brew it was—a Sierra Nevada? An ale produced by one of my home brewing friends?

Regardless, the flavor was a revelation. My palate was so used to the thin, flaccid, weak lagers that were omnipresent in our great nation. This pale ale or India Pale Ale boomed in my mouth. It offered both malt sweetness and a florid, crisp finish.

Clearly, I was not the only American who was impressed. Highly hopped brews moved from brewpubs and beer-geek shops to groceries and the corner bar. And, America being the competitive place that it is, these brews got hoppier and hoppier. Making the bitterest beer possible became a point of pride for brewers, and a way to grab media attention. The hop shark was jumped a five years ago when Ontario’s Flying Monkeys claimed it had produced a 2,500 IBU ale. A Budweiser contains about 10 IBU, and more than a few online sources note the human palate has trouble discerning differences above a 100 or so IBU. Even Dogfish Brewery, which make some very fine and intriguing ales, not long ago touted Hoo Lawd, which scored 658 International Bitter Units (IBU).

These days, hoppy beers end up in my glass more often than not. In part, that’s because the eateries I go to tend to offer a bipolar beer menu—Coors, Miller, and the like, and lots of big ales, with maybe a few stouts and such. Chain grocery stores also stock these two extremes of beer heavily, along with shandy and fruit beers that little appeal.

So, I was delighted when an unexpected package arrived the other week carrying Riegele beers from Augsburg, Germany. The Wall Street Journal has reported that some brewmeisters are rebelling against German government rules limiting how brews may be made. I, however, am glad to see German breweries continue to make beers that taste, well, like a grain-based drink.

Riegele Commerzienrat Privat is a disarmingly simple Dortmunder brew. This dark straw colored drink has nearly no head, is slightly sweet, and slips from creamy (on the sip) to dry (on the gulp). Riegele Speziator Doppelbock Hell (a Maibock/Helles bock) is a little darker, and tastes very different. It’s more viscous, more malty, and weighs in at 8.5 percent alcohol by volume. Riegele Augustus Weizen Doppelbock is a foamy mouthful. It is loaded with malt and shows the crazy wheat beer notes of banana and raisin.

Don’t get me wrong—I’ll enjoy hopped ales until the day I die. But taking a vacation via the beers of Germany has been very invigorating.

(This piece also was published by the American Spectator.)

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Grand Teton Brewing Gose, Pisco Porton, La Caravedo Pisco, Fos Liqueur, and Stolen Smoked Rum

pisco-portonThere is something very satisfying about having a go-to drink. After a long day of work and kid care, a glass of whiskey is very welcome. The Kosar house bourbons include Four Roses Small BatchBuffalo Trace, Weller 12-year (and Special Reserve), and Woodford Reserve. Big bottles of Bulleit and Old Forester can be had for a song, and are oh-so worth it. My preferred Tennessee firewater is George Dickel — the 8-year, usually, and the 12-year if I feel like I’ve earned it.

And don’t get me started on the glories of gin. Plymouth martini’s, Beefeater gin and tonics… these are the drinks that make the gloaming bright. And we are in the golden age of gin.

Some days, however, I want something different, something that will throw a screwball at my palate and brain. So I roam, and crack open things that make my brain think “Whaaaat?” look or give me an unsettled, nervous feeling.

Starting this bibacious journey, I aim for something light — Gose (pronounced Goes-uh). This German-style of beer features can be hard to find in the U.S.A. It’s a strange brew, that is made with a lot of wheat and is both salty and tart. (Most beers tend toward the bitter side of the flavor spectrum, with America’s mega-IPA’s being the bitterest of them all.) Fortunately, Grand Teton Brewing of Idaho produces a delicious Gose. It is spiced with coriander, which tops off the riot of flavors.

Moving right along to the potent stuff, Pisco began pouring into America in the past decade. It is the South American cross between brandy and grappa. Like brandy, Pisco is wine distilled into spirit; like grappa, Pisco usually is not aged. Pisco Porton is very fine brand, that offers up slightly sweet and herbal heat. La Caravedo is another Pisco worth a look — it is lighter, dryer, and gentler than Porton.

Wandering further into white spirits, we come to Fos, a Greek liqueur made from the mastiha tree sap. This is one of the stranger drinks I have ever tasted, and I say that as a compliment. The nose is surreal — it smells like bark, and in the mouth the hooch has a light sweetness that is utterly dissonant from the aroma. A sip of Fos takes your taste into a whole new realm of possibility.

Closing out this trip into unusual drinks, we go dark. Flavored rums are plentiful these days, and Stolen Smoked Rum is a recent and wild addition to the bunch. Rum from the Caribbean (Trinidad?) is aged in whiskey casks, then injected with coffee, vanilla, and Moroccan fenugreek (a clover-like herb found in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Indian subcontinent. That fenugreek is used to increase maternal milk supply and constipation is a confounding discovery). This liquor floods the mouth and head with intense flavors, the Arabica coffee notes being the most intense. Mixed with lime and ginger beer, it makes a robust Dark and Stormy.

Variety is the spice of life, and thanks to globalism and the dynamism of capitalism tipplers have more drinks to explore than ever.

(This post first appeared on the American Spectator.)

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Bamberg, Germany Has 9 Breweries and Only 70,000 Residents

Bamberg Germany wikiBamberg, Germany sounds like a great place to visit for beer lovers. It’s located in northern Bavaria, and has gorgeous buildings that date 700 years back. And 9 breweries. Beer served from wood casks? Yep, Bamberg has it, along with rare seasonal brews.

Learn more from Will Hawkes’ fine piece on Bamberg beers at https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/bamberg-germany-a-city-of-just-70000-people-but-nine-breweries/2016/03/24/8aef46d0-eb9b-11e5-bc08-3e03a5b41910_story.html

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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Right with Irish Drinks Old and New

Photo: Knockheen Hills
Photo: Knockeen Hills

Some years ago, I lived in New York and had two friends recently arrived from Ireland. Neither of them thought well of America’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Considering the tsunami of green garb and schlock, Siobhan asked bemusedly, “What does any of this have to do with Ireland?” Dermot was less generous. “If I see another f****** shamrock, I’m going to kill someone.” Neither wanted anything to do with the raucous Manhattan parade or hordes of sodden boys and girls with clovers painted on their cheeks.

That does not, however, mean one should hide inside and pretend it is not March 17. It is what it is, and one should embrace this spring-heralding holiday.

To this end, there are some very basic don’t and do’s for having a decent St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t affect an Irish accent. Don’t say “lassie” or, god forbid, “Begorrah.” Suppress the temptation to put on an emerald green plastic derby, or hang a cardboard cut-out Leprechaun on your wall or window. And, perhaps most critically of all, don’t get stupid drunk. It’s embarrassing. Continue reading “Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Right with Irish Drinks Old and New”

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Tonight’s Tipple: Grand Teton Brewing Company Black Cauldron Imperial Stout

Source: AlcoholReviews.com
Source: AlcoholReviews.com

Grand Teton of Victor, Idaho makes terrific beers. This stout is another one of their “cellar reserves.” It serves up sweet chocolate and roasted notes. Black Cauldron is a really rich brew, a meal unto itself, and a real delight on a cool night. Anyone who enjoys big stouts (like Brooklyn Chocolate Stout and Mackeson XXX) will really dig this beer. (Rating: Excellent)

Read more about it at http://www.grandtetonbrewing.com/BCIS.html.

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