Monterrey Tacos and Beer

16 Nov

TACOS!!! For the first time in a long while, a trip I took had me thinking about something other than beer. Well I thought about beer obviously, but it was not first on my mind. Having lived in New Orleans for over 4 months now and experienced a dearth of tacos, I was determined to get my fill in the birthplace of the taco, our southern neighbor, Mexico. Of course beer was in order as well, but I had a different set of priorities for this trip.

A college friend’s wedding had brought Danielle and myself to Monterrey, and while it was a short trip, we were determined to make the most of it. A Friday morning flight took us to Mexico, and a cheap Uber ride delivered us to our hotel. For the reasonable price of $120/night, we stayed in the wedding party reserved Grand Fiesta Americana. The hotel was very new, quite swanky, and would have easily cost $300+/night in any US city. We had a couple drinks at the 18th floor hotel bar while we enjoyed the rainy mist obstructed views of Monterrey. Beer options were slim pickings, but a Negra Modelo is a relatively non-offensive beer. No way in hell was I going with a Corona.

The view above our heads was also pretty cool. Who can resist taking a picture of yourself from a mirrored ceiling?!

Hello from down here

With an alcohol base in us, we would next go to the parent’s house of Danielle’s old friend who was conveniently from Monterrey. They graciously had us over for lunch which is typically had mid-late afternoon. I was a little disappointed that tacos and authentic Mexican food were not served, but I will never complain about a good hot meal. It was nice to meet and interact with locals and get a better feel for the real Mexico. While the parents spoke little English, we bonded over the talk of cerveza and how awesome it is. This was a conversation to which I obviously had no objections.

Before returning to the hotel, Danielle and I stopped by a nearby beer bar, Cueva Carvajal, on the recommendation of one of her local friends. This would be my first experience with Mexican craft beer, and I was seriously impressed that so many breweries existed in the country. A small amount of prior research had revealed that Mexico has a recently robust craft beer scene, and drinking at a bar with 12 draft and 50+ bottles of Mexican craft beer really drove home the point. I ordered an Imperial India Pale Ale from Cerveceria Malafacha from Monterrey. While the 9.3% ABV was impressive, the beer was too malt forward to be enjoyable. Labeling it a barleywine would have been more appropriate. Danielle chose a Mano Pachona by Albur from nearby Guadalupe. This IPA possessed a much more palatable malt and hops balance and finished with a nice citrus flavor. We only had time for the single order and had to quickly make our way back to the hotel.

The wedding welcome party was held at the Monterrey Planetarium. Along with mingling with the aquarium fish as we first walked in, we were treated to a large mariachi band, free booze, and Mexican snacks. Tecate Light is no beer to write home about, but the street food inspired Frito pie-esque snack I had was quite delicious. I wish I would have saved more room for tacos, because I was only able to eat four once they were served around 10 PM. I assume they were pork, and they were my first delicious taste of real Mexican tacos. Although I did not save a picture of my taco Snapchatting, my friend managed to get a metaphoto of me admiring my tacos.

With a happy stomach stuffed full of tacos and street food, Danielle and I joined her friends at Maverick, an uber hip spot making craft cocktails. While I cannot tell you what I ordered and drank, the drinks were very well made, and I even got to experience a Maverick, the flaming namesake bourbon and scotch drink of the house.

Maverick also made a good and boozy Old Fashioned. After quite a few cocktails at a very reasonable price (Danielle and my bill combined was ~$50 including tip), our group walked across the street for some late night tacos. I don’t remember the name of the place, but they made the best white corn tortillas I’ve ever had. Combined with some beef, proper accoutrements, and a selection of salsas, I downed two more tacos, bringing my first day total to six. While I would have liked to eat more, I was stuffed, and the 2:30 AM hour was not one I was used to seeing. My new friends drove us home, and we retired for a long night’s slumber.

After some great sleep, Danielle and I finally made it out of the hotel around noon with one mission in mind: more tacos! Having seen some taco photos my friend took the previous day, I had the perfect destination in mind. Taqueria Orinoco was located close to Maverick, and more importantly their taco game was very strong. I had trompo, res, and chicharron tacos and washed it down with the requisite Topo Chico. I expected goodness, but unbridled greatness was what I received. I’m not lying when I say that this was a top 5 food experience of my life. The meat, the corn tortillas, the spicy yet still incredibly flavorful salsas: everything was amazing. I regret not being more hungry and demolishing half a dozen, but I was still happy settling for three tacos, raising my two day total to nine.

