Brunch Beer

When we first saw it listed on the brunch beverage menu at Point Brugge in Pittsburgh we thought it was a crazy, and almost revolting thought. Hec couldn’t help but order it to accompany his eggs benedict al pesto. I preferred a mimosa with my Belgium waffles (the kind with that awesome crystal sugar inside). But what they brought to the table wasn’t at all expected (mind you this was long before my experiences with flavored beers such as blueberry or apricot). Mixed at the table to your liking, the waiter brought a bottle of hoegaarten weisse and a few ounces of lambic framboise. Slightly sweet, but very beer-like. Not lager-ish at all. It felt unseemly appropriate for 10am. I was jealous I hadn’t ordered it, and will admit that I stole many sips.

We recreated the experience a few times before returning to Guatemala: pre-meal cocktails, a replacement for champagne on New Years Eve. But alas, it was back to the traditional Gallo once in Guate.

The beer varieties, as I may or may not have mentioned before, are depressingly slim. Lager is available in three different labels, but they are all (gasp, shall I dare say it?) the same. I never will realize why Guatemalans are so proud of this mild lager. While it is very decent, perhaps better than Coors or Budweiser, it is extraordinarily ordinary.  I suppose I should mention the beer has won first prize in European beer contensts, beating the best german and belguim beers year after year. But it is all that is available. The monopolistic brewery, Cervecería Gallo, owns all of the national labels, and has influenced import laws so that any foreign brew is twice as expensive and hardly worth the buck. The cervecería was kind enough to offer a darker, sweeter brew, Moza, for a bit of variety. It is even available on tap and, although a bit too sweet on its own, we often order the Guatemalan version of a black and tan to add some variation to the daily grind. But I must be honest. Gallo just doesn’t do it for me.

Back in the day I heard rumors of the Irish Pub in Antigua, Reily’s, that sold Guinness. We made a special trip to check it out, and even saved up the Q60 ($7.50) each it would cost for a pint. But the bar tender told us the import regulations had been tightened and they could no longer offer it. We were deeply disappointed. Later we found that in Zone 10 there is a German-owned bar, El Establo, where they offer Tucher, a hefeweizen, or wheat beer.  It goes for Q40 ($5.00) a pint. While it is a delicious and a refreshing option, the price seems absurd next to the Q20 we pay for a Gallo.  Perhaps that is a typical bar price in any US city, but its not a price for a Guatemalan salary. We splurged there a few times, convincing ourselves it evened out with the all-you-can-eat popcorn, relaxing atmosphere, and good music selection.

Once we knew of a wine shop where you could buy cans of Tucher for Q14, a great deal we thought. But a few months later they informed us they were no longer able to import our favorite elixir. That ended a good 6 months ago, and since then we’ve been getting tired of the same old stuff. I’ve been adding lime and salt to my beer, as the locals often do, just to mix it up the taste a little.

But…the other day my cuñado told us  a secret location where we could buy the stuff at Q11 a pint, in cases of 18. !!! It is clearly a secret kept from the brewery, and perhaps it will be shut down in a few months as well as all the others. But in the meanwhile we are exploiting the amazing deal (per ounce it is cheaper than Gallo!!). It’s quite interesting because the store sells bathroom tiles. You have to give a secret code before they let you into the back room, and even there you need to sign in blood for them to admit they have what you are looking for! I’m not going to talk more,  for fear of the operation being cut short. 😉

All I want to say is that we have been enjoying our reasonably priced alternative to Gallo, and we have been able to, in a way, bring back brunch beer: a pint of tucher between two glasses, 2 oz of orange juice a piece, is a perfect accompaniment to pancakes or waffles on a lazy Saturday morning. It isn’t the Point Brugge recipe for sure, but we aren’t about to get greedy, either! Drink up! And don’t take variety for granted.