I met up with Mauricio at the Mezcal Botique http://labotica.com.mx/on Calle Umaran and sampled a shot or two of the wares when he handed me a can of Pulque !la Lucha! For those that don't know, pulque is naturally fermented maguey or agave juice. It's non-distilled and is 6% abv. This is a traditional drink in Mexico that dates back to the 'Classic' period in Mexican history or 150 years B.C. to 700 A.D. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulque
Bacteria, not yeast is used in fermentation. I'm not exactly sure what type of bacteria is used to ferment the juice of the maguey but, in traditional pulque, a muñeca ("doll") was used - a rag or sock filled with human feces dipped in to start the fermentation process. www.nicks.com.au/index.aspx?link_id=76.1261
On a higher note, pulque became a very important element in Mexican society such that it has elevated the maguey to mythical heights. In fact, some believe that the starburst pattern behind the Virgin of Guadalupe is the leaf pattern of the maguey. The fermented and distilled agave juice is mezcal, and if it is strictly the 'blue agave', distilled in the Tequilla region, and at government appointed distilleries, then it is considered 'Tequila'. Kinda like champagne is made in Champagne France and when produced elsewhere would be considered simply 'sparking wine'.
Pulquerias were, and still are in some small rural communities a popular 'men only' drinking establishment with quirky names like "the celebrating monkeys", and "why do I laugh". Often blended with fruit to make it more palatable, it is called 'curado' or curing.
Pulque La Lucha is made in Hidalgo, Mexico by Distrubuidora International de Pulque and imported by Boulder Imports boulder Imports Pulque is meant to be drunk very fresh and doesn't keep well beyond a few days of fermentation, and I noticed on the can of Pulque La Lucha that the product has been pasturized, no doubt this is necessary for a fresh tasting pulque. (Go here for a look at fresh Pulque for sale at the Tianguis).
I shook the can well as instructed and poured a portion into my glass. The appearance is milky and obscure with almost no carbonation and no head. It had an unusual aroma that can only be discribed as halitosis and the flavor I would describe as a blend of tooth decay and burning hair. Not pleasant.
I've heard that you can get the agave juice down at the open air market for cheap. I thought that I would try boiling some up with some centennial hops and ferment with Safale us05 yeast (instead of the questionable wild yeasts and bacteria) to see if it is possible to make this traditionally awful tasting bebida into something I'd enjoy. It's hard to say if something that tastes so bad to begin with can be salvaged simply with hops. I suspect it will take much more.