Mezcal

Australia & New Zealand Homebrewing Forum

Help Support Australia & New Zealand Homebrewing Forum:

Phoney

Well-Known Member
Joined
29/12/08
Messages
2,187
Reaction score
234
Location
Sydney, Innerwestside
Good day gentlemen,

I thought I might share this with you..... Yesterday morning my girlfriend and I just returned home from a 7 week adventure through Mexico (as well as Cuba, Guatemala & Belize, but that's another story). Now before I left I knew a little about tequila, other than that good tequila (ie: not Jose Cuervo) is hard to come by and is expensive in Australia and I knew very little about Mezcal, other than that it's similar to tequila, it often comes 'with a worm in it' and that both are made from the blue Agave cactus...somehow.

Boy have I learnt a thing or two. Upon catching up with a friend of mine (and mezcal aficionado) who lives in Mexico city I discovered that tequila is somewhat more of a "commercial" drink, produced by big distilleries and is mainly sold either for export, or for the domestic tourist industry. While mezcal on the other hand is more of a handcrafted artisan, mostly produced by over 9000 family run distilleries in 7 of the 32 Mexican states, and is made from different varieties of Maguey (agave americana sp) than Tequila. With all of the different varieties of Maguey (there are about 160) and all of the different regions that produce Mezcal, it's a lot like our wine industry in that there are hundreds of varieties of Mezcal with subtle differences between each one. The government had even brought in a law to force producers to mark on the bottle the region, the batch number and the variety of Maguey. Oh, and the worm is nothing but a marketing gimmick for tourists.

So we first hit up a Mezcaleria in the trendy, upmarket Mexico City district of Condesa. It was basically a small bar full of 'young, hip' & well off Mexicans that slightly resembled an old fashioned pharmacy. The bar had glass shelves full of identical looking bottles lined neatly on the back wall, and on the other wall were larger bottles turned upside down onto dispensers. The menu of mezcal was several pages long and at that point after determining that the barman could speak english I said "Hello, im from Australia and I know nothing about mezcal"

He seemed very enthused and spent about 15 minutes describing all of the different varieties of mezcal, where they are produced, how they are produced, and gave me lots of free samples. ). Unlike our pitiful "shots" they serve it in 90ml glasses, and they ranged from about AUD$2.50 up to about $8 a glass. It is supposed to be sipped and savoured like a fine single malt whiskey and accompanied with chili salt and slices of orange, rather than be knocked back. There were ones which were smoked, ones which were aged in old red wine barrels (which gave them a rose colour), ones which were mashed with all sorts of ajuncts like cinnamon, fruit, etc, and a whole heap of others which I cannot remember. Most of them were very, very smooth with complex flavours and no throat "burn". An absolute pleasure to sip on.

So anyway, 5 weeks or so later we arrive in the southern state of Oaxaca which is famous for producing a sizeable chunk of Mexico's mezcals and in it's capital city, Oaxaca there were mezcal stores everywhere selling bottles and tacky souveniers. So we asked around about mezcal fabricas (factories) which do tours and got instructed to get a bus and a taxi out to a small town about an hour out of the city. So sure enough after passing hillside after field after hillside planted with agave cactii, as we started approaching this town the highway was lined on either side with these "factories" and shops, selling mezcal...... and tacky souveniers. So we picked a random one and told the taxi driver to stop. Now before I embarked on this factory tour, I was expecting a warehouse kind of setup with stainless steel vats and workers in uniforms... Uh ah, this may as well have been a distillery a hundred years ago! As a beer brewer I was shocked at how un-sterile this place was, ill now show you some photo's.

IMG_1408.JPG

This is the Maguey cactus growing. They do this for 8 - 10 years before they are harvested.

IMG_1407.JPG

These are the cactus 'hearts' which is basically what you see above but with all of the leaves chopped off. They call em pineapples, for obvious reasons.

IMG_1414.JPG

Then they throw them into a big pit dug into the ground, bury them and build a bonfire on top to bake them. I think this loosens them and helps liquify up the sweet nectar. It tasted like honey. They keep them buried for 60 days IIRC.


