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Old 01-24-2012, 08:13 PM   #1
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Default Gallo Etc...

Toured the Gallo brewery here in Guatemala City, Guatemala yesterday. Impressive, modern, fully automated facility. Current system cranks out about 40,000 bottles per hour! Quite an evolution from a totally manual brewery that was started here in 1886.

Lots of interesting history which they have chosen to preserve. For example, some of the old narrow gauge tracks formerly used to move materials around have been preserved in situ. They have also preserved many generations of past equipment including the entire brew house from 1936 in immaculate condition -- complete with copper kettles imported from Germany.

Their flagship product, "Gallo", is a pretty typical mass produced adjunct beer. However, their "Moza" and "Moza Gold", while still mass produced beers, are not bad renditions of bock beers.

Talked with a member of the Castillo family (owners of Gallo) while I was there -- turns out his son is a home brewer.

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Old 01-28-2012, 08:56 PM   #2
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Concurrent with visiting the Gallo brewery, I've been reading Randy Mosher's "Tasting Beer...." book. His suggestions got me to thinking about what effect proper serving might have on Gallo's "Moza Gold". Typically, you find this "bock" (or at least bock-like) beer in the same very cold cooler as Gallo's mainstream product. When served at these cold temps, Moza Gold has an almost excessive malty sweetness that is very "one-dimensional" (meaning it just tastes like sweet malt with no other interesting flavors...a bit like the starters I make using DME). However, when served at more appropriate serving temps (about 50-55F in my test), and given a good vigorous pour (off-gases some CO2 and builds quite a nice head in the process), the beer takes on a much more complex character -- the malt flavor become more complex and less sweet and you can even pick-up a bit of hops flavor. Even the head is more interesting with a mix of textures from creamy to "rocky" (as opposed to the industrially consistent head produced at very cold serving temps).

Moza Gold is a mass produced beer, so I was not expecting it to suddenly transform into a prize winning beer, but transform it did -- not into a medal winner but at least into a more interesting beer. The are no "craft brews" here in Guate so being able to coax a more interesting flavor out of a mass produced beer is quite a nice surprise.

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Old 07-04-2012, 02:49 PM   #3
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Agree curtis, it is my fave Guatemalan beer by far, followed by Monte Carlo maybe.

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Old 07-04-2012, 05:01 PM   #4
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Oh and what really surprised me is that they get hop extract from Seattle, that explains why it's just bitter with no aroma. Before I became a brewer actually regarded Gallo as not too bad, not anymore, it sucks. Happy that we are able to get some different beers now a day, not as many as I would like but at least we now have: Carlsberg, Red Stripe, Kostrizer (Sp?), Licher Weizen (LOVE IT!!), Orangeboom, Royal Dutch, Bitburger and a few others. Also went to Jardin Bavaria in Antigua, they get their beers from some guy up in Xela. They were out of the Imperial Stout but got to try their IPA, pretty good and also tried their stout, a sweet stout according to me, it had some extract twang in it but drinkable.

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Old 07-05-2012, 02:49 PM   #5
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Yes, the more interesting beers available in Central America are picking up. Will definitely, have to check out Jardin Bavaria on our next visit to Antigua.

This cruising season we sailed from Guatemala to Panama stopping at the Bay Islands of Honduras, Providencia and San Andreas (off the coast of Nicaragua, but held by Colombia), then on to Bocas del Toro Panama. Made some interesting beer discoveries along the way.

Like Gallo, the vast majority of beers in all of CA are generic mass produced adjunct grain beers (I'll skip those), but there are some exceptions. The exceptions we found along the way range from not so interesting nods to better beers (like Gallo's Moza and Moza Gold) to some world class brews. Some examples below. (I plan to write this up in more detail, but this is a quick summary).

Roatan, Honduras. There was an attempt at a micro brewery here, but it did not work out (see postings on other threads here). We did not find this brew available anywhere in the Bay Islands and friends who live there have never heard of it. What we do like in Honduras is "Port Royal". While I would still class this as a mass produced Pilsner, it is bit better quality than its Honduran brethren -- vaguely reminding me of a real Pilsner, but not quite.

Guanaja, Honduras. At the Manati Restaurant here not only can you get German food, but a small selection of German beers as well.

Bocas del Toro, Panama. Wow, what a surprise. Christina's Supermaket imports a variety of Belgian beers. Including the full line of Chimay (one of the original Trappist breweries). I've been thinking about making a trip to Belgium, just to sample all the strange-brews there, but I was able to sample the full line of Chimay's interesting products while sitting comfortably aboard my boat in the anchorage. In addition to Chimay they also import a number of other Belgian beers. I sat in the cockpit with these beers lined up on one side and Michael Jackson's "Running Press Guide" on my Kindle on the other. Whoever chose the beers to import knew exactly what they were doing, because almost every product available was given 3-4 stars by Mr. Jackson himself. They are a bit spendy here (about US$4-5 per bottle), but what a treat! Also a rather odd local craft brew here -- the very strangely labeled "Pina Cara". The label of this beer tells you nothing about the beer or the brewer, but only contains a badly formatted bunch of unrelated rubbish about Manuel Noriega (AKA "Pina Cara" or "Pineapple Face"). An inside joke apparently that absolutely no one else gets. The brew is not bad, dark with some decent hops aroma, taste, and mild bitterness, but comes across a bit like a home brew attempt that did not quite hit the style they had in mind...double bock, sweet stout...who knows? Given the lack of info on the beer it was hard to determine what they were attempting to accomplish. Available at "Toro Loco" bar only -- sometimes.

