My passion for beer is rivaled by only a couple of other interests. You want to sit with me sometime and discuss ice hockey, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., roller coasters or the state of real rock ‘n’ roll, better clear your schedule. Now, if you want to get an earful on the only subject to which beer occasionally takes a back seat, ask me about food.
Food, like good beer, should be a tactile and gustatory adventure. Above all else, provided it’s not a fusion hybrid of style, it should remain as authentic as possible to its roots.
I’ve long held the opinion that ethnic food that’s been widely available in America for more than the last 20 years is the most mutated away from proper. The Chinese and Italian choices found most anywhere are highly-Americanized imposters of how good, fresh, region-specific and diverse those cuisines should be.
Conversely, Vietnamese and Indian remain authentic because we don’t have this weird, collective preconception of how we’d rather see it made. The food of those two countries began to really find a seat at the table after many Americans were being turned on to the notion that food could be more than just something to stave off hunger. Curiosity led to understanding led to acceptance. Yet we’re still okay with gluey, pseudo-Chinese and every Italian menu needlessly touting Chicken Parmesan?
Nothing angers me more than the rabid proliferation of “gringo” Mexican. When an entire nation’s edible history is based upon fresh ingredients, slow braising and making do with very little, how is it we have what we have now? Hear me now: ground beef is NOT to be found anywhere in Mexico unless you’re making a burger. Where’s the Machaca, the Carne Seca? Where’s the peasant food that’s main staple? I actually saw chilaquiles – fried tortilla mixed with sauce – on a menu recently. When I tried to order it, the waitress – from Mexico – actually asked me what that was!
Ugh. Dried, flavorless, mealy, over-cooked ground beef dished out fast on a piping-hot, oven-kept plate with runny refried beans and neon-green “mockamole.” I could keep going about the most criminal of offenders in Pensacola but I have to digress back to beer at some point.
Just as we need to challenge what’s to be expected of Mexican food, so too with Mexican beer. Craft brewing is beginning to take off there and Cerveza Berber is leading the way. One of Mexico’s largest craft brewers, Berber started in 2010 to show that there’s more to Latino beer than watery lager that relies upon a wedge of lime for flavor.
Berber Stout reminds me of a good Molè Sauce; deepest dark brown with intense, slowly-developed flavors and scents. The beer contains notes of chocolate and coffee with dried dark fruit and a subtle, earthy quality. Lactose creaminess is present here, too, providing a sweet undercurrent with touches of molasses, leather and licorice.
Think I’ll grab a couple of cans of this stout, head up to Taco Mex (Corner of 29 and 9 Mile Road) and get some Barbacoa and Lengua tacos to go. Real Mexican beer and food together is a beautiful thing.