Then they chop them up with a machete, put them into this circular thing, and on other end of this heavy concrete wheel, is a yoke attached to a donkey that walks around in circles to crush up the cactus. (the girl couldnt speak a word of English and my Spanish is fairly basic so all of this may not be 100% accurate)

IMG_1399.JPG

Then they put them into these wooden vats to ferment. It stunk of rotting fruit and was covered in fruit flies! In fact this whole shed smelt of horseshit, rotting vegetables and smoke from the fire of the distillery! :) The girl assured me that this posed no problem whatsoever...

IMG_1400.JPG

Fermenting away....

IMG_1401.JPG

This is their high tech distillery...

IMG_2884.JPG

It is distilled three times to get to the right concentrate (usually 38 - 55%)

IMG_1405.JPG

This is a still sitting out the front on the highway, perhaps to lure in tourists like me.

IMG_1413.JPG

Then it is stored in barrels from between 6 months and 8 years!

IMG_2891.JPG

Before it's sold and consumed!

IMG_2889.JPG

Now I was told everywhere that even though slightly more expensive Reposado (Rested, for up to 1 year) and aejo (aged, for up to 3) or grand reserve (aged for up to 8) were the best mezcals to drink and buy, and upon sampling a few dozen from this factory and the stores in Oaxaca city I agreed. However when I finally got back to Mexico City and returned to the Mezcaleria just last week to buy a few bottles to take home, I noticed that 99% of their stock were blanco's (white, not aged) and the guy told me that the Mezcals I would have tried would have been made purely for tourists and not purists. He was the expert after all. His were definitely very nice, if not nicer than any of the ones I tried before, and exactly not cheap either ($55 a bottle), so looks like ive still got a lot of learning to do. It's just a shame that mezcal isnt really available here like it is over there, but once my supplies are eventually depleted I will have my friend mail it over for me.

Mexican beer on the other hand is less than impressive. As you probably know, it's dominated by two giant companies and Corona & Sol are the two biggest brands. There are other brands and styles put out by these companies but to be honest they're all pretty tasteless. I did find a boutique beer shop in Mexico City that sold good European beer and stocked a range of Mexican microbreweries beer, but unfortunately none of these beers are really sold in bars and restaurants over there.

Well, thankyou for your time and I hope you enjoyed my presentation! :) Has anyone else got Mexican mezcal stories to share?
 

barls

causer of chaos and mayhem
Joined
30/1/05
Messages
6,166
Reaction score
784
i thought it was the agave plant they used.
 

Scruffy

Ahh Glasshopper
Joined
20/2/09
Messages
987
Reaction score
0
Thanks for that, dude! What the hallucinogenic stuff then?
 

dth

Active Member
Joined
1/12/06
Messages
40
Reaction score
1
You would be thinking of mescaline, which is a hallucinogenic drug. It isn't found in agave plants (which aren' actually cactii, but succulents), but in some cactii, most infamously peyote.

I can't say I've seen a whole lot of good mezcal here in Australia, but if you are willing to pay for it there are some good tequilas to be found.
As the OP said, good stuff is a drink to be savoured, it doesn't have that harsh alcohol burn. One of my favourites is Patron Aejo tequila, but it is a bit pricey. It goes down smooth as, and is exceptional with a couple sizes of orange and a dash of orange juice. After drinking, the orange slices have soaked up a wonderful tequila flavour and are delicious to chew on.
 

FNQ Bunyip

Non Pro Member
Joined
20/9/04
Messages
1,443
Reaction score
24
Ahhh ,, reading this @06:00 is not setting the day up to be very productive,, lol .. :icon_drool2:

Love a good Mezcal,, one that is avaliable over here is "Don Julio" very smooth but @ about $100 its a sipper not a slammer...lol

Have also had "Cabo Wabo" This was a little harsh compared to the Don Juilo ...

Cheers , off to sniff the bottles,, lol
 

Bizier

Petite Mutant
Joined
13/6/08
Messages
3,761
Reaction score
369
Location
Hà Nội
Yeah... I don't know much about either mescal or tequila. But I know enough to be scared of the price of the stuff I like here. To even get drinkable stuff here you have to spend an absolute fortune. You have sold me on a Mexican mescal adventure though.
 

