Drinking outside my comfort zone

A Mexican porter in my hand – who knew?

Sometimes I’m not in the Cariboo, and (sometimes worse) I can’t seek out the best of BC craft beer to drink. I’ve been away from BC before, and unless it’s in the Cascadian corridor, beer can be very hit and miss. Not to say that the sea urchin and tomato water gose at Burnside was a beer I’d order a pint of, but there was always very drinkable stuff in Portland or Seattle or San Diego. But down here in Mexico I wasn’t sure what I’d be dealing with. I know that there are 2 craft breweries in Puerto Vallarta (Los Muertos Brewing and Monzón Brewing Co.), but I’m spending a fair part of this trip in a resort to satisfy the needs of some of my family members, and then I’ve rented a nice place privately in Bucerías for the final 3 nights to satisfy my style of travel.

I’ve been keeping tabs with the local craft beer enthusiasts by joining their local Facebook page (The craft beer boys and girls of Puerto Vallarta), asking for recommendations on where to buy bottles and sharing the results of my finds – some from within the resort and some picked up on outings outside.


There are 8 or 15 or 40 restaurants within this mega-resort, and when we can’t be bothered to get a shuttle to a taxi stand to get a ride to a town, we eat within the compound-like confines of the resort. I’ve been lucky to find some decent beers at about 20% of the places we go. Weirdly, while it’s all run by one company, many of the establishments just stock the bland National beers. Then some (like the photo at top) stock 2 non-macro options. And then you get a magical restaurant with 5 or 6 options and I think I’ve hit the jackpot. Like all things within the resort, you pay for the privilege of having it within and that means 98 Mexican pesos (~$6.50 CAD) for a beer. All things considered, when you couldn’t pay me to drink a Dos Equis, I’m not too bothered by that.


Let me give that a bit more context however. I managed to wrangle breakfast off-resort with the family at Mr. Cream Pancake & Waffles down by the Puerto Vallarta Marina, where I happened to know there was a restaurant called The Beer Box Prime that had off sales. There I picked up this gem of a blonde ale from Colombo that was a startlingly light 3.9% and was a knockout for a warm Mexican night. But, it still set me back 85 pesos ($5.75) making the resort beers seem not unreasonable.

But with Westjet having decided to borrow my suitcase for the first 2 days of the trip, I stopped into the local Walmart for socks and underwear, like you do, and also beer. They had walls and walls of macro beer, but if you picked and poked long enough you can actually find craft beer. And most bottles were in the 30-35 peso range.

What is surprising my (and showing how sheltered I am) is that the style names down here are usually quite different than my expectation. With the except of porters (which are quite like porters I know, pale ales are more like a cross between that Burton Ale that I already blogged about and a brown ale. This “Pilsner Ambar” I’m drinking as I write this is like lighter a red ale with 1/4 the hops than I’d expect.


And this amber ale from Siete Siete Siete (which I can’t find anywhere online) is like a lightly hopped pale ale.


I can definitely understand that hops vary a lot by region and I would guess that Mexican hops are not as punchy as the West Coast varieties I’m accustomed to. And also that regions adopt a nomenclature that suits them, not me. And once I build that personal Rosetta Stone for craft beer, I can navigate my way through the scene with a better grasp of what’s coming next.

Already though the Facebook page I’ve met the owner of La Negra, in Bucerías a place that looks like a perfect mix of Goth club, craft beer mecca, and fresh seafood Nirvana. A place I’ll definitely be going and I’m really hoping to try my first IPA down here to help with my palate calibration (look at these beers from Cerveza Fauna they were serving in October!).

I should also mention that I applaud when any region adds a local flavour that makes their beer unique, and in Mexico that appears to be the addition of agave. And fascinatingly not just in lagers…I found one in a brown ale. I’d had an ale with agave on my first night (no photo taken), so I know there are at least 2 beers with agave on the market and I’m willing to bet there are many more.


This is quite the departure from beer I bring to the Cariboo, and I’m really unsure if I can actually ship myself any beer, so this anomaly post will have to stand on it’s own.

Whatever the case, it’s been a good liquid adventure and I’m sure I’ll return one day well equipped to continue my research. This blog post will help me recall where I got to.





From this point on I’ve moved to Bucerías (photo above is herem but a beer from a kiosk). Next 3 photos below are beer I had at La Negra or brought home from La Negra. What a very cool bar.  They had 2 kegs in the cooler, but unfortunately didn’t have the CO2 on hand to tap them. That said, there were more than enough bottles to try. The Fauna IPA was magificent, however it was a perplexing 5.7% . The pale ale from Sayulita (YamBak) was different from my palate’s expectation, being quite sweet.

But in those moments when a beer from another country confuses me, I remember why drinking local is so important – live a little and learn something new. And that I did. And will do again.







I drank pink beer and I liked it*

Spinnakers Raspberry

There are many cans of great beer out there that never see the light of day. Not that they go un-consumed, but rather it’s easy to just drink them straight from the can and miss the complete experience – aesthetic pleasure, aroma etc. Often with beer I’m familiar with, I skip the complete presentation aspect when I’m up here or if it’s just too dark to appreciate around the camp fire I don’t bother decanting. Spinnakers Raspberry Lager was one of my recent purchases where I wanted to know just how pink it would be. Knowing that all good craft brewers use pure ingredients and that this one would never use artificial colourants in their products, I figured I’d be able to tell by looking just how much raspberry would be in the beer. I like fruited beer when it’s subtle, but too much fruit and I feel you’ve ruined the beer. So it was with a little excitement and worry that I decanted my first tallboy of this offering and stood back to examine it.

Let’s back up a step and ask me why I bought pink beer in the first place. A 4.5% lager with some pink fruit additive. I’ve been spending time in the Cariboo for several years now, coming up in every season. And if there’s one thing you can count on up here it’s a pretty high, dry heat on the July long weekend. Like 35C on a hot one. It was 33.8C at the peak today, which was around 4pm. So down in North Vancouver at Toby’s Liquor Store, I was trying to imagine that perfect, early hot evening, thirst-quenching kind of beer when I chanced upon this 4-pack from Spinnakers. I knew I had several IPA iterations from Port Moody’s Twin Sails Brewing, a new IPA from Steel & Oak, and a whole mess of random bombers, some old stuff left over from New Years (the cellar at the ranch house keeps a uniform temperature year-round), but not much in the light/sessionable category.

So pulling a chilled can of raspberry lager at 4:45 PM and sitting some in shade at 29 degrees, this felt like the right 8 IBU hit at the right time in the right place. Because context is everything. It would not taste the same at -19C while I was stoking the wood stove.

The entire premise of this blog is staking claim to be the first person to enjoy a specific craft beer in British Columbia’s Cariboo region.  Partly because most of these beers are so hard to find and consumed so fast upon release, I doubt many ever travel far. And Partly because the liquor stores that I’ve come upon up in the Cariboo carry a lot of Bud and Kokanee. But mostly because it’s a fun claim to stake and until I’m proven wrong, I’m the first. So here it is – I’m the first guy to drink Spinnakers Raspberry Lager in the Cariboo. Live with it.