It used to be that Cinco de Mayo would roll around and I’d celebrate with a few Modelos or maybe a Dos Equis or two. But the last two years I’ve been trying to take more of a craft approach to the day. It’s still extremely difficult to get any Mexican craft beer in most of the country, so often I’m turning to American examples.
This year I lucked out that 5 Rabbit just began distributing to Indiana. I’ve always been intrigued by the Latin-inspired brewery but my travels to Chicago have never quite lined up for a stop at the taproom. And while bottles are easy to find in the city, a lack of date coding has always kept me hesitant lest I pick up a beer not at its best.
With 5 Rabbit entering Indiana, I was almost assured that the bottles I found on the shelves were fresh. With that promise I procured bottles of Gringolandia Ironica IPA, 5 Vulture and 5 Lizard and then had myself a Chicago-tinged Cinco.
5 Vulture and 5 Lizard are part of 5 Rabbit’s core group of beers known as The Fives. 5 Vulture is a Oaxacan-style dark ale brewed with ancho and mulato chiles. Oaxacan cuisine is prized for its mole and 5 Vulture is the beer form of this complex sauce. Chocolate and coffee form the backbone but the peppers inject a spicy kick that almost overpowers the rest. That dominant spicy note makes this beer less complex than mole and, depending on your predilection for pepper beers, makes this either a love it or hate it beer. Personally I side with the former.
5 Lizard adds a Latin twist on the Belgian witbier style. While classic Belgian wits use coriander and orange peel, 5 Lizard replaces the orange with lime peel and adds in passionfruit. The cloudiness and tropical notes from the passionfruit have much in common with everyone’s favorite style du jour (or del día), the New England IPA. The lime adds a tart note and the passionfruit imparts a slight earthy funk. All this calls for porch pounding on a hot summer day.
Finally Ironica IPA is part of the Gringolandia series, which comprises more traditional takes on craft styles. Ironica is the perfect interpretation of the modern IPA, which coincidentally features a lot of flavors associated with Latin cultures. It bursts with aromas and flavors of citrus and tropical fruits. If I could be assured of its freshness, I would happily pick up a six pack any time I needed an IPA refill.
While I’ll never turn down a classic Mexican lager when in the mood for a fiesta, gone are the days where that’s the only option. And whether it’s from Guadalajara or the south suburbs of Chicago, there are plenty of Mexican-inspired craft options to end up slightly borracho.