I've been a fan of Chicago's 5 Rabbit Cerveceria
for a while now and have sought out their beers on visits to Chicago over the past 3+ years. Their beer is now being distributed in Wisconsin which means that I can drink their suds more frequently. The brewery is inspired by the founders' Latin American backgrounds: Andres Araya is Costa Rican while Isaac Showaki hails from Mexico. (Showaki left 5 Rabbit
in 2013 and has since relocated to the only Waunakee in the world to found Octopi Brewing
Rather than simply fabricating a line of Latin American IPAs, 5 Rabbit are more interested in utilizing tropical fruits, Costa Rican coffee, chilies, et al
in a variety of ways to pay tribute to Latin American culture and history. I have previously reviewed 5 Lizard
, a "Latin-style witbier", and 5 Lizard
, which is billed as an "Oaxacan-style dark ale". I highly recommend both but especially the latter as the weather is about to get chilly.
Some of 5 Rabbit's fall seasonal, Vida y Muerte
("Life and Death") made its way to Madison. The brewery refers to it as a "müerzen" as it "loosely based" the beer on the märzen.
I lucked out and got to drink a Vida y Muerte on a gorgeous fall evening and so my photograph is pretty fair. The beer was a lovely amber color and slightly turbid. My tulip glass was graced with a couple fingers of nice white head that hung around for a while. There were lots of bubbles in the glass going upwards. This is one effervescent brew.
While Vida y Muerte may be a distant cousin of the Oktoberfest, it also trades on the so-called pumpkin beer with the addition of Mexican cinnamon along with other unnamed spices. That cinnamon was readily apparent when I took a sniff as was nutmeg. There was a caramel sweetness here too but I'm unsure if it came from the malt or the dulce de leche
or milk caramel. Perhaps both. I could also smell grass which I'll put down to the Glacial hops, a variety with which I was unfamiliar until now.
The taste is similar to the aroma with the spices being the first thing my tongue noticed. While the spices were front and center, they didn't overwhelm and allowed that caramel sweetness to come through. Milk sugar is added to the beer so there is a definite sweetness but this isn't a syrupy sweet mess. Vienna and Munich malts are used and while I didn't end up in melanoidin cielo, there was some tasty bread flavor. Although a kusine of the festbier, Vida y Muerte is an ale and I tasted some fruity flavors as well which were like cherry. Lastly, the carbonation added a little bit of bite.
At the finish the cinnamon and nutmeg ebbed away and were replaced with grassy and spicy hop bitterness which brought a moderate dryness to the close of the proceedings. My glass was left with some decent webs of lacing.
I was rather surprised at just how light-bodied Vida y Muerte is. With its beautiful amber color, a 6.3% A.B.V., and all that milk sugar and caramel, I expected something a bit heavier. I recall drinking this beer immediately after coming home from work and being very thirsty. It went down quite easily, I can assure you. The spices were pronounced but they weren't oppressive. The malt and milk sugar/caramel added just enough sweetness to provide a base for the cinnamon and nutmeg while the carbonation and hops kept everyone in line. While I prefer a little more body in my autumnal beers, Vida y Muerte was still a nice sweet treat for Halloween/Día de Muertos.
Junk food pairing: Having lost my brother earlier this year, Día de Muertos took on especial significance for me. Ergo I paired Vida y Muerte with some Pan de Muertos. The extra bit of sweetness was fine but I really liked how the bread added more heft to the mouthfeel, a little more base for the spices.
Prost, my brother.
Labels: 5 Rabbit Cerveceria, Beer, Chicago, Märzen, Oktoberfest