Conversaciones de una Fiesta

I went to a huge Mexican birthday party last night after work and all I can tell you right now is: I am so happy I decided to learn Spanish back in my mid-20s. Most of the people there were over forty, drinking Tecate, Pacifico, Don Julio, and reminiscing about the old days in whichever part of Mexico they hailed from. Instead of banishing myself into the English speaking corner with the rest of the gueros, I decided to caucus with the latinos. Grabbing a plate of stewed pork, rice, and beans, I sat down in a circle of native Mexicans who were having an intense discussion about beer. There are certain moments when my Spanish comprehension is really on point, and thank God this happened to be one of those evenings. The conversation they were having was fascinating.

"The water is totally different in that part of Mexico," said the man sitting next to me. "The minerals create a totally different flavor. That's why the Tecate they make in that part tastes different than what we get in the United States."

"They make it stronger, too," added in the guy sitting across from me. "There's a more powerful flavor in the Mexican version."

"Corona is the same," said the older gentleman to my left. "All of the bottles in America have a skunky aroma. It's not like the version we get back in Sinaloa, which is clean and fresh. It's not the same at all."

One of the things that will often drive me crazy about the wine and spirits industry is the sense of self-importance that "educated" drinkers often give to themselves; as if their understanding and appreciation of certain beverages has elevated them to a higher level of consciousness (and class). They shun basic brands and shit on what they believe to be inferior products because they want to believe that their more sophisticated palate separates them from the general shit-swilling public. I interact with these people all the time. Yet, if I were to tell one of these elitist pedants that I met two carpenters (with hands like sandpaper) and a plumber talking about the various regional differences between the intricate flavors of big-brand Mexican beer, what do you think they would say?

"Oh please! As if there's really a difference between all that crap," is what I imagine I would hear (as I hear statements like that fairly regularly).

There definitely is a mindset in the booze community that scholastic appreciation and conversation generally revolves around the expensive, rare, and geeky—and that to have a serious dialogue about something basic, ubiquitous, and mass-produced is boring or irrelevant. There's also a further hypothesis that the people drinking brands like Coors or Tecate don't care about or are unable to recognize quality in what they're tasting (I hear statements along these lines quite regularly as well). That being said, the most interesting and inviting conversation I've heard about alcohol in the last few months came at a birthday party from three working-class guys without any formal training in alcohol appreciation, concerning the production of inexpensive Mexican beer and how the variance impacts flavor.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll