Yes, I love a good unorthodox-ingredient beer. So let's celebrate that so-called Mexican holiday (just the Southwestern excuse for St. Pat's Day bacchanalia, right?) with a South-American-styled beer.
MateVeza is a California-based beer company, apparently contracting through the well-regarded Mendocino Brewing Co.in Ukiah, California. The concept is a different form of "buzz beer," as those who are fans of "The Drew Carey Show" (where the characters dreamed up a beer with coffee in it so the caffeine would counteract the effects of alcohol--supposedly) will remember. In this case, the active ingredient is Yerba Mate, a South American species of holly that is a source of caffeine and is traditionally brewed as an herbal tea, drunk--as with coffee and tea--as a stimulant.
MateVeza has brewed three beers so far: an Organic Golden Ale, an Organic IPA, and this apparently brand new Black Lager. The "cheat sheet" enclosed with my sample says 5.2%, 25 IBU's, and 60mg of caffeine per 22-ounce bottle, about the same as a half cup of coffee per 12-ounce serving.
And how is the beer? Black lager, a traditional German style, isn't my first choice--I kind of wish they'd sent the IPA--but the lager's lighter in hops, so I'll see what yerba mate tastes like. (The agents were kind enough--no, smart enough--to include a sample of the dried leaves used in the brew.) The black lager--think a Guinness stout with CO2 and clean lager yeast instead of nitro cream and ale yeast--may be 5.2% but tastes lighter; a good black roast barley flavor is topped off with a strong herbal flavor, akin to green tea, hay grass, a light touch of thyme and rosemary, and more fresh-mown hay. (The yerba mate sample smells exactly like a fresh hay loft.) The contrast between the malt and roast body and the lingering grassy/herbal finish is intriguing, to say the least. Sure, I'd have it again. Caffeine rush? I'm the wrong person to ask on that--I can go to sleep after a cup of strong coffee.
(Photos to follow soon. And no, I don't think this is in the Maryland market--yet.)
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