Screwtop

Inspectors Pocket Brewery
Joined
8/9/05
Messages
7,523
Reaction score
265
Location
Gympie
But did you get to try Ron Zacapa Rum in Guatemala.....................mmmmmm. The Centenario is 23 years old, other vintage rums a lot older. Have found it in two places only in Australia, was $18 for the Centenario in SA in 2007 and at Cookies in Melbourne in 2008 they had a Zacapa vintage rum at $40 nip.

Screwy
 

Phoney

Well-Known Member
Joined
29/12/08
Messages
2,187
Reaction score
234
Location
Sydney, Innerwestside
But did you get to try Ron Zacapa Rum in Guatemala.....................mmmmmm. The Centenario is 23 years old, other vintage rums a lot older. Have found it in two places only in Australia, was $18 for the Centenario in SA in 2007 and at Cookies in Melbourne in 2008 they had a Zacapa vintage rum at $40 nip.

Screwy

No, I didnt see that unfortunately....

Cuba was the place for rum. It was $4 for a 750ml bottle of Havana club - or $12 for the 7 year aejo, so we 'splurged' on the good stuff :D It certainly made forgetting the bland food a whole lot easier. :) We were wondering though, why is Bundaberg rum so crap when even dirt poor countries in the Caribbean can do it so much better!~?
 

floppinab

Well-Known Member
Joined
27/2/06
Messages
687
Reaction score
0
Mexican beer on the other hand is less than impressive. As you probably know, it's dominated by two giant companies and Corona & Sol are the two biggest brands. There are other brands and styles put out by these companies but to be honest they're all pretty tasteless. I did find a boutique beer shop in Mexico City that sold good European beer and stocked a range of Mexican microbreweries beer, but unfortunately none of these beers are really sold in bars and restaurants over there.

Nice post ph. I'm sure I read somewhere there is a bit of a history of....... Vienna Lagers..... I think made in Mexico via some expat Germans. Any sign of anything like that.
 

Phoney

Well-Known Member
Joined
29/12/08
Messages
2,187
Reaction score
234
Location
Sydney, Innerwestside
Nice post ph. I'm sure I read somewhere there is a bit of a history of....... Vienna Lagers..... I think made in Mexico via some expat Germans. Any sign of anything like that.

There's a few. I think they started out by German & Austrian immigrants in the early 20th century, but are now just pumped out as megaswill by the big two.

Victoria is a 'vienna lager' brewed by Modelo (makers of Corona), Negra Modelo is a dark lager and Bohemia is a "czech pilsener". But in my opinion they are all a very similar and quite bland.. Or maybe im just a beer snob who's used to HB :D

That said, when you're paying $1.20 for a cold beer at the beach on a hot day, I wasnt at all complaining. :)
 

aussiechucka

Well-Known Member
Joined
26/11/07
Messages
101
Reaction score
8
The best time to go to Oaxaca is when they have the big festival there. I was there 7 years ago when they had a Mezcal tasting festival. Entry was 10pesos around $1.50. Drink all you can of all types of Mezcal as they try to sell your their Mezcal. great fun. I travelled through all of Mexico for a few months. It has the best food in the world and the beers well they are great when it is 40 degrees. My beer when I am there is Victoria or Bohemia. They both have a good flavour, that is if you get the obscuro(dark) beer. I think I may have been to that same Mezcal factory. :D
I remember going to some small villages where they actually had there own breweries out the back of their houses. Great place to visit.
Will probably be going back again next year. SWMBO is from Merida in the Yucatan we visit every second year.
 

Muggus

Case swap whore
Joined
9/7/07
Messages
2,361
Reaction score
15
Wow! Really informative thread Phoney! I've always wondered how they made Mezcal (and tequila, I guess).

I actually bought a bottle of the stuff around 6 years ago. Pretty sure it's the aged stuff, because of it's golden colour, and has a worm in the bottom. To date, the bottle is still 3/4 full...I just can't stomach the stuff! :icon_vomit:
 
Top