Saturday, June 16, 2012

5 Rabbits 5 Vultures

5 Rabbit Brewery boasts of being the first Latin American micro-brewery in the United States.  According to their website, they approach the brewing of beer with a "Latin style."  So, that got me to thinking, what is the history of brewing beer in Latin America.  

The one Latin American country with the most well known history of brewing beer is Mexico.  Every store that sells beer has Mexican beers on its shelves.  Corona, Modelo, Dos Equis and, if it is a little more expansive, may some Bohemia or Carta Blanca.  I had always thought that the brewing of beer was spurred by German immigrants.  However, I was fascinated to learn that the basic process brewing beer -- brewing a grain based beverage -- predated not only the German immigrants, but the Spanish Conquistadors.  

Both the Maya and the Aztecs brewed grain based beverages.  In These indigenous peoples used what was most readily available to them ... corn.   In what the northern part of modern day Mexico, the indigenous peoples brewed a beverage known as tesgüino or izquiate.  It was a light amber-colored beverage that had to be whisked before drinking.  Some people still make tesgüino today in Sonora and Chihuahua.  By contrast, in modern day central and southern Mexico, the people brewed another beer-type beverage, pozol, is brewed with corn and cocoa beans in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Tabasco. Other ingredients, such as honey and chile peppers can be used in the making of pozol.  

Although they are not brewing pozol, 5 Rabbits draws its inspiration from Oaxaca for a beer, aptly called 5 Vulture.  The brewer describes the beer as a "Oaxacan-Style Dark Ale."  The one thing that 5 Vultures shares with Oaxacan pozol is the use of chiles.  5 Rabbit Brewery uses roasted ancho chiles, along with some brown sugar, to brew this the 5 Vulture.

The brewer describes the beer as being an "amber colored with caramel aromas and toasted sugar notices ad a long, elegant spicy finish."  The beer is reddish brown in color, a little darker than amber.  Its aromatic elements do include a little caramel, along with other flavors one would expect from a malt-driven beer.  The use of the roasted ancho chiles is supposed to add depth and complexity to the beers, without the heat or strong chile flavors.  The ancho is clearly present in the taste of the beer and it lingers long after each sip.  In this regard, ancho chiles are prefect for a beer because they do not have a lot of piquancy (they have between 1,000 and 1,500 Scoville Heat Units, which is relatively little when one considers that an average jalapeno can have up to 5,000 SHUs).  The ancho chile flavors are carried on a light pilsner-style body, which was a little lighter than what I expected for a dark ale, and those flavors were tamed a little by the sweetness from the brown sugar.   .

Finally, as I have noted for other Oaxacan style mole beers, such as New Holland's El Mole Ocho and New Belgium's Ole Mole, these beers can be paired with chicken dishes, red meat and dark chocolate.  The 5 Vultures would also pair very well with any kind of chile.  The heat and smoke flavors of the roasted ancho chiles would complement the flavors of any vegetarian or meat chili.

5 Rabbit is a brewery based in Chicago, Illinois and, if you are in the Chicagoland area, you can probably find their beers.  I have not seen any of their beers in the stores around where I live. Hopefully that will change in the future. 


For more on the history of brewing in Mexico, check out MexInsider and Wikipedia.

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