The Brewery: Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company (in collaboration with Cigar City Brewing and Boulevard Brewing Co.)
The Stats: 4.8% ABV; 15 IBU
The Story: For the second year, Chipotle is bringing its Cultivate Festival to metro Phoenix. The company puts on the event in select cities with the purpose of bringing people together to celebrate food and music, while also offering education about how food can be raised responsibly. With this year's festival taking place in Phoenix, Kansas City, and Miami, Chipotle decided to bring together leading breweries from each state to collaborate on a beer for the events. The three selected breweries worked together on a recipe and each plan to brew a version for the local Cultivate Festival.
Arizona's own Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company was selected to represent our state at the festival, and the brewery's Patrick Ware and Jonathan Buford collaborated with Florida-based Cigar City's Wayne Wambles and Boulevard's Steven Pauwels out of Kansas City to create a recipe. We got a chance to try (and review) the beer before it debuts to the public at the festival later this month.
As hard as it might be to imagine, according to Buford, no one at Arizona Wilderness had ever brewed a lager before. Ales take much less time to brew than lagers, so a brewery can knock out three ales in the time it takes to brew one lager — and when you're as busy as Arizona Wilderness, getting the beers out quickly is paramount.
This lager was brewed with a large base of pilsner malt, augmented with additional malts, sometimes called "character malts," including Vienna, Munich, Maris Otter, and a pinch of honey malt. These additional malts are what creates the complexity and depth of malt character. The brewers used a Bavarian lager yeast strain to get a wonderfully attenuated end result. And for hops, they went outside the traditional lager box, using a combination of lemon drop and citra hops, all added in the very late stages of the brewing process to capture as much hop flavor as possible without imparting a lot of bitterness. Finally, a "Mexican twist" came about with the addition of annatto seeds, which come from the achiote tree and provide a slightly spicy character with the slightest, almost imperceptible amount of smokiness.
For a company that never brewed a lager before, Arizona Wilderness went pretty non-traditional and hit a home run in doing so. By adding the hops late, the brewers filled this brew with hop flavor, and the combination of lemon drop and citra hops provides a very pleasant mix of lemon-y and white wine grape flavor and aroma. The beer is unfiltered in order to retain all of the natural flavors from the various ingredients, producing a slightly cloudy gold appearance. The base of pilsner malt is the perfect counterpoint to the hop flavor with its grainy, biscuity platform. The character malts help give the beer additional complexity and some extra body. And since this beer is fully attenuated and relatively low in alcohol, it's got the perfect amount of drinkability for warming temperatures.
The Cultivate Mexican Lager will be featured at the Cultivate Festival, held at WestWorld in Scottsdale on Saturday, April 30, from 11 a.m until 7 p.m. The festival is free. For more information, check out the Cultivate Festival website.
After the event, the beer will be available on tap at Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company in Gilbert. Check the Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company website for more information.