Husband and wife Fernando Bolaños and Fernanda Suelto (no, they say their names didn’t spark their love affair) opened Oaxaca’s first craft brewery a couple of years ago, coincidentally around the same time that the capital of this southern Mexico state inaugurated its first artisanal beer store, Bier Stube. Cerveceria Teufel (formerly known as Camarada) has taken Oaxaca de Juárez and indeed the entire country by storm. It’s already won a gold medal at a national competition and congress in Mexico City, in September, 2012.
Beyond producing a line of quality craft beers, if you know the right people you can arrange for a beer and Oaxacan food pairing (maridaje) event at the nano – brewery (smaller than micro). It currently produces only 70 cases a month.
Teufel Cervezas Artesanales is located 20 minutes outside of Oaxaca in a spectacular lush setting behind Fernando’s parents’ restaurant and hotel, in the town of San Andrés Huayapam. On an autumn day in 2012, a group of ten brew aficionados, seven Oaxacans and three extranjeros (foreigners), put the brewery to task, to see if Fernando(a)’s skill surpassed making both traditional (i.e. German) and uniquely Oaxacan brews. Were they adept at matching their beer with the gastronomic greatness of Oaxaca?
Fresh off an Old Toronto Beer Tour, I was anxious to see if Oaxaca could rise to the challenge of a centuries old Canadian brewing tradition, especially in light of Oaxaca’s reputation as the land of mole and mezcal more than anything else. Yes, Mexico has garnered a reputation for brewing which puts American spiked water to shame, well beyond the Coronas and Sols and their respective premium labels. But could a tiny Mexican brewery in Oaxaca, the first of its kind, enthrall guests through sampling its best within the context of a pairing event?
Teufel promotes it Babalao beer made with indigenous blue corn, as having distinctly herbal notes with a hint of bitters, flawless as an accompaniment to seafood. It was perfectly paired with a tostada topped with octopus in a tomato guajillo chile sauce garnished with queso (Oaxacan crumbly cheese), avocado slice, tomato and lettuce. It had a slight bite, well washed with this flavorful refreshing brew.
Next was a traditional German style Weissbier, a wheat beer, brewed according to the 1516 edict, with significant tones of spice, character of banana predominating, best paired with white meats given its lightness and fruitiness. Since one cannot get a true white Munich sausage in Oaxaca, Fernanda, of Argentinian descent, sourced a light sausage from her homeland, which did the trick. It arrived with crusty roll and was complemented with homemade relish and grainy mustard.
Returning to the theme of beers infused with local ingredients, the medium bodied “77” brew had the sweetness of honey ale, but in this case made with the syrup of locally grown and in-ground roasted agave. It was served with a Spanish style potato and yucca omelet, floating on a bed of exquisite, traditional mole negro, garnished with avocado and a line of baby fried, spiced chapulines, a local snack food and delicacy comprised of grasshoppers. The sweetness of the mole was balanced by the salty chapulines, perfectly matching the beer’s tartness toned down with the “miel de agave.”
Dessert consisted of a healthy slice of chocolate cake with thick dark chocolate frosting, set off with slices of kiwi. It was brilliantly teamed with double fermented dark Schwarzbier in the German genre. This was the brew which took home the gold in Mexico City, not surprisingly based on how well it paired with this particular pastry.
While such an event, pairing Oaxacan cuisine to perfection with beer produced and imbibed on the premises of a local nano – brewery redefines culinary seduction in Oaxaca, it’s somewhat of a challenge to succeed in experiencing it. It’s not all that dissimilar from the secret dining clubs now peppering select American and Canadian cities, available to only those in the know.
Fernando and Fernanda are modest and laidback in their personalities, yet succeed in maintaining the utmost control over their operations, even to the extent of precluding visitors from stepping foot into the actual brewery premises per se for fear of contamination. However, if you play your cards right, your group can indeed participate in a Teufel Cervezas Artesanales maridaje de cerveza y comida oaxaqueña.
Teufel Cervezas Artesanales
Prolongación San Fernando 6 Bis,
San Andrés Huayapam, Oaxaca, Mexico
Alvin Starkman offers a beer and Mexican food pairing event at Teufel for groups of four or more people. Alvin is a mezcal and pulque aficionado as well. Alvin operates Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com) with his wife Arlene, and Oaxaca Culinary Tours (http://www.oaxacaculinarytours.com) with Chef Pilar Cabrera.