Craft Beer & Food Pairing in Oaxaca

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 8.54.52 AMBy Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.

Husband and wife Fernando Bolaños and Fernanda Sueldo (no, they say their names didn’t spark their love affair) opened Oaxaca’s first craft brewery about two years ago, coincidentally around the same time that Oaxaca City inaugurated its first artisanal beer store, Bier Stube. Cerveceria Teufel (formerly known as Camarada) has taken Oaxaca de Juárez and indeed the entire country by storm. It’s already won a gold medal at a national competition and congress, Cerveza Mexico. Beyond producing a line of quality craft beers, if you know the right people you can arrange for a beer and Oaxacan food pairing (maridaje) event at the nano-brewery (smaller than micro). Teufel currently produces only about 150 cases a month.

Teufel Cervezas Artesanales is located 20 minutes outside of Oaxaca in a spectacular lush setting behind Fernando’s parents’ restaurant and hotel, in the town of San Andrés Huayapam. On a warm, sunny autumn day, a group of ten brew aficionados, seven Oaxacans and three extranjeros, put the brewery to task, to see if Fernando(a)’s skill surpassed making both traditional (i.e. German) and uniquely Oaxacan brews. Was the brewery adept at matching its beer with the gastronomic greatness of Oaxaca?

Fresh off an Old Toronto Beer Tour, I was anxious to see if Oaxaca could rise to the challenge of a centuries old Canadian brewing tradition, especially in light of Oaxaca’s reputation as the land of mole and mezcal more than anything else. Yes, Mexico has garnered a reputation for brewing which puts American spiked water to shame, well beyond the Coronas and Sols and their respective premium labels. But could a tiny Mexican brewery in Oaxaca, the first of its kind, enthrall guests, especially Oaxacans, accustomed to a grand old brewing tradition, through sampling its best within the context of a pairing event?

Teufel promotes it Babalao beer made with indigenous blue corn, as having distinctly herbal notes with a hint of bitters, flawless as an accompaniment to seafood. It was perfectly paired with a tostada topped with octopus in a tomato guajillo chile sauce garnished with queso fresco (Oaxacan crumbly cheese), avocado slice, tomato and lettuce. It had a slight bite, well washed with this flavorful refreshing brew.

Next was a traditional German style Weissbier, a wheat beer, brewed according to a 1516 edict, with significant tones of spice, character of banana predominating, best paired with white meats given its lightness and fruity flavor. Since one cannot get a true white Munich sausage in Oaxaca, Fernanda. of Argentinian descent, sourced a light sausage from her homeland, which did the trick. It arrived with crusty roll and was complemented with homemade relish and grainy mustard.

Returning to the theme of beers infused with local ingredients, the medium bodied “77” brew had the sweetness of honey ale, but in this case made with the syrup of locally grown and in-ground roasted agave. It was served with a Spanish style potato and yucca omelet, floating on a bed of exquisite, traditional mole negro, garnished with avocado and a line of baby fried spiced chapulines, a local snack food and delicacy, grasshoppers. The sweetness of the mole was balanced by the salty chapulines, perfectly matching the beer’s tartness toned down with the miel de agave.

Dessert consisted of a healthy slice of chocolate cake with thick dark chocolate frosting, set off with slices of kiwi. It was brilliantly teamed with double fermented dark Schwarzbier in the German genre. This was the brew which took home the gold in Mexico City, not surprisingly based on how well it paired with this particular pastry.

While such an event, pairing Oaxacan cuisine to perfection with beer produced and imbibed on the premises of a local nano-brewery, redefines culinary seduction in Oaxaca, it’s somewhat of a challenge to succeed in experiencing it. It’s not all that dissimilar from the secret dining clubs now peppering select American and Canadian cities, available to only those in the know.

Fernando and Fernanda are modest and laidback in their personalities, yet succeed in maintaining the utmost control over their operations, even to the extent of precluding visitors from stepping foot into the actual brewery premises for fear of contamination. However, if you play your cards right, you can indeed participate in a Teufel Cervezas Artesanales maridaje de cerveza y comida oaxaqueña (pairing event). But you’ll have to visit the state capital during a specified time of year; the brew masters are now beginning to offer pairings, but currently only four afternoons spread throughout the year, for a maximum of 20 people. The inaugural formal maridaje will take place Saturday, December 14th.

For reservations, email:   cervezasteufel@gmail.com.

Teufel Cervezas Artesanales

Prolongación San Fernando 6 Bis,

San Andrés Huayapam, Oaxaca, Mexico

As one of the stops while touring the central valleys of Oaxaca, Alvin Starkman includes a beer and Mexican food pairing event at Teufel for groups of four or more people. Alvin operates Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (www.oaxacadream.com) with his wife Arlene, and Oaxaca Culinary Tours with Chef Pilar Cabrera. (www.oaxacaculinarytours.com)

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