Completely satisfied with our lunch, we took a short stroll to a beer store, hoping we could drink something there. Although Beer For Us had a great selection of Mexican craft beer, none of it could be consumed onsite. Once again, I was very impressed with the selection of Mexican craft beer bottles, and it was tough to only walk out with four different beers. I chronicled their bottle selection with an image that Danielle deftly photobombed.

We needed a beer in our system, so we set out to another location of Beer For Us that had an accompanying pub and restaurant. We were delighted to find 2 for 1 beers, and we started off with La Belga Sicotica (The Psychotic Belgian) from Border Psycho Brewery out of Tijuana. This dark saison seemed to be an interesting fusion of Belgian yeast with some Mexican character, almost like a cross between a traditional farmhouse and a Negra Modelo. I found it very interesting, and at the pricepoint of ~$3 for two beers I certainly could not complain. Our next choice took full advantage of their discount pricing, netting us two 9% beers for ~$3. I had actually never had Affligem Tripel before, and it was a nice representation of the style. Little Bagha by the Monterrey based Propaganda Brewing was a nice English IPA, bringing a solid malt body to some piney noble hops. I was happy to see a Black IPA on their menu, and Dark Lycan from Baja’s Cerveza Fauna was very enjoyable, packing a big roasted malt body and a nice hop presence. After a couple beers, we headed back to the hotel to get in a much needed nap ahead of the big night ahead. Mexican weddings are all night into the wee hours of the morning affairs.

While getting dressed in our finest attire, we drank the beers we had bought earlier. I really enjoyed Bagha Super IPA by Propaganda.It drank super smooth for 9% and had a nice West Coast hop build. My favorite beer of the trip was the Brutal Imperial Stout from Border Psycho Brewery. It clocked in at 10.3% and had a very nice cocoa flavor along with some star anise spice. I also had a taste of Danielle’s La Perversa (IPA)2, another very good beer from Border Psycho. Wedding transport was a shuttle bus, and it dropped us off at Our Lady of Guadalupe church. The traditional Catholic ceremony did not begin until 8:30 PM, and it included a full mass. Not being a religious fellow, I kept myself entertained by passing around a water bottle full of not-exactly water if you know what I’m saying. It turns out that Topo Chico makes a pretty good mixer if you were wondering. It was a nice ceremony, and we made sure to catch a photo of the newly wed couple walking down the aisle.

He’s totally about to give a thumbs up

With the religious part over, it was time to party. The buses took us to Club Industrial, a classy venue with views overlooking the city. Although the darkness limited our visibility, it was cool to have such an expansive vantage point. Danielle and I took our outdoors couple’s photo, and I probably said something really funny to make her laugh so hard.

I’m quite the funny guy

Beer, cocktails, and steak were the nourishment of the night, and I made sure to consume enough to fuel my hours of dancing. Literally hours. The dance party began around midnight, and we did not leave the venue until after 4 in the morning. Mexican wedding receptions are no joke. The house band evolved into a DJ who played more contemporary tunes and really got the party rolling. I always turn into a dancing fool at weddings, and this was no exception. It was certainly the latest I had ever been at a wedding, and it was possibly the most dancing I’ve ever done. It was a raucous time with great friends, and I still wonder where all those photobooth pictures went.

Eventually the reception wound down, and we would head back to our hotel to prepare for our flight in a couple hours. I chose to not sleep for fear that I would not wake up and we would miss our flight. A final pre-flight beer in the airport lounge before departure made sure I would immediately pass out upon finding my seat on the plane, and that indeed turned out to be the case.

The quick whirlwind two days in Monterrey gave me my first taste of non-border town Mexico, and I loved what I got to experience. Unsurprisingly the tacos were heavenly and were the non-wedding highlight of the trip. Perhaps what was surprising was the strength of the Mexican craft beer scene. It did not take too much looking to find a bar specializing in Mexican craft beer, and the selection of different breweries from all over Mexico was impressive. While I did not see a whole lot of variation and experimentation in their beer styles, I got to try some interesting beers and a couple that would make the cut as legitimate beers in the American market. I’ll eventually make my way back to Mexico, and I hope that their beer scene will continue to evolve and advance. As they say in Spanish, hasta la vista, baby.

Britt Antley

Britt is a native Texan, lived in Houston for 12 years, and loves his current life in the Mile High City (although his liver is having second thoughts). His liver is also not nearly as proud of his 14,000+ Untappd uniques as he is. Stupid liver. He loves flavorful complex beers from Hazy IPAs to Wild Ales to barrel aged Stouts, but ultimately he has vowed to some day be buried with a 4-pack of Bierstadt Slow Pour Pils.