Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Merry Molé

Surviving two car wrecks and one study-abroad year in Ireland was all it took to uproot these two faithful beer-bloggers out of the Albrewquerque area. But don't worry, we're not changing the blog name, and we're still going to drink beer and write about it regularly. Only now we'll be posting from Durango (Colorado, not Mexico or Spain), which is not only not far away from what's brewin' in the 5-0-5, but also is a microbrew mecca in the four corners region.

The move north seems inevitable for a craft-beer-couple like us. Colorado's history is closely linked to beers and brewing. The state is the home of Left Hand Brewing, Wyncoop, New Belgium, and Rock Bottom.  Denver is not only the birthplace of Coors, but also the "Napa Valley" of beer. Heck, this state is literally ruled by beer. (Beer in the House! Beer in the Senate! Beer in the capitol! Beer makes bad decisions, but it sure makes fun laws!) After all, the good people of Colorado, with their malty-hearts and hoppy-heads, saw fit to elect John Hickenlooper as their governor. More than a fun name, Hickenlooper is also a former microbrewer and Wyncoop founder. (Oh... you mean... got it. If only a beer could actually be governor...)

And the concentration of award-winning breweries is a big part of why we picked Durango for our new beer-tasting headquarters. Also, we could not resist the stunning mountain views. The vigorous outdoor recreation. The diverse wildlife. Oh, and what about the quirky, old-timey downtown full of Victorian architecture and huffin' and chuffin' steam trains chugging back and forth with whistles a'tooting! Seriously, this town still looks like the 1890s fin de siècle is in full "siècle," only better caffeinated with a Starbucks. (And Durango Joe's. And Durango Coffee.)

Plus our old-timey downtown plays host to an oasis of breweries, from Carver Brewing Co. to Steamworks Brewing Co. Up the road is the HQ for Durango Brewing Co. and down the road is the pub and grub stop for Ska Brewing. Trek out from Durango in any direction and guess what you'll run into! Elk, deer, coyotes? No! (Well, yes, but the answer we were looking for was...) More craft brewers! There's Amicas, Bristol Brewing Company, Pagosa Brewing Company, Phantom Canyon Brewing Company, Silverton Brewery, Smuggler’s Brewpub, and Trinity -- just to name a few. 

That said, we've got our work cut out for us. So, with holiday lights strung from one end of the house to the other, a pagan tree bedecked with sentimental ornaments, and an eclectic mix of nostalgic December-only tunes humming through the living room sound system, we begin our Rocky Mountain brew-quest with Ska Brewing's Molé Stout. (Eclectic doesn't begin to cover this music. Some of this stuff sounds like you're in a ballpark elevator in 1967.)

This brew comes in a can depicting a wildly flailing skeleton costumed in funky Aztec garb, strung with necklaces of jingle-jangle-chili beads. The imagery is no doubt a warning for drinkers who ordinarily balk at chili-flavored, chili-seasoned, chili-inspired, or chili-hinted beers.

We were two such balkers once, and ended up being unfortunate victims. On a whim at the grocery store, we picked up a six-pack of Rio Grande & Sierra Blanca's green chile beer, dubbed the Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza. We found that we could only "enjoy" half a Pancho with the right kind of dinner (beans, tortillas, etc.). (At which point our tongues realized we were drinking green chile... which, as much as I love green chile, is actually pretty much blech.) In the end, the remaining bottles sat in our fridge until it was time to move to Ireland, at which point they became going-away-gifts! (In one family-member-who-shall-remain-anonymous's fridge, we found one of these gifts unwrapped and yet mysteriously un-drunk upon our return. Don't think we didn't notice! We're not bitter, just jealous that your self-preservation instincts are stronger than ours.)

So with some reservation, we sampled this seasonal stout made with peppers, cocoa, and spices. Ska calls it autumnal -- a word I had hitherto reserved for the "other half" of Jane Austen's novels. But if Emma can be adapted into Clueless, then I suppose a beer can be autumnal. That is not to say that this beer is for the snootiest of samplers. On the contrary! Cocoa, dark velvety and rich, greets the nose like the sweet fragrance of a chocolate flower garden. With every sip, it warms the mouth. Then comes the zing of those peppers. But in this beer, they do not get out of control. Instead, they are smoothed down to a not-unpleasant nub by the mingling spices. Coriander? Nutmeg, perhaps? Who cares? This beer is good. And the warmer it gets, the better it tastes--like all Aztecs, I suppose. This beer tastes deliciously and distinctively like the holidays in the southwest! (No disagreements here, for once. The cocoa really blossoms as it warms, all the while strolling the line this side of bitter and spicy-hot. It's smooth and prickly. Like running your hand the right way over shark skin.)

Sure, we all hold tight to our aptly formed conceptions and deeply rooted misgivings about the chili pepper's place in beer brewing. And this prejudice is not just limited to chili-beers. Even cities get a reputation that either attracts or repels. Take Durango, for example. Thought to be a ritzy and glitzy exclusive ski-resort town, Durango is actually much more inclusive and practical than we ever expected. Don't believe us? What if we told you that many of its public works projects were funded by hookers? (Well, a special tax assessed on brothel earnings. Same dif! No matter how you slice it, this park is brought to you by Betty's Boom-Boom Room. Your municipal water pump runs courtesy of your other municipal pumps.) (Oh-ho, two can play at puns, honey: The City of Durango hereby dedicates this here new train platform to Selma's Slam Shack & Saloon. Their beneficence means more people can now get off in Durango.)

So, we get it. We're human. We judge books by their covers in order to survive. And chili peppers can easily overpower an unsuspecting tongue, be they in a drink or in enchiladas.

But for this beer we ask you to set aside those notions and take a sip of the holiday season as it can only taste when distilled through the jewel-tones of a December sunset in the desert southwest!

1 comment:

  1. I love you guys. I really do.

    "'All aboard' has a whole new meaning in Durango!"

    "You'll find your happiness in Durango."

    "Durango: Where the mountains aren't the only snowy white peaks. Come to Leela's!"

    "This bench provided to the city of Durango through the generous 'efforts' of the Ladies at 'Gladys' Stop and Bop.'"

    Sorry. I wanted to be part of the dirty joke puns too!

    That beer does sound intriguing though. Cocoa and chili? Good combination in sweets, wonder how it translates...