When most people think about Mexican beer, Corona -- an uninspired lager usually garnished with a lime -- comes to mind. Now the Cucapa Brewing Company of Baja California, Mexico, proves that good beer can be made south of the border.
When most people think about Mexican beer, Corona -- an uninspired lager usually garnished with a lime -- comes to mind.
But the Cucapa Brewing Company of Baja California, Mexico, proves that good beer can be made south of the border.
Cucapa has been brewing beer since 2002 when they opened a small brewpub.
The brewery shut down the brewpubs in 2007 and became a full-production brewery, and they have been garnering international awards ever since.
Cucapa CEO Mario Garcia was named a "Beer Innovator to Watch" in the September/October issue of Draft magazine.
Cucapa's main beers are Cucapa Honey, Cucapa Obscura and the Chupacabras Pale Ale.
All three beers are packaged in 22-ounce bottles.
The Cucapa Honey is an American blonde ale flavored with honey and this beer is all about that - both in aroma and in taste.
Whenever a brewer adds such a sweet flavoring to the beer, it has a chance to dominate it. But the Cucapa Honey is not overwhelming to the point of being too sweet. Rather, the honey is a good complement to the beer. The sweet malts also come through, and there is a bready yeast flavor to it.
There is almost no hop presence in this beer, used only to balance the sweetness.
Blonde ales are typically light and work well as summertime beers. This one is no different, but the addition of honey gives it a step up over most blonde ales, which tend to be on the bland side.
The low alcohol -- 4.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) -- is also perfect. A 22-ounce bottle can be split between two people, or, because the ABV is low enough, drinking a bottle by yourself is not a problem.
Cucapa Honey also won a gold medal at the Beverage Institute's World Beer Championships in 2007.
Obscura is a 4.5 percent ABV brown ale. It's the best of the three Cucapa beers available. There are lots of flavors going on in this beer.
There's some nuttiness, mixed with a sweet chocolate flavor from the malts, mixed with caramel and toffee. None of the flavors seem like additives, rather, they come naturally from the malts.
Despite all of the flavors, it does not over-stimulate your tastebuds. Obscura is actually quite pleasant to drink. It does not end up overly sweet like many poorly done brown ales tend to be.
Like the Honey Ale, Obscura has almost no hop flavor at all, which is spot on for the style.
This beer drinks a lot "bigger" or higher in alcohol, than it really is. It has the body of a much higher ABV beer.
It's a perfect after-dinner drink. It could also go well with some sweet desserts like a chocolate cake or caramel flan.
If you're a hop lover, the Chupacabras Pale Ale is the beer for you.
It's at the upper level of bitterness for pale ales. I'm not sure exactly what hops are used, but there seems to be both citrus and earthy flavors derived from them.
The beer also has some spiciness to it, particularly some pepper.
The malt backbone adds some burnt toffee flavor and a hint of chocolate, which is unusual for pale ales. It somehow works.
The Chupacabras also has my vote for one of the best labels on a beer bottle today. The Chupacabras is a mythical beast that is said to suck the blood out of goats and other farm animals.
The label features a shadowy, monstrous figure, representing the Chupacabras.
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail email@example.com or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/