While not the case in Argentina, food historians in the United States will look back on early 21st century cuisine and remember it as the time we could not stop combining one kind of food