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Dos Aves
Dos Aves
San Miguel micro-brewery produces mega-popular beers

Story and Photos
By Rebecca Hartmann

“There is a style of beer for every human on the planet. The pleasure is in finding that particular beer.” Francisco Kameko tells me this after I announced that I have never cared much for beer. Let me just get that out there: I don’t even like beer, I’ve never liked beer, but I love watching people do what they love. These two men here at “Dos Aves” love to brew beer and have been doing so here for the last few years. They are the first microbrewery founded in SMA.

I interviewed Francisco Kameko and Mark Taylor at their microbrewery, “Dos Aves,” in San Miguel de Allende. “Dos Aves”—two really smart guys in a small warehouse behind Mega—consistently produces award-winning beers that are highly sought after in SMA and probably will be all over the country when their production capacity allows. The quality and consistency of their beer is determined by controlling the variables of temperature, sanitation (meaning contact with wild yeast or bacteria), and the yeast itself. These guys have the science down to an art form. They move about the brewery with the ease that accompanies expertise; their eyes light up as they explain the process and point out the hot liquid tank, the “mash tun,” and the brew kettle. As they are showing me the three cylinders I ask, “So, what’s beer made of?” Francisco laughs, a friendly laugh, and suggests we sit down to discuss some basics.

Beer is made from malted grain—that grain can be barley or rye or wheat or oats—yeast and hops. He shows me some malted grain. The grains smell good, smell healthy. I kind of want to bury my face in his hand to eat a handful, but don’t let on. “Dos Aves” buys its malted grain from a place in Chihuahua that distributes for a Wisconsin farm. I get the feeling that Mark and Francisco have scoured sources throughout the country and have chosen the best. So, step one is to get the malted grain. Step two is to crush it and add it to reverse-osmosis filtered water and let that combination rest at 150 degrees. During this process the grain releases enzymes that break starch into simple sugars. This is called mash. The molecular strains of the mash should be short; yeast loves to eat the simple sugars in short molecular strands and has difficulty should those strands be too long. When yeast is later introduced it absorbs the sugar into their cell walls where it is then metabolized and the by-product is the alcohol and CO2 and the flavor. Yeast varies. “Dos Aves” uses yeast from White Labs in San Diego, owned by a fellow named Chris White, who is the premier provider for cultures.

Flavor is also negotiated by other factors such as timing and hops. Hops, pellets that look like something a 50-pound gerbil might find delicious, are grown in the Pacific Northwest and similar latitudes in the northern and southern hemispheres. They are a bit like wine grapes in that there are good places to grow them. New Zealand and Australia grow hops. New York was the major hop supplier until a perfect storm of a mildew epidemic, spider mites, and prohibition made the crop unprofitable. According to an October 2014 Bloomberg Business article, “New York Farms Get Hoppy,” New York is getting its hops back on. Hops are complicated and specific varieties such as “Cascade” and “Centennial” will contribute certain characteristics to the beer. They are used for bittering and for aroma and flavor. For bittering the hops are introduced into the boil at minute zero, for aroma and flavor they are introduced about minute 60. Mark, who taught beer-making in Santa Cruz California says, “That’s always the trick, to keep the beer balanced.” But types of beer have different types of yeast-to-hops balance. There is too much to know about hops. For our immediate purpose in discussing a local brewery, it’s enough to know that most hops come from the Pacific Northwest and that every label will have an “International Bittering Unit” that correlates to the degree of hoppiness. A large IBU is “hops forward” while a smaller IBU is “yeast forward.” Mexico has no major hops producer.

The popular “India Pale Ale” is hoppy and the name comes from the choice of the British East India Company (EIC) to ship “Barley Wine” also known as “October Beer” to India in 1822 primarily for the forces residing there who wanted beer from home. The first supplier of this beer was George Hodgson of “Bow” brewery. Hodgson offered good terms to the EIC but his sons did not, so in the late 1820s the chairman of the EIC, Campbell Marjoribanks, asked “Allsopp” brewery to replicate the hoppy brew. Allsopp did so, and became the major supplier of what a 1929 Sydney advertisement termed “India Pale Ale.” The term stuck and then branched off into different types of IPA determined by their hoppiness. For instance, the label “Imperial India Pale Ale” or “San Diego Pale Ale,” a very hoppy brew, was born just north of San Diego in the “Blind Pig” brewery. The stories behind Hodgson and Allsopp are fascinating and worthy of attention. But not here right now. I’m still in our microbrewery behind Mega, and, yes, we are still on step two in the brewing process.

The third step is to run the boil through a heat exchanger that drops the temperature to about 65 degrees. That is the easiest step, as it seems to me.

Step four is to run the product into a fermenter where the yeast is added and multiplies, consumes sugars as described above and sits there for as few as five days or as long as three weeks. Step five is to transfer the beer from the fermenter to the kegs, force and fine-tune carbonation and keep the kegs in coolers just above freezing. After about one week they bottle the beer under pressure and viola – bottled beer ready for market.

Four of Dos Aves’ offerings have won medals in “Cerveza Mexico,” a worldwide competition in D.F. judged by people who have to complete lengthy training and then pass examinations in aspects of beer production and the parameters for each type of beer. The parameters are flavor, aroma, color range, carbonation level, and mouth feel (viscosity). So, winning a medal in this competition is not like winning a chili cook-off; it’s like winning an Olympic medal in figure skating. The winners were:

Dos Aves Russian Imperial Stout
9% alcohol by volume
75 IBU’s
Gold Medal 2015

Dos Aves Pale Ale
6% alcohol by volume
43 IBU’s
Gold Medal 2015

Dos Aves Triple Belga
7.5% alcohol by volume
20 IBU’s
Bronze Medal 2014

Dos Aves Barleywine
9% alcohol by volume
64 IBU’s
Gold Medal 2013

In the warehouse I had the opportunity to taste five beers, the three above, their Stout Seca, and my now-favorite beer of all time, The Belgian Golden Strong, ¡Diablos!. For someone like myself, who has neither a taste nor an affinity for beer, ¡Diablos! is fantastic. It’s effervescent, like champagne, but better. Better by far, as it seems to me. Francisco says that Belgian Golden Strongs often have devilish names because the drinker feels the effect more drastically, as though there is a little devil in the brew. Never in my life have I ordered a beer, but while at “The Beer Company” I surprised my friend, especially the owner Harold James, by ordering a ¡Diablos!. Harold said that “Dos Aves” beers are among the best he offers and very popular with his customers. At “Paprika” I ordered another and poured it into glasses to hand around for tasting and others ordered it in place of their standard. That’s how good it is.

I ask Mark and Francisco if they make any money doing this. They say they don’t make money but they don’t lose money, what they make goes back into the production equipment because right now they cannot produce enough Ale to keep up with demand. There have been a few articles written about them and those articles, and the “Dos Aves” labels and information can be found on their website.

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Rebecca Hartmann is a former U.S. Army SGT, editor and former professor of History and Classics who currently lives outside of San Miguel de Allende with her husband David.

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