Back in April I wrote an article in Beer Paper LA about Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider and how their mad scientist owner Nat West has been unleashing his incredibly unique beverages on the LA market since the fall last year. His ciders – everything from hopped apricot ciders to uber-tart cherry ciders that mimic just about everything that a kriek should be – seem to speak directly to the hearts of beer geeks and its always exciting to see a new bottle hit the shelves.
Back in Portland, his creations dig even deeper, including a carrot cider backsweetened with carrot honey and what appears to be an in-process batch of fermented milk. While I’m not really holding out for that one, I was quite excited to hear about Nat’s current limited entry to the Los Angeles’ market – a fermented pineapple beverage called Tepache! Based on a traditional mexican drink, West ferments fresh pineapples (which he gets from his second cousin’s Costa Rican farm) with Mexican piloncillo (cane sugar) and other spices to produce a low alcohol (3.2% abv) elixir. The drink alone still has quite a bit of residual sugar and is rich with tropical sweetness heightened by the added sugar and spices. By itself its a bit much, reminiscent of an overripe fruit with a dash of cinnamon, but when Tepache is blended with a craft beer it becomes a unique and refreshing summer beverage. For the last few months, Reverend Nat has been promoting the beverage on twitter with the #1000Tepaches hashtag – highlighting how versatile the drink can be and how many combinations drinkers can create.
Unfamiliar with Tepache myself, I thought the best way to acquaint myself was to dive in and do a 5 beer tasting with some of my favorite local (and one Texan) breweries and see how well they mixed with this Mexican-inspired drink.
Barley Forge Brewing – Grandpa Tractor (Dortmunder Lager)
This German-style lager from Costa Mesa’s Barley Forge is one of my new favorite beers. Its light bodied, has a beautifully crisp noble character with a lovely dry, spicy finish. Adding about 1/3 Tepache brings a blast of tropical sweetness to the lighter beer and adds quite a bit to the body. The piloncillo and spices threaten to overwhelm the crisp and subtle characters in the lager, but a gentle touch on the Tepache can help turn this lovely lager into the perfect drink for a Taco Tuesday.Throw something in there to turn up the heat and you’ve got a full-on party in a glass.
Golden Road Brewing – Ride On (IPA)
As a big tropical hop fan, I was excited to see how the Tepache would meld with a fruit forward IPA. Ride On is the newest label from Golden Road and a solid everyday drinker with some great citrus and tropical fruit character. Unfortunately, the sweetness of the Tepache completely drowns out the dry body and destroys all of the brightness in the hops. If I was to do a Golden Road pairing again, I would choose something with a bit more body, like their 20/20 IPA or something more crisp like 329 Lager.
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. – Danish Red Lager (Vienna Lager)
Originally I had grabbed a can of Fig Mountain’s 101 Kolsch but was worried it would be redundant given I was also blending the lager from Barley Forge. Instead, I opted for this vienna lager that gives you a big exposion of nutty malts with a hint of caramel and toffee. The Tepache really highlights the sweetness in the malt in a way I wasn’t expecting and it retains that earthy/nutty character quite well. There’s an acidity from the pineapple that really becomes the star of this blend though, and it keeps me going back for another sip.
Shiner – Prickly Pear (Fruit Beer)
My original intent was to blend entirely local beers, but when I saw this bottle on the shelf I couldn’t resist. I’ve recently been turned onto Cactus Pears through 101 Ciderhouse’s excellent Cactus Red Cider, and the beer version from this Texas institution really showcases the fruit incredibly well. Prickly pear, for me, brings the flavor of a watermelon jolly rancher and what better to blend with watermelon than a bit of pineapple? A splash of Tepache brings an big jolt of tropical flavor that balances quite well with the cactus pear but keeps the dry finish of the beer.
Monkish Brewing Co. – Crux (Belgian Single w/ Elderflower)
This belgian single from the excellent Torrance brewery is clean with a bready malt profile, a floral nose and subtle belgian yeast esters. The dryness of Crux completely swallows that pineapple sweetness from the Tepache and leaves behind a beautiful fruity finish. That bready grain character is still there in spades and the yeast character carries through quite well. Out of all these blends, this is the one that feels like it melds exactly right – like the combination of beer and pineapple elevates both parts into a better whole. Highly recommended.
Overall I’m impressed with how adaptable the Tepache was, but overall it seemed like drier, effervescent beers blend with the pineapple and spice characters more effectively. Monkish stole the show by managing to hide some of the sweetness while also holding on to the best parts of the base beer.Next time I’m going straight for a selection of ultra-dry saisons.
Tepache! was purchased at Whole Foods Market in Glendale. Its also available at Sunset Beer Co.
Most of the beers were purchased at Sunset Beer Co, while the Barley Forge was picked up at Whole Foods Glendale, and Golden Road was purchased directly from the brewery.