Saturday, September 21, 2019

Bluejacket's Mexican Radio

The lyrics go something like this, "I feel a hot wind on my shoulder / A touch of the world that is older / Turn the switch and check the number."  If you can imagine Stan Ridgeway singing those words, then you would have the opening to the 1982 hit, Mexican Radio by Wall of Vooodoo.  The song was inspired by the unregulated Mexican AM stations

Those lyrics went through my head when I first encountered the Mexican Radio beer brewed by Bluejacket Brewery in Washington, D.C. The Mexican Radio is a sweet stout, brewed with not only oats and milk sugar, but also ancho chile peppers, vanilla beans, cinnamon and cacao nibs. In other words, it is brewed in the style of a chile beer. In some respects this beer is a lot like the song, an offering inspired by a "style" of beers that is not very well regulated.

There is a Beer Certification Judge Program ("BCJP"), which has extensive notes about different styles of beer: what they should look like, what their aroma should smell like, what are the expected taste elements of the beer.  When it comes to a chile beer, the most the BCJP has to offer in terms of guidelines is "30A. Spice, Herb or Vegetable Beer" or "SHV Beer."  This category does not provide much in the way of guidelines, leaving the style open for interpretation and experimentation.

I have reviewed quite a few chile beers in the past (because they are one of my favorite beer styles). These beers include 5 Rabbits' 5 Vultures, New Belgium's Cocoa Mole, Ska Brewing's Mole Stout, New Holland's El Mole Ocho, and both Stone Brewing's Crime and Punishment.  There are common threads in these beers.  First, the beer either is a variation of a pre-existing beer, that is, a beer already brewed but now with chiles added (like the Stone beers) or it is a new beer usually based on a preexisting style, such as a stout.  Second, the chile typically used in the beer is the ancho chile or chipotle chile, probably because of the heat and smoke characteristics of the peppers.  When it is a new beer, the brewing typically includes other spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, cacao, etc.

Bluejacket's Mexican Radio stands as one of the best, if not the best, chile beer that I have ever had.  I had it a couple times when I ate at The Arsenal in Washington, D.C. However, Bluejacket now has a tasting room adjacent to the restaurant and four packs of the beer are available for carry out. 

The Mexican Radio pours a pitch black, which one would expect with any stout.  However, unlike some stouts, the beer does not have a viscous appearance, having a medium body that is masked (perhaps Lucha Libre style) by a thin cinnamon-colored foam.  The aromatic elements suggest some of the ingredients other than the chiles, such as the vanilla and cinnamon.  The sweetness of the oats and milk sugar help to soften the aromas.  As one sips the beer, the ancho chiles make their presence known upfront, but the taste is rounded out by the cinnamon and the cacao nibs.  The vanilla and the milk sugars round out the flavor, providing a softness that blunts a little of the heat from the chiles.  Overall, the Mexican Radio presents perhaps the most balanced chile beer that I have ever had. 

With an ABV of 8%, the Mexican Radio is a very drinkable beer, that is best experienced while sitting and relaxing on one's deck. The beer has limited availability, either at the Arsenal restaurant or the adjoining taproom.  If I recall correctly, it sells for about $15.99 for a four pack.  Until next time ...


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