Month: March 2017

A Craft Beer from Mexico

With well over 200 microbreweries in the country, craft (or “Artesenal”) beer in Mexico is officially a thing.

Of course, when most people think of Mexican beer, they don’t exactly think of the bold flavors craft beer is known for.  And there’s a reason for that.

According to The Oxford Companion to Beer, historically, the Mexican beer industry has been greatly influenced by German and Austrian immigrates who started breweries in Mexico during the short-lived reign of Austrian-born Mexican Emperor Maximiliano I (1864-1867).1

As a matter of fact, you might have even heard of at least one popular Austrian-style beer produced in Mexico today… That’s right, Dos Equis Amber Lager is actually an example of a Vienna Lager.

And while most of the mass-produced commercial Mexican brands of beer reflect the near-flavorless macro beers of their neighbors to the north, a country that was also greatly influenced by Lager-centric German brewers, thankfully Mexican craft breweries have taken a foothold and are beginning to offer the Mexican palate what it demands of its food: flavor.

One such Mexican craft brewery is Agua Mala.  The name “agua mala” is perhaps a bit of a playful pun as it literally translates from Spanish as “bad water” (potentially referring to Mexico’s reputation for its less than safe drinking water), but is also slang for “jellyfish”.

And it’s the jellyfish, along with other marine life, that is the theme of this sea-side brewery in Ensenada, Mexico, the first “legal” brewery in Ensenada as the brewery points out.  (As a bonus for X-Files fans, “Agua Mala” is also the title of episode 13, season 6 of the series which features a jellyfish-like monster that attempts to breed with the residents in a small Florida town.)

What began as a homebrewing adventure for one marine biologist grew into a craft brewery that boasts a variety of different beer styles in its range including an English Bitter, Belgian Wit, American Pale Ale, IPA, Amber, Oatmeal Stout, and even a Christmas beer. (Not to mention a craft cider as well.)

Our pick was the Mako Pale Ale, named after the fastest species of shark in the world.

Mako Pale Ale – Agua Mala

Mako Pale Ale - Agua Mala

The Gist: A pretty spot-on take on an American Pale ale with excellent clarity and exciting juicy papaya hop components in an impressively clean beer. Craziest of all? The brewer was able to cram so much flavor into such a sessionable 3.4% ABV beer- Odelay México!  Additional props go to this detailed-oriented brewery for adding such label info as the beer’s OG (original gravity), IBUs (bitterness) and SRM (color)!  And at least on the bottles we sampled, there were pricing gun labels noting the bottling date and ‘Best By’ date.

Mako Pale Ale - Agua Mala

Description: Mako Pale ale pours a ½ inch of slowly fading frothy antique white head over a nearly crystal clear orange-copper body.  The aroma tempts the palate with notes of juicy papaya, light honey graham cracker, agave nectar, hop resin, star fruit, green apple candy ring, and a dash of salt. The flavor tracks the aroma closely leading with juicy papaya and sugared grapefruit which are tempered by a white pepper hop tanginess, and concludes with a mild grapefruit bitterness in this slightly viscous brew.

How to say “cheers” in Spanish: “¡Salud!” (Literally “Health”).

[1. Oliver, Garrett. The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. 583. Print.]


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Hi, I’m Dan: Co-Founder and Beer Editor for BeerSyndicate.com, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter.

A Craft Beer from Israel

Israel boasts about 60 breweries, one of which is The Malka Brewery located in the northern “kibbutz” of Yehiam/Yehi’am (population approx. 600), about 14 miles south of the Lebanese border.

By the way, a traditional communal “kibbutz” (literally “gathering” in Hebrew) is a kind of Zionist democratic community that functions as an equalized cooperative where no matter what kind of job a person has, goods and services are distributed to the community based on individual need.  Property, including housing, is communal to an extent as it is owned by the kibbutz, not the individual.

The first small kibbutz, Degania Alef, was established by Jewish settlers in 1909 in Palestine (modern-day Israel).  These early kibbutzim (plural of kibbutz) were agricultural collectives, but eventually other industries were added to the mix including beer.

Today, less than 3% of Israel’s population live in kibbutzim which are typically located in rural areas, but kibbutzim produce about 40% of the country’s agriculture.

So does this mean that a brewery located on a kibbutz like the Malka Brewery operates in some kind of socialist utopia?

Not exactly.

It turns out that as of 2010, the majority of the 270 kibbutzim have given way to more capitalistic ideas and chosen to privatize (often out of necessity) , including kibbutz Yehiam where the Malka Brewery sits.

Even the very first kibbutz that started it all back in 1909 eventually privatized in 2007 which means no more assigned jobs and no more equal pay for different kinds of jobs.  Instead, members (called kibbutzniks) have to find their own jobs, live on their own income and are allowed to buy their own houses.  It also often means employers on a kibbutz can offer jobs to non-kibbutzniks, providing more flexibility and talent to the business.

Founded in 2006, the Malka (Hebrew for “queen”) Brewery is located at the base of the Yehiam Fortress, a hilltop castle built by the Crusaders in the 12th century, and features an impressive patio view of the Sea of Galilee off in the distance to the west.  The brewery first started distribution to the U.S. in 2013 and is available in at least a dozen states.

