Review #14 – Cucapá Obscura

Cucapá Obscura (American Brown Ale, 4.8%). Cervecería Cucapá (Mexicali, Mexico). $10/6 x 355ml bottle.

Hecho en Mexico. You could do worse.

Here we go again with another Wednesday edition of tight-arse Tuesday. It’s not all down to sheer laziness though. Part of it is because of the dread I felt yesterday at the thought of going down to pick out another undrinkable can of bland and possibly toxic Europiss, the shame at taking it up to the counter and the absurdity of paying for the privilege of doing so. So, after procrastinating for far too long I find myself in Thorndon New World looking sadly at the shelves of seemingly interchangeable cans of desperate self-loathing but on the point of giving up entirely I wander down the other end and find a well-priced six pack of this Mexican beer which is not only not European but is not a pale lager. I feel like I’m saved.

The only Mexican beer I had hitherto been acquainted with is Corona, but anything that needs to be consumed through a slice of lemon to be palatable doesn’t thrill the soul so I’m not particularly hopeful. The first pleasant surprise is that this is not a twist top, followed closely by the absence of dodgy Spanglish on the label. After some research there is a reasonably functional website to check out as well. These guys care. It makes a nice change from the Euro cheapies that don’t even seem to want to bother telling you what country they’re from.

Also on the plus side, it does not in any way resemble a Corona. It pours a dark, clear ruby colour with a thin to medium off-white foamy head that clears quickly to form a lasting ring around the glass. The aroma is odd and had me guessing for a long while. It smells of cherries; I have no idea why. There’s some sweetness there too, and this is reflected in the flavour. From the four different malts (as claimed on the label) yes there are hints of roastiness and chocolate as well as the more predominant caramel/toffee flavour but it is all ruled over by that odd, sweet fruitiness. The mouthfeel is on the thin side and it is probably overcarbonated. There is almost no finish, and with the oversweet taste leads me to think they’ve skimped badly on the hops. The aroma becomes almost sickly sweet towards the end, and the cherry taste becomes a little much after a while but for one or two it is definitely enjoyable. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the KJD Chocolate Cherry Porter which is far superior and one of my favourites which is probably why I quite liked the Obscura whereas others apparently were wondering if it was infected. It’s a difficult one to nail down but I’d say the most important difference (among several) between the Porter and the Obscura is akin to the difference between fresh squeezed and reconstituted orange juice. It’s not entirely harmonious in the Mexican beer. All in all it’s interesting and unusual but far too unbalanced to be recommended on that basis alone. As a cheapie, you could easily have more than one of these, but three, I’d imagine, is more than enough.

Sometimes it’s easy to pair up a beer with some appropriate music. A nice complex Belgian suggests something jazzy or fusiony; dark winter beers something heavy and contemplative; airy and light Pilsners something poppy and upbeat; dodgy homebrews bad bootlegs. It’s hard to know what goes well with a just plain weird one like this. Brown Ales sit pretty comfortably in the classic rock part of the spectrum for me but this is not a typical Brown Ale. It’s tempting to just suggest Lola and be done with it (“tastes just like cherry cola” – No? You’re right, it doesn’t work). And there’s no way I’m going to cheap out and suggest any old Chicano act or the first Tijuana Brass Band I could find like that’s appropriate in any way. Certainly not now that I can’t think of any of those that work either. I suppose though if natural tasting beers suggest old school analog sounds, something weird and adjuncty like this might mean something laden down with studio effects so as far as something classic rock, I’m thinking something like Hawkwind about the time of Hall of the Mountain Grill, because it’s just on the dark side of the middle of the road but something still a bit strange, especially when it’s Lemmy doing it. It’s not my area of expertise, this genre. I’m sorry. It is kind of rubbish though, let’s be honest.

Verdict: More weird than actually bad, goes down easily enough but the appeal wears thin long before the end of the night. 56/100.

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