One of the (many) oddities about being a pastor is having Sunday, a day off for many people, as a work day. That means I watch much less football than I used to, don’t take Sunday afternoon naps, and usually find myself interested in a tasty beverage that celebrates fine grains, roasted malts, and bitter hops to close out the day. This past Sunday was one such day.
A colleague was in town from the frozen tundra of the Midwest and after our church service on Sunday, we headed over to Tres Hermanas for some refreshment. Being a native Californian, he lamented the lack of fresh Mexican food in his current location of Michigan. While I had been to the Tres Hermanas in Midtown but not the newish branch here in Davis, I was excited for an excuse to try it out, and suggested we head there. I was even more excited to peer across the bar and notice some things on tap I hadn’t tried yet.
Mexico isn’t exactly known as a haven of microbrewing ingenuity, yet Tres Hermanas had a few offerings they labeled as “microbrew” on their menu. Most of the beer imported from Mexico is pilsner, so when I saw a couple of ales on tap, I was intruigued. One which caught my eye was the Chupacabra Ale. The menu referred to it as “amber in color, very hoppy.” Any time a write up labels a beer “very hoppy” I usually order it to be snarky and say how over-stated the description was. Not exactly gracious, I know. But the end of the work week leaves many of us feeling sassy…right?
The menu was correct about the amber color, but it was darker and more cloudy than I was assuming – almost brown. The first sniff wasn’t as fruity as I expected either, and neither was the first taste. I certainly wouldn’t label it as “very hoppy” because beer snobs will scoff as such a notion. To label a beer as “very hoppy” means it better blow me away because there are breweries out there (Dogfish Head, Founders, Lagunitas, Bear Republic) that truly do have beers that are hopped intensely. While this beer wasn’t what I would consider “very hoppy” it did have a hop bitterness to it that made the write up a fair warning for those who don’t like hoppy beers. Maybe I should have read the menu that way – like my foodie friends who scoff when a menu labels something “spicy” and they pretend it is the blandest thing they have ever tasted.
The beer was fresh and lacked the metallic taste many ambers seem to finish with these days. I only tried it from the tap, and I’m guessing this beer would be less intriguing from a can or bottle. It was smooth drinking and seemed to alternate between tasting like a brown ale or more like an amber ale. Maybe that was what they were shooting for because for me, it came out somewhere in the middle. It had a slightly sugary taste, not entirely sweet, but definitely helped to balance out the strong malts that were a bit uncharacteristic of an ale of this ilk. Like I mentioned, the hops were subdued and seemed to function primarily to keep the malts from running away with this beer. In other words, the beer is a bit hard to categorize, and doesn’t fit into a tidy beer definition. Sort of like my Sundays, I suppose.
Maybe it was because it was Sunday evening, maybe it was because I was tired, maybe it was because the food was fresh and tasty, but in spite of my snarky “this isn’t very hoppy” initial response, I enjoyed the beer. I wouldn’t run back to Tres Heramanas just for this beer itself, but I would recommend trying it the next time you are ordering lunch or dinner. It was unique and was tasty enough to hold court with the rest of the food I was consuming.
If you find yourself at the end of your work week needing a fresh meal with an interesting beer, look no further than the Chupacabra Ale on tap at Tres Hermanas.