Malka Pale Ale

Malka Pale Ale

The Gist:  This is a must-try beer simply for its unique flavor-profile. Really only a Pale ale in appearance, this brew stands out for its dazzling fresh-ground coriander character, and would make for a deadly krav maga assassin in the spiced-beer category of any brewing competition. It’s one of those rare unexpected beers for those who think they’ve seen it all. Absolutely intriguing.

Description: Malka Pale Ale pours a finger of frothy light tan head of moderate persistence revealing a hazy reddish-copper body beneath.  The aroma is instantly and unmistakably fresh-ground coriander, followed up by hints of dried hibiscus flowers, honey and Spree candy.  Flavor-wise, coriander is first to the party, providing a Pop Rocks tingle with a slight tanginess in this lightly malty sweet beer.  Not far behind is an entourage of taste impressions including Apple Jacks cereal, passion fruit soda, orange-blossom water, and very slight star anise.  This pleasantly memorable brew finishes dry with notes of (you guessed it) coriander, dry stems and all.

How to say “cheers” in Hebrew: L’chaim. Pronounced “La Hime” means “to your health”.


Like this post?  Well, thanks- we appreciate you!  

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Want to read more beer inspired thoughts?  Come back any time, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter:

Or feel free to drop me a line at: dan@beersyndicate.com

Hi, I’m Dan: Co-Founder and Beer Editor for BeerSyndicate.com, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter.

A Craft Beer from Iceland

Ah, IcelandVikings, the Aurora Borealis, Björk, fermented shark snacks and a 74-year prohibition on beer that lasted from Jan. 1, 1915 to March, 1, 1989 (also known as “Beer Day”). To be fair though, from 1935-1989 the prohibition was only against “strong beer”, or any beer at or above 2.25% ABV.

Needless to say, the craft beer movement in Iceland was off to a bit of a late start, but is catching up quickly.  As of this writing, there are about 14 total breweries in a country of about 330,000 people.

One such brewery is Einstök Ölgerð, or the Einstök Beer Company, located just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle in the fishing port of Akureyri, Iceland.  It’s there, according to the brewery, where the water flows from rain and prehistoric glaciers down the Hlíðarfjall Mountain and through ancient lava fields, delivering the purest water on Earth, and the perfect foundation for brewing deliciously refreshing craft ales.

With production starting in 2011, Einstök (translated as “unique”) now sees distribution in 14 states in the U.S., and is available in 14 countries around the world.  So far, the brewery is living up to its slogan of Drink. Conquer. Repeat.

DREKKTU. SIGRADU. ENDURTAKTU!

[Drink. Conquer. Repeat!]

The Viking-branded brewery produces beer in a range of styles including a Belgian White, Pale ale, Doppelbock, Wee Heavy, a fruit beer, and a Porter.

Our pick from the lot is Einstök’s multi-award winning Icelandic Toasted Porter, brewed with a slight addition of authentic Icelandic roasted coffee.

Einstök’s Icelandic Toasted Porter

Icelandic Toasted Porter

The Gist: An absolutely lovely porter with moderate chocolaty-sweet character and medium-high body.

Icelandic Toasted Porter - Einstök Beer Company

Description: This dark porter develops a thick finger of creamy ochre head that slowly recedes over a cold brew coffee-colored beer, leaving behind swaths of elegant lacing inside the glass. The aroma is suggestive of chocolate wafer cookies, chocolate waffles, light vanilla, Turbinado sugar, molasses, dark wheat bread, red grape skin, purple crayon, and as the name implies, the malt character is more toasted than roasted. The flavor offers impressions of Swiss Miss Coco, praline cookie, and a bit of hazelnut balanced by a medium-low coffee tannic bitterness, with an aftertaste of roasted malt and baker’s chocolate.

How to Say “Cheers” in Icelandic

Skál.  Pronounced “Sk-owl”, the word is directly related to the other Scandinavian words for cheers “Skål” (Swedish, Danish and Norwegian).  Myth has it that the word “Skål/Skál” as a toast is related to the word “skull” and originates with the Vikings who would supposedly drink mead from the skulls of their enemies.  As bad-ass as that might be, it’s not likely the case (spoiler alert: there’s also no evidence that the Vikings wore horned helmets… Sorry Minnesota).

As it turns out, in all Scandinavian languages, the word “Skål/Skál” also means “bowl” (or container) and is etymologically related to the word “shell” more so than “skull”.  The “shell” in this case refers to a cup made from a shell, and is derived from the Proto-Germanic word “skelo”.  The word first appears in Scottish English, and may have been connected to the visit of King James VI of Scotland to Denmark in 1589.  It’s suggested that the word was meant to encourage people to empty (drink) a bowl in somebody’s honor.

Skál!


Like this post?  Well, thanks- we appreciate you!  

Want to leave a comment below or Tweet this?  Much obliged!

Want to read more beer inspired thoughts?  Come back any time, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter:

Or feel free to drop me a line at: dan@beersyndicate.com

Hi, I’m Dan: Co-Founder and Beer Editor for BeerSyndicate.com, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter.

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