Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

May 1, 2014 at 9:35am

Cinco de Crafto: My search for Mexican craft beer in Tacoma

Connecticut-based Drinks Americas imports Cerveceria Minerva's Day of the Dead beer to a couple local beer stores.

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"Cinco de Mayo," Spanish for "the sink is full of mayonnaise." OK, not really. I made that up, which is only fitting, because the idea that May 5 is a big holiday celebrated throughout Mexico is also made up. This yarn was spun by some PR hack for Corona beer back in the '80s, when the company was looking for a way to get Americans to drink more beer.

Since this is not an especially hard task, they didn't work especially hard on the idea, not even hard enough to note that Mexico's real Day of Independence is Sept. 16. Cinco de Mayo commemorates The Battle of Puebla, where Mexicans defeated the French army, and in Mexico is mostly a regional holiday. Ordinarily, Americans don't cotton to anyone except Oliver Stone replacing facts with fabrications, but in this case, with beer consumption at stake, we were more than willing to overlook a little lie.

So here we are, decades later, stuffing our faces with nachos (another American invention) and toasting each other with mugs of Corona as we celebrate the truly American tradition of making up holidays to boost sales.

Holy mole! Why celebrate the fake holiday by drinking tasteless beer? It's the perfect opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture and drink Mexican craft beer.  Mexico's beer market is the 5th largest in the world by volume: 1.77 billion gallons per year to be exact. Certainly beer-loving Tacoma has a few Mexican craft beer bottles ready for Monday's holiday.

OK, a little research proves grabbing a craft beer created South of the Border might be a challenge. Apparently, of those billions of gallons that are exported - 58 percent of it is Anheuser Busch (Modelo, Corona, Dos Equis) and 41 percent of it is Heineken (Tecate, Sol) - (divide number x by number y, then multiply by 100) that leaves a mere one percent for other Mexican brewers, fighting for space on shelves and taps.

I'm still up for the challenge.

Let's start at the top. One of the biggest Cinco de Mayo parties in the South Sound is held annually at Masa. Once again, the Sixth Avenue hip house of street tacos will host its annual 6-pound burrito-eating contest with $300 cash prize money. I'm going to sip Mexican craft beers, dance my ass off to DJs on two different floors, and kick it for The Electric Approach at 7 p.m. That's right, a live band at Masa, with Smoke Perkins and the Filthy Falcons opening.

But wait, bartender Bandito Betty says Masa, as well as neighboring sister bar Engine House No. 9, doesn't carry cervezas artesanales. Corona, Victoria and dos Equis are the options.

OK, that's cool. To continue my quest to find craft beers brewed in Mexico, I'll burst through Tacoma Boys Sixth Avenue store, rambling about how uncool it was of the San Patricio Brigade's Irish-American soldiers to desert to fight for Mexico in the Mexican-American War, while searching for Donna Herren, señorita beer/wine manager. I'll grab a barleywine from Cucapa and a Mexican imperial stout from Cerveceria Minerva and watch the sun set. OK, those beers aren't on the shelves, but Tacoma Boys does carry the Day of the Dead Mexican craft beer line. I discovered the DOA IPA buried in the store's vast wall of chilled beer. I'll grab a sixer of the 6.8 percent, American IPA-style beer and salute the eventual destruction of the San Patricio Brigade. Of note, Tacoma Boys also carries Azteca Chili Devil lager from Tecate, Mexico. It actually has a note of chili.

According to Time magazine, Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest avocado-eating day of the year in the United States. The first largest day is Cinco de Mayo. So it's off to the Mexican grocery store I go to find avocados and Mexican craft beer. La Huerta 2 International Market at 56th and Pacific Avenue in Tacoma is my go-to for Mexican ingredients - and tasty tacos. As you learned during the Tournament of Tacos, this medium-sized grocery store has a restaurant embedded in the back. Certainly this joint will sell a Tempus Doble Malta or a brown ale Cucapa Obsura. Oh, absurda. Only traditional Mexican lagers are in the coolers. Good news, though. You can grab a 40 of Tecate, Corona and several other faves. Just remember to get a paper bag, or it'll slip right out of your hand.

