This is the time of year where I normally tie a beer in with Halloween festivities. Not this year. Instead, I thought we’d discuss another ancient ceremony growing in popularity that happens to fall on this week – Dia de los Muertos.
Mexico’s Day of the Dead has roots in both sides of her anthropology. The native Aztecs observed a month-long remembrance of ancestors past for an entire month in what is now modern August. After the Spanish explorers began to settle the country their European religious celebrations came with them. What had begun as Celtic harvest festivals was Christianized into a Triduum – religious observances lasting three days – of All Hallow’s Eve/Hallowmass, All-Saint’s Day and All Souls Day.
Day of the Dead isn’t a morbid revelry. Rather, it is a festive occasion to remember the departed and reflect upon the evanescence of life. In Mexico, November 1 is dedicated to the deceased children and November 2 is reserved for adults. Dia de los Muertos is more of a wake than a funeral. Despite tragedy or heartbreak, families use the holiday to remember everything that was good of the dead person’s life.
I think that it’s the imagery of Day of the Dead that captivates Americans. From the bright Marigold flowers to the intricate altars, the holiday becomes a study in large-scale decoration and small details. The most enduring of the images is the sugar skull.
There’s something about the human skull that either attracts, mystifies, scares or repels us all. After all, we all have one but we never get to see it. The idea of the skull can be seen as a symbol of mortality or a reminder of the life still inside of you.
Sugar skulls are so imaginatively painted and artistic that people are now getting them tattooed on their bodies, placing them on their mantles at home and painting their faces in replica – a further blurring of the lines between the living and the dead.
Rogue Dead Guy Ale has been a mainstaple selection on the Hopjacks tapwall since day one owing to its curious name and high drinkability. It, too, being themed after Dio de los Muertos, is a hybrid beer utilizing the brewery’s proprietary Pacman ale yeast in a German maibock; top-fermented lager, in other words.
Honey amber in color and sporting a quickly-receding milk-white head, Dead Guy has lovely scents of caramel malt, apricot, faint walnut and Hawaiian bread. A slight grassy noble hop bite helps keep the big, nutty, fruity malt in check; flavors of toffee, vanilla, tropical fruit and bread crust at play here. The creamy-slick texture gives up some nice carbonation and finishes easy.
With its ale/lager dual identity, Dead Guy mirrors the life/death aspects of Day of the Dead like few other beers can.