Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lost all hope

This is a serving tray I got at the Tuesday market

I've pretty much given up on trying to get malted barley in Mexico. I've done innumerable internet searches, questioned everyone I've met in San Miguel, sent e-mail inquiries to Mexican breweries and NADA. The other day while waiting at the counter at the local pizzeria, I asked the owner/Italian/ex-patriot if he knew anything. "No," he says "but if anyone in San Miguel can help you it would be Enselmo, the head chef down at Bella Italian Resturant. So, with the new hope of positive info I set off for 'Enselmo'. Enslemo is a small man with a tall white chef hat fussing away in the kitchen of Bella Italian. He is kind and patient enough to entertain my questions. He was indeed very knowledgeable and hopeful even claiming to have brewed himself back in Italy for the Octoberfest. Unfortunately, he assured me that malted barley was not to be had in Mexico. "No one uses it except to make beer and only the big companies make beer, so you see, you won't find it anywhere." He looked at me sympathetically but insistent.
Now, as a final option, I must consider bringing down grain or malt extract when we return next year. This means I need to find out what fees I will need to pay at the boarder and whether it will be to much to afford for my personal consumption much less profitable production.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ready to leave

My brew sculpture on Whidbey, I miss it

Well, I'm about to wrap up here in San Miguel de Allende and head back to the States. I've boxed up what little beer making equipment I want to return with and all but a few of the homebrews are left to drink. I have saved a couple to take back to the mescalaria when the owner and his partner are around. They are suppose to be in town today or tomorrow and will be bringing with them a list of all the material suppliers. I am hopeful that that list will have a malted barley wholesaler on it. In the mean time, I am feeling complete here and ready to get back to work at earning money. There is something about work that gives my life a sense of purpose. I would like to get past that need for meaning but for now it's what I have and so I have to use it. I am also excited about firming up my commitments with a couple of colleges that I have proposed teaching brewing at and also re-connecting with old friends. We leave for Mexico city on the 28th for a few days before our flight back and I look forward to the search for micro-brews and maybe beer making ingredients. It is hard to imagine a city as large as Mexico city without a homebrew store.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

mezcal la botica

There's a little place on Calle Umaran called the Mezcaleria La Botica. It's two blocks down from the Jardin (central plaza) and easy to miss if you walk too fast. It has no sign to call your attention. The owner, Mauricio, swings opens a couple of sagging wooden doors around five in the evening exposing a small quiet room with a half dozen metal tables with folding chairs that have the Corona emblem embossed on backs, gratis I suppose because of the advertising. The cluster together on the black and white tiled floor in front of a standing bar that runs the length of the back wall. The bar separates the customers from a wide selection of mezcal, some of which is displayed in small, squat clear bottles that you can purchase and take home. They are lined up neatly across several glass shelves. Below, large bottles of the same are mounted to the wall for dispensing shots to drink on the premises. Mauricio is a friendly outgoing guy that becomes quite animated when he's on the subject of mezcal. He passionately describes the process of brewing and distilling the alcohol of the agave. I share his enthusiasm by sharing my brewing experiences, with Susan as interpreter and my growing comprehension of spanish we come to understand each other. He was very interested in tasting the beer I have been making down here, especially the batch with the meil de agave as a minor ingredient. At the time we first discussed brewing, the 'meil de agave pale ale' was still in the fermenter, but I promised to return with samples.

The day arrived when our schedule allowed Susan and I to go back to share. When we first entered La Botica there were a couple of guys hanging out and Mauricio quickly introduced them as partners in the local 'Slow Food' movement in Mexico. One made and distributed a liquor made from the fruit of the nopal cactus and the other, Luis, is an organic farmer. Along with Mauricio's bar hand, we all settled in to taste my beer. I brought a bottle from my first batch of beer in which I used a kilo of the local honey, in addition to the beer made with the agave. Mauricio was overwhelmed with the flavors of both, and each person expressed approval although the bitterness was more than they were used to in beer. They like the flavor and mouth feel and concluded that it would was a hit. Luis may be able to find my source of malted barley, he said he would do some searching. And, they would like me to use organic ingredients and join the Slow Food movement here in San Miguel with them. The beer would be a perfect addition.

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