Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cerveceria Alquimia Beer Review

One of the greatest challenges I'm finding as I grow my small brewery is consistency in the product. Producing beer of high quality that tastes, smells, looks and feels the same from batch to batch keeps me vigilant in my efforts.

The grain bill is easy because I have access to all I need, but the hop schedule sometimes has to change occasionally because of the difficulty in getting hops here. So, I find myself adapting recipes based on what I have on hand at the time. The same can be true of yeast. But the hardest part of staying consistent for me is that I can no longer experiment with my beers like I've done in the past as a homebrewer. I like changing up the yeast for instance to see what the results are simply to try something new that could possibly 'wow' me.

Case in point. In the recent past I'd been brewing my Belgian Tripel for sale here which is quite popular. I always use my favorite tripel yeast Whitelabs WLP500. I've been making this beer for years and it's one of my favorite styles. Well, I just happen to have a pouch of Wyeast's Trappist high gravity 3787 and with the spirit of experimentation and to satisfy my need as a brewer to change things up, I pitched it in one batch. After aging and going to market it quickly came to my attention that the usual customers that were selling the tripel at their restaurants and stores were unhappy with the new beer. "Where's the original tripel you were making?" they'd ask. "We liked it, and our customers are confused by the taste of this new one. It's not the same."
As a person that has tasted a lot of beers and in particular the Belgian Tripel ,I happen to really enjoy what Wyeast brought to this classic style and was ready to switch permanently to this new yeast. I ended up going back to the WLP500 for the sake of satisfied consumers but only because I agreed with them that it is a great beer to begin with.

Another hurtle is getting the carbon dioxide level the same for each keg. I'm force carbonating and can normally get close to where I want the volume of pressure but it can vary and I'll end up with bottles that vary. I don't like this. This brings me to the point.

In Mexico, where the craft beer movement is in it's infancy and breweries are small, the normal procedure is to bottle condition the finished product. Since a lot of the 'professional' brewers here are new to brewing they make some common mistakes that often times lead to over-carbonated bottles of beer. The beer is either under attenuated when the bottling sugar is added and or gets infected with a spoiling bacteria. Often, an otherwise decent beer is ruined by gushing out of the bottle, stirring up the yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle and if any beer is left to drink it detracts from the flavor by stinging the palette with a harsh co2 mouthfeel.

Alquimia Scotish ale

A couple weeks ago I sampled two beers by Cerveceria Alquimia (alchemy), another commendable attempt by a Mexican craft brewer that comes up short. I don't like to start a review like that but there are more criticisms than praise for Cerveceria Alquimia. I received a couple of their beers from my friend Antonio at The Beer Company here in San Miguel. From what I can gather, Cerveceria Alquimia was started in 2011 and is currently brewed in Hidalgo where they boast of using only natural ingredients (I don't know what un-natural ingredients they decided against but there you have it). They feature a selection of classic styles of beer including an Alt, what they're calling a Nut Brown ale, Scottish ale (spelled with one 't') and Porter. I tasted the latter two starting with the Scottish ale.

I just have to say up front that drinking their Scotish(sp) ale was not a pleasant experience. No offence Alquimia but the bottle I had was tart and sour, two components that I never want to taste in a Scottish ale. The aroma was of mildew and locker room sweat. The beer lacked carbonation and the head fell flat almost immediately. Maybe I got a bad bottle from this batch, it's hard to imagine all of their Scottish ales are in this condition and continue to sell but in any case, I didn't like it at all.

On the up side, the Porter was better considering this beer was extremely over carbonated. I could tell this was the case even before opening since the cap was bent up into a dome shape ready to give up it's grip. I took it to the sink to open it and it continued to foam over  and down the drain until half the content of the bottle was gone. It's a shame too because the beer was flavorful and enjoyable. Malty and rich with a hint of smoked malt and burnt sugar. A good dark amber/black color and lingering head. Naturally, still a bit bright on the tongue because of the high level of carbonation but over all I enjoyed the beer.

I still remain optimistic about the Mexican craft beer movement. I just think that these new breed of brewers need a few more years of brewing experience and access to more of the great beers of the world to compare their attempts to. As the market in Mexico opens up, there should be more opportunities for that to happen.

If you want to find out more about this brewery don't bother with their website because it's still under construction but you can go here to visit their facebook page. Cheers!

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