From time to time, DC Beer receives submissions from guest writers that we pass onto you. Today’s post comes from Matt Heffernan; you can find more of him on Twitter at @BeerPairing
Many beer nerds are familiar with the anecdote surrounding Mexico’s claim to the Vienna lager. For the uninitiated, it briefly goes like this:
1) Rich people in Mexico wanted to reinstate the monarchy in the late 19th century.
2) With the backing of the French military, the aristocracy brought in an Austrian archduke to be emperor.
3) He brought lots of Austrians with him.
4) Mexico had no beer at the time, so these Austrians brought with them the popular brewing style of the middle 19th Century in Vienna.
Similarly, many history nerds are familiar with why Cinco de Mayo is commercialized by American beer importing companies but not really celebrated in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo’s minor relevance to the beverage world stems from its association with the reign of Maximilian. In the battle that was won on this day, the Mexican republicans, the commoners, scored a major victory over the monarchy. To a beer marketing executive somewhere, this victory became an excuse to sell a ton of beer. The irony is that the holiday popularized by those who sell beer actually marks the date of a major military loss for those who brought beer to Mexico in the first place.
In the spirit of the Mexican republicans who won the Battle of Puebla, I propose we reclaim Cinco de Mayo from the hands of the evil corporate juggernaut and the gross macro beer machine. Why, you may ask, is it necessary to reclaim an empty holiday? The answer is simple: because Tex-Mex food is awesome and goes great with beer, and we should all recognize that at least once a year. It is important to note that just as Cinco de Mayo is really more of an American thing than a Mexican thing, Tex-Mex food is at least half Texan (most culinarians would say much more so), as the name implies.
So, Mexican beer is really Austrian, Cinco de Mayo is really American, and Tex-Mex food is more than half Texan. All of that being established (bear with me), I suggest that our efforts to overthrow the capitalist specter of the Archduke Maximilian should come with a tasty glass of a decidedly un-Mexican beer: Brooklyn Lager. I’m serious. I’ve been experimenting with this for years now, and the results are clear. Brooklyn Lager makes a far superior partner to Tex-Mex flavors than Vienna-style lagers do. Not to mention, Brooklyn Lager is a dominant force among American craft amber lagers, which is a snub to the major corporations who have popularized this holiday and made it about drinking macro lagers. Cinco de Mayo is really an American holiday that appropriates an event in Mexican history. We should drink to that American holiday with a beer that embodies the American brewing tradition. American craft brewers take age-old recipes and freshen them up with west coast hops, and modern techniques, to fit modern palates.
That freshness, typified by Brooklyn Lager, is what makes this beer a perfect mate for the flavors of the southwest. The subtle American hop note provided by the use of Cascade is great for any heat generated by the dish. These hops blend with the Bavarian Hallertauer hops so expertly, that this duo seems to be the perfect one-two combination for any plate that utilizes both red pepper and green chile heat. The crispness of the malt characteristic also feels great as it washes away any lingering spice. That slight sweetness of the lager while consuming anything smoky is divine, and don’t even get me started with how cilantro entangles itself with this brew.
You have to try this combination to believe it, and it’s as good a way to spend the Fifth of May, or Cinco de Mayo, as any you’ll find. As you enjoy this combination, take a moment to remember that many Mexicans died on Cinco de Mayo and that they did so while fighting the forces of the moneyed aristocracy, not caving to those forces.