What have I been thinking? BevMo to the rescue, right? The California-based liquor chain, famous for its well-lit, aesthetically friendly stores with quotes on its walls extolling drinking, has to have Mexican craft beers. I'll stroll in, recounting spurious encounters with Mexican quasi-celebs - "You guys know I drank with Antigua at the Baby Rock club in Tijuana, right? - then snatch a price check on Bucefalo Imperial Stout. BevNo! While it does have lime-favored beer salt and tiny colorful ponchos to warm the necks of beers, Bohemia lager, which did win a gold medal at the 2005 L.A. County Fair, is the closest to Mexican craft you can get at the giant store off 38th Street by Costco. No. Stop it. Costco doesn't have any either.

What to do, what to do, what to do? Bam! El Toro. Ruben Arias left Cuautla, Jalisco for the States in 1970 and opened the first El Toro in Lakewood in 1979. Oh, man, I'll toast him with a La Lupulosa Pale Ale and sing a teary, off-key rendition of "La Cu-ca-ra-cha" to the large room of regulars. Nada. Well, not nothing. El Toro carries all the popular Mexican lagers. Every one of them. But, not a Mexican craft brew. The same can be said for The Matador.

Cost Plus World Market, of course! It's the freakin' one-stop gift shop for flavors around the world. Chipotle ground coffee, Chocolate liquor bottles, raisin-studded bread cylinders from Italy - the awesome store close to the Tacoma Mall has to sell a box full of craft Beers From Around Tijuana. Well, it does have a very lovely, tall display of "Fiesta-Ready Foods."

I'm going to get my Speedy Gonzalez on and hit beer stores Pint Defiance in Fircrest, The Copper Door in the Stadium District and 99 Bottles in Federal Way. I'll be the fastest mouse in all May-hee-co, though that's not too big a feat, since every other Mexican mouse is evidently a shiftless layabout doused in tequila (or as the bottles down there are alternately labeled, "XXX"). Anyway, Pint Defiance and Copper Door came up gringo. However, 99 Bottles carries the Day of the Dead and Mexicali lager beers, as well as the pilsner-style lager Modelo Especial. Speedy may be a real go-getter, but he does still find time to put the moves on your see-ster. I have no idea what that means.

I walked out of Trader Joe's, threw down my Mariners cap and did the "Jarabe Tapatio" (that's Mexican Hat Dance, Einstein) on top of the cap, deservedly.

The beer shelves at Metropolitan Market and Stadium Thriftway were also bare of Mexican craft beers.

Looks as if my Mexican craft beer fueled celebration of the Mexicans' victory over the French will have to be held in my backyard with either a receipt from Tacoma Boys or 99 Bottles in my back pocket. That's cool. I'll pour a bag of Tostitos in a colorful bowl and call it good. What? Frito-Lay invented them in 1978? Grrrrr.

BEER HERE

Thursday, May 1

The Powerhouse Restaurant and Brewery in Puyallup has released its Anniversary IPA made with Simcoe and Amarillo hops from Yakima. Kick back on its deck and sip this citrusy brew, along with its in-house brewed Spring Saison. The Powerhouse is at 454 E. Main St.

Saturday, May 3

Wingman Brewers of Tacoma will be pouring its Mighty HighPA during the Mighty High reggae band's set at Doyle's Public House, 208 St. Helens Ave. The free show kicks off at 9:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 8

Now in its sixth year, Seattle Beer Week is more than 100 beery events from May 8 through 18. Who cares? Pint Defiance does. The beer store/taproom on the edge of Fircrest will celebrate the Seattle event by tapping 26 Washington beers, in intervals, during the duration. Pint Defiance will issue a special punch card. Drink all 26 and earn a limited edition shirt as proof of your status as a veteran beer marathoner. Start stretching and stay hydrated with your favorite electrolyte-enhanced beverage, because you won't want to hit the wall during this once-a-year-event. Check out its Facebook page for more details: facebook.com/PintDefiance.

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