What does a traditional Spanish sweet milk beverage, über-cool Californian craft beer, and a classic Belgian-style blond ale have in common? Turns out the answer is found at the bottom of a can of beer from Anaheim’s The Bruery.
But first let’s find out what Horchata is. Because despite being a scholar of all the tasty things you can drink, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever tried it. According to that ever-reliable source, Wikipedia, Horchata is a name given to “various plant milk beverages of similar taste and appearance”, reportedly originating from the Mediterranean city of Valencia. It is commonly made with rice or tiger nuts, and is often flavoured with cinnamon or vanilla. I hear it is also rather delicious when you mix it with rum (but honestly, what isn’t?)
Horchata is immensely popular in Latin America and by juxtaposition, Southern California. According to The Bruery it also pairs very favourably with Mexican cuisine and it should come as no surprise that I reckon their beer-based interpretation would also do a pretty great job of this.
The Bruery is perhaps best known for its big, tannic, barrel aged beers – in particular, its stouts – along with its wild fermented sours. In that respect, this beer, presented in a 16oz can as opposed to a 750ml bottle, already feels like something of a departure for them. The base beer that makes up Or Xata is a strong blonde ale, weighing in at 7.2%. It features additions of rice, cinnamon, fresh vanilla and lactose in an attempt to mimic the creamy sweetness of Horchata.
My fear that this would be a sickly, sweet mess were soon abated. The beer pours a surprisingly bright shade of yellow, with a thin head dissipating in seconds. Yes there’s a little cinnamon in there, and a hint of vanilla, but never overwhelmingly so. What I also found were spicy, yeast-driven flavours that reminded me more of a classic Belgian blonde ale than anything else. The finish was also dry, leaving me with a surprisingly drinkable and, most importantly, highly enjoyable beer. An ideal pairing for your Boxing Day turkey tacos.
Matthew Curtis is a freelance beer writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for numerous publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. Pick up a can of The Bruery Or Xata in store or online while stocks last.