Category Archives: microbrewery

Searching for Strong, Flavourful Mexican Beer

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Pablo, our beer guide at La Pintada in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Mexican beer still wallows where American suds once languished: weak, low-alcohol piss with no flavour or buzz, unless imbibed in quantity.

That still seems to be the case south of the Rio Grande, where shelves are brimming with bottles of Pacifico, Corona, Dos Equis and Modelo. All containing thin, indistinguishable liquid, the only merits of which are “cold” and “wet”. Best guzzled, not sipped and considered.

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A typical thin, flavourless Mexican beer

Can you imagine squeezing a wedge of lime into a bottle of unfiltered west-coast ale to lend it some flavour? Didn’t think so.

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The label was more colourful than the contents

Thus on a recent early-winter sojourn to the resort community of Cabo San Lucas, I made it a mission to find some good Mexican craft beer. Well, more of a quest than a mission, as by the time the daily beer thirst hit, it was rather hot to be roaming the dusty streets of downtown, where any craft beer was to be found.

But I was in luck, mostly because of a newfound friend, who had done most of the scouting for me. It turns out that arguably the best beer hall in Cabo was only 10 minutes away from our resort, via a mostly shaded, narrow sidewalk and a quick final dash across a busy street.

Our destination, La Pintada, has some good food, featuring thin-crust, stone-oven pizza, grilled fish and Mexican dishes like my flavourful organic chicken mole enchiladas. But the real draw was a list of some 10 craft beers on tap at the restaurant bar, called Ramuri.

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The stone-oven pizza was mighty fine

Some were from Baja Brewing, a few blocks away. But the highlights were pints of IPA from further afield; great, complex stuff, especially on a two-for-one happy-hour deal.

One was Perro Del Mar, a pungent, unfiltered beer (7% alcohol, 80 IBU) from Cerveceria Wendlandt, a brewery way up north in Ensenada. Another, Lycan Lupus (5.7%), from Fauna Brewery in Mexicali.

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But we were here for the craft beer, including this excellent Perro Del Mar IPA

We topped things off with a shared bottle of potent Astillero—an Imperial IPA, from Agua Mala in Ensenada, weighing in at 7.1%. We then staggered home in the late-afternoon heat for a siesta.

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A list of the beers on tap and in bottles

La Pintada
Corner of Camino Real and Boulevard Lazaro Cardenas, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Daily 1 pm-10 pm, except closed Monday

Restaurant Renaissance in Lacombe, Alberta

This classic flat-iron building is the showpiece of Lacombe's lovingly restored historic downtown

This classic flat-iron building is the showpiece of Lacombe’s lovingly restored historic downtown

Lacombe has long been my favourite Alberta town (it’s officially now a city, but with only 12,000 residents, it still has that small-town feel). What I particularly like is the preservation and restoration of many downtown brick buildings and stately Edwardian houses that line its wide, shady streets. You can read all about it in my Day Trips From Calgary book (new edition scheduled for 2017).

Now, there’s another reason for pulling off the frenetic Highway 2, halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. In the past couple of years, Lacombe has seriously stepped up its culinary scene, perhaps even surpassing the dining wilderness of the nearby, much larger Red Deer.

Want to know what the inside of those historic Lacombe houses looks like? Just step into Morrison House Café, where two rooms of a 1919 colonial-revival residence have been converted into an elegant space offering good soups and sandwiches on house-baked breads and croissants. Save room for some delectable oatmeal cake or bread pudding.

Morrison House Cafe is located in a stately, historic downtown Lacombe house

Morrison House Cafe is located in a stately, historic downtown Lacombe house

Speaking of elegant, Sweet Capone’s is a wee downtown shop specializing in Italian pastries such as cannoli, pesche dolci (peach cookies) and Florentines. Sound a bit fancy for a town built on farming? Would you believe there are lineups for these confections, which often sell out by early afternoon?

Sweet Capone's is on historic, brick row in downtown Lacombe

Sweet Capone’s is on historic, brick row in downtown Lacombe

This is what people line up for: cream-filled Italian cannolis

This is what people line up for: cream-filled Italian cannolis

Queues are also de rigueur for the big, oven-roasted turkey and beef sandwiches at Eastside Eatery, in a Lacombe industrial park. I wrote about this fast, affordable, fabulous place in last week’s post.

The sandwiches are big, fast and tasty at Eastside Eatery

The sandwiches are big, fast and tasty at Eastside Eatery

Cilantro and Chive is a recent transplant, moving to downtown Lacombe after its lease expired in Ponoka, to the near north. It features innovative, chef-driven takes on standards, witness the braised duck wings, pulled-pork mac ‘n cheese, bison burgers and smoked trout and kale spaghettini.

Lovely soup and sandwich at Cilantro and Chive

Lovely soup and sandwich at Cilantro and Chive

Here’s the clincher. Lacombe now boasts its own craft brewery, Blindman Brewing, cooking up things like cask-conditioned sour beers and Belgian-style saisons.

I wonder how much those Edwardian houses are selling for?

Morrison House Cafe
5331 51 Avenue, Lacombe, Alberta
Tuesday to Saturday 11 am-3:30 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
403-789-1234

Sweet Capone’s
5010 50 Avenue
Tuesday to Saturday 10 am-4 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
403-789-7778

Eastside Eatery
3, 4013 53 Avenue, Lacombe, Alberta
Weekdays 8 am-3 pm. Closed weekends
403-782-7435

Cilantro and Chive
5021 50 Street
Monday to Wednesday 11 am-9 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am-11 pm. Closed Sunday
403-782-2882

Blindman Brewing
Bay F, 3413 53 Avenue
Opens at 2 pm Tuesday to Friday and at noon Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday
403-786-2337

Pol-ease, Pour Me a Pint

 

The long arm of the lager. Dragon's Gate Brewery's Adam.

The long arm of the lager. Dragon’s Gate Brewery’s Adam.

During an intensive wine-tasting tour or beer crawl, I generally try to avoid any roaming police, just in case. So when an actual sheriff is pouring the beer samples at a wee brewery in rural Oregon, I’m not sure how many I should pound back before hopping into the car. Especially when he tells me one ale I’m sipping packs a 10%-alcohol wallop. Continue reading