San Jose, Costa Rica. Produced in Costa Rica, "Bavaria" brand makes a couple of somewhat more interesting beers. In particular we liked Bavaria Dark. I would put this in a similar class to Moza -- still a mass produced and likely adjunct grain beer, but more interesting than the standard watered down Pilsners -- somewhat like a rather timid interpretation of a bock style beer.

More details to come in a future post....

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Old 07-05-2012, 04:08 PM   #6
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Oh and what really surprised me is that they get hop extract from Seattle, that explains why it's just bitter with no aroma. ...
Yes, well of course that is more economical for them, but a bit of hops aroma and flavor added to a Moza might actually make a decent beer. Maybe make a small fresh hops infusion direct to the bottle. I understand that fresh hops infusions at serving time is becoming a trendy thing at some USA brew pubs.

Also had a recent thought about the Gallo brewery. They have a part of the old brewery from 1929(?) still in beautiful condition -- not sure if it is still in working condition, but sure looks like it should be -- be interesting if they might consent to give brewing enthusiasts access to this to brew some larger batches ... maybe become the seedling of craft brewing in Guate ... if nothing else might be a good promotional event for Gallo. The old brewery areas that they now use for events-tours would make one hell of a cool brew pub. I´ve met a few members of the Castillo(?) family that owns Gallo over the years -- they have a big place here on the Rio Dulce -- they´ve all been very cordial folks...Hmmm....
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Old 07-05-2012, 04:10 PM   #7
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Yeah have heard good things about the selection of beers in Panama, I go there because of work about once or twice a year so will definitely go looking for the good famous ones like Chimay. A couple of friends of mine live in Panama and say Bocas del Toro is absolutely beautiful, really jealous in a good way about your cruising, that's the life! In San Jose I tried all the Tican beers and the only one I liked was the Bavaria gold, I loved the clovey peppery aroma it left after each drink, the rest were just meh.

Are you retired? what do you do for a living if not? I LOVE rio Dulce, my only complaint is that I don't get to go there nearly enough. Oh and also in Antigua you can now get the Brooklyn Lager and the East IPA, love them and buy a case of each every month. The owner of Mono Loco is importing and selling them and you get them for about Q279 per case of 24, I think the price is awesome as it is pretty much what you pay for the Moza gold. And another good one you can get at Walmart is the Stella.

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Old 07-05-2012, 04:13 PM   #8
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Yes, well of course that is more economical for them, but a bit of hops aroma and flavor added to a Moza might actually make a decent beer. Maybe make a small fresh hops infusion direct to the bottle. I understand that fresh hops infusions at serving time is becoming a trendy thing at some USA brew pubs.

Also had a recent thought about the Gallo brewery. They have a part of the old brewery from 1929(?) still in beautiful condition -- not sure if it is still in working condition, but sure looks like it should be -- be interesting if they might consent to give brewing enthusiasts access to this to brew some larger batches ... maybe become the seedling of craft brewing in Guate ... if nothing else might be a good promotional event for Gallo. The old brewery areas that they now use for events-tours would make one hell of a cool brew pub. I´ve met a few members of the Castillo(?) family that owns Gallo over the years -- they have a big place here on the Rio Dulce -- they´ve all been very cordial folks...Hmmm....

That would be interesting for sure, I only know Ramiro and he is a great guy but knowing how zealous they are of their market share and competition it would be near impossible. It would be great to setup a brew pub in Antigua, have sort of been looking into it but just really want to get all my knowledge, recipes, feedback from friends, etc before taking the plunge.
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Old 07-06-2012, 11:49 AM   #9
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That would be interesting for sure, I only know Ramiro and he is a great guy but knowing how zealous they are of their market share and competition it would be near impossible. It would be great to setup a brew pub in Antigua, have sort of been looking into it but just really want to get all my knowledge, recipes, feedback from friends, etc before taking the plunge.
I was thinking more of something done within Gallo. A promotional item for them really and great fun for brewing enthusiasts....brewing with the Gallo Girls...now that could make for a great brew day!

Re market share. I was surprised to see Budwiser signs that last time I was in the City. If I was the local rep for Budwiser I would not sleep well.
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Old 07-06-2012, 12:05 PM   #10
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Yeah have heard good things about the selection of beers in Panama, I go there because of work about once or twice a year so will definitely go looking for the good famous ones like Chimay. A couple of friends of mine live in Panama and say Bocas del Toro is absolutely beautiful, really jealous in a good way about your cruising, that's the life! In San Jose I tried all the Tican beers and the only one I liked was the Bavaria gold, I loved the clovey peppery aroma it left after each drink, the rest were just meh.

Are you retired? what do you do for a living if not? I LOVE rio Dulce, my only complaint is that I don't get to go there nearly enough. Oh and also in Antigua you can now get the Brooklyn Lager and the East IPA, love them and buy a case of each every month. The owner of Mono Loco is importing and selling them and you get them for about Q279 per case of 24, I think the price is awesome as it is pretty much what you pay for the Moza gold. And another good one you can get at Walmart is the Stella.

Bocas is a great spot. Before visiting there my indirect impression was of a touristy and gringo-fied place. It certainly has both of these aspects, but the result is quite enjoyable. The tourist traffic is mostly backpackers, the local gringos are a likeable bunch, and the physical setting is beautiful. The net effect is a great place.

Rather than "retired" (which is what many people do just before they die), I like to think of it as having "re-allocated my time". I did this relatively early in life before I got too damn old to enjoy it. I have a place on the Rio and the boat is now in Panama....I think I'm going to like this combination.

We haven't been to Antigua in a while, but given the beer selections available there now, we may have to make a road trip.
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