Brewing Up a Craft Cerveza

Written by Ken Ellingwood for The Los Angeles Times, McClatchy-Tribune News Service and Plain Dealer

Photo courtesy Dominic Bracco/Los Angeles Times/MCT. From left, Pepe Galvez dumps in malted barley as Alfonso Chavez Dominguez stirs and owner Gustavo Gonzalez looks on while making a light beer at Cosaco microbrewery in Mexico City, Mexico.
MEXICO CITY — It sounds like a movie where high jinks ensue: A teetotaling Mexican hotel worker travels to England, befriends a whisky-drinking Irishman and scrubs toilets in a pub while learning to brew killer beer.

Such is the odd path Jose Morales has taken since a sweltering day five years ago when he found himself wondering how to make a beverage he doesn’t even drink. The daydreaming has led Morales, then a hotel warehouse manager, to an unlikely new calling as a beer maker.

Morales, 36, is among a burst of Mexican brewers who are testing recipes and investing in imported equipment in hopes of finding the same formula for success that microbreweries north of the border have found.

Mostly self-taught, the Mexican brewers have launched an array of offerings, from Belgian-style wheat beers and imperial stouts to an ale aged in tequila barrels. They want to translate a hobby into commercial success in a country that is increasingly quick to embrace foreign trends, from smartphones to designer coffee.

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Beer Profile: Genesee Bock Beer

Profiled by Ken Carman

Photo courtesy
I haven’t had Genny Bock for a long time. Reminds me of fireman field days in upstate New York and my college years: early 70s. That means the Genny I am drinking now is not the original. Genesee Brewing went out of business and the rights were bought out by a local craft brewing concern. I have heard they do use the original building for their Genny beers, but I’m not sure of that.

So in the final analysis, not sure if this is the same as the original recipe, but I’m guessing it’s close. The nose is all wrong according to today’s BJCP Traditional Bock standards: little malt sense and corn/DMS. If I’d opened up a can of corn and you sniffed this would be similar. But that’s most likely what the original was like. Genny was one more of those A/B and Miller wannabes that never really took the cue to go craft like West End/F.X. Matt did when they created Saranac. has this as a “Dunkler Bock…”

“Dunkler Bock — a strong, full-bodied lager darkened by high-colored malts. 16-17° Plato, 6.5-7% ABV.” (Wiki)

…and the German Beer Institute says…

“Weihnachtsstarkbier (Christmas Bockbier), which is popular in the south of Germany, is often a darker version of the regular Bock. Sometimes it is also called a Dunkles or Dunkler Bock. In addition to the rich malty finish, these rewarding Yuletide brews have a slightly chocolatey taste from the addition of some roasted malts.”

…both being even more absurd categories for this beer to be listed under, as you soon shall see.

Pillow-y foam out the wazoo. That’s right but doesn’t last as it should per style. Kind of a red-ish bronze. Clarity nice. Munich malt? Some. Vienna? Perhaps. Complex? Are you kidding? There is a malt sweetness and the corn sense is still there but a bit less compared with malts and especially aroma.

Hop flavor is about what it should be for what they’re offering. Malt sense too light for style. Some sweetness on the upper palate. That malt sweetness clings to the roof of the mouth and the back of the tongue.

This is an American lager with all it’s adjunct corny (not rice I would assume) “goodness,” with a pinch of slightly darker malts and a hint of Munich, at best. If you’ve had true German Bock, or many of the American craft versions, you’ll say, “Bock? Who are they kidding?” Compared to typical American beer of it’s time this was better for those seeking more, but now it’s just a weak, dated, version of what’s now an out of style Traditional Bock. I hate even using “Bock,” but they made the claim. So sad they haven’t updated the recipe. I understand they’re trying to please those who miss the old Genny Bock, but that market is dying. Literally.

Hey, it’s my generation. The other generations are used to better beer. I predict if it’s not updated eventually this revival will fade into the thank god that’s no longer made beer graveyard.