Gluten Free Beer In Mexico
I actually found some!
As you may have picked up from my social media posts–or recent blogs, I am currently traveling abroad. I’m on a road trip through Mexico at the moment. ALL of Mexico. We are about 5,000 miles in right now, having driven all the way from Oregon to the Caribbean. In fact, we are currently on a little island off the eastern coast.
When I embarked on this trip through Mexico, I had both expected and accepted that I would not be able to buy beer here. Unless you count their traditional corn beer, which I must say, would make a fun blog! This is my fourth time to Mexico, so I knew not to expect much in the way of gluten free craft beer.
…And Then I Became A Beer Smuggler
So I turned into a gluten free beer smuggler. Haha! I went to the store before I left and stocked up on all my PNW gluten frees…Ground Breaker, Ghostfish, and Moonshrimp then packed them away in the van hoping the customs agent wouldn’t enforce the alcohol import maximums. When I was packing the beer up in the van, I was getting patient eye rolls from my boyfriend. (It WAS taking up a LOT of our space! ?) When we crossed the border, the Mexican customs agent gave us such a quick glance and green light, that I actually regretted not bringing more.
This foresight has resulted in a serious luxury…getting to drink amazing gluten free beer while traveling! I’ve even reviewed a couple beers from abroad. There are definitely benefits to road trips over airports people. But there are also downsides. Like having to communicate with mechanics in Spanish when your van breaks down. (I have a hard time talking to mechanics in English for gods sake.)
Are The Rumors True?
So here we are, on this little Caribbean island called Isla Mujeres. My boyfriend and I were walking home from breakfast this morning when I decided to stop in at the (only) local micro brewery on the island. I had heard they brewed a “gluten friendly” ale, and I wanted to investigate what exactly that meant.
I have approached this brewery before on past visits. They usually set up at the artist fair once a week. I had heard a rumor about a gluten free offering last year, but I didn’t believe it. The one time we asked them about it, they had none with them, and I was left wondering if they had one at all.
Isla Brewing Company
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Turns out they have TWO gluten free ales. It’s obviously not a dedicated facility, as they are a glutenous brewery, but the ingredients for two of their beers are 100% gluten free, and they said their cleaning of the equipment between batches is extensive.
When I wandered in, they only had their tasting room open. They had both “gluten friendly” brews on the menu, and I decided to taste them both. One is a hibiscus honey ale called Jamaica Miel Loco, and the other is a ginger beer named Cruda Ayuda (Hangover Helper).
The Gluten Free Beers
Isla Brewing marketing of the Cruda Ayuda goes like this: “Hey, we may have contributed to your hangover, but at least we offer a remedy.” The ginger beer is said to calm the stomach and cure your hangover. They even created a hilarious chart explaining the recommended dosage.
Let’s Get On To The Taste Test…
The Jamaica Miel Loco brew is brewed with pure cane sugar and hibiscus flowers. It has a 5.5% ABV and comes in a 355 ml bottle.
They do not have to publish the ingredients on the bottles here, and it is not labeled as a gluten free. The brewery markets it as one though, and all of their staff is very clear on the fact that the ingredients are 100% without gluten. Their social media postings echo this.
Jamaica Miel Loco
The Hibiscus Honey Ale
When I poured the Jamaica Miel Loco, part of me couldn’t believe how deep red it was. (like Koolaid dark) You wouldn’t want to spill this on anything you didn’t want tie dyed. The beer poured very thin, as a cider would, with no head.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, hibiscus beverages are very traditional in Mexico. Pretty much everywhere you would eat–whether it’s a restaurant or a street cart–is going to have refrescos like jamaica on the menu. They are typically quite sweet.
This hibiscus honey ale is much less sweet than I feared. It is mild in every way just about…with the exception of its fruitiness. It is a very refreshing beverage for a hot island day. I can’t say that it tastes like beer at all though. It also has a very low carbonation level.
All in all I am drinking an incredibly refreshing fruit juice. Wait…maybe more like a Kombucha. A Humm-like Kombucha. (You may have had them since they’ve now gone international. But they originated in my town of Bend, Oregon.) Those have a bit of fizz to them, but not so heavy on the medicinal flavors of the fermented beverage, similar to a light soda. Except it has 5.5% ABV! (That’s MY kind of juice…)
This brew would be great for brunch, alongside Mimosas and Screwdrivers. It doesn’t even taste like a cider–because it doesn’t have that bite. If you can let go of the expectation for it to taste like beer, I don’t have much to complain about with this Hibiscus thirst quencher.
The bartender told me that her favorite way to drink the Jamaica Miel Loco was to mix it with the ginger beer. I am going to take her suggestion and save half of it and move on to the Cruda Ayuda brew next.
The “Hangover Helper”
This is the beer I actually stopped in to ask about. Everyone on the island seems to like it. I don’t know if that speaks more to the beer or to the rate of hangovers though. Ha! The brewery describes this beer as “more like a cider”, which to be honest, is my experience with many gluten free ginger beers. (Where’s the beer people?!)
Anyway, I am diving in with the expectation of a cider-like beverage. I am properly prepared. Just like the hibiscus ale, the Cruda Ayuda is 5.5% ABV. So regardless of their taste, these beers can still stand their ground in the ABV department.
Wafts of ginger hit my nose as I poured this ginger ale. It pours a very soft pale yellow. Think creamsicle. It is quite opaque. I can’t see much of anything through it despite its light hue. Just like with the Jamaica Miel Loco, it poured with no head and seems to share it’s carbonation level.
This ale has a bit more of that bite that the last one lacked. It does seem to all be coming from the heat of the ginger though. In every other way, it’s quite mild–including the sweet factor–which I’m grateful for. I am a big fan of ginger by the way. If you hand me something ginger that isn’t overly sweet, chances are I’m going to love it.
As many of you may know, ginger is very calming to the stomach, so as person with intense food intolerances…I use ginger quite a lot to settle my digestive system. I typically use it in teas or in essential oil form. Tip: I rub ginger oil on my belly if it’s upset, and it almost always helps.
I have had some “ginger beers” before that were borderline undrinkable because they just tasted like a ginger soda–but significantly sweeter. Although this ginger beer is light on the “beer” side, it is still very enjoyable and not overly sweet at all. Another thirst quencher to enjoy on a hot Mexican day.
La Mexcla…The Mix
I managed to save about half of each beverage and mixed them together to give the combo a try. As you can imagine, the two flavors complemented each other well. However, should I ever find myself ordering an Isla Brewing beer again, it would probably be a straight Cruda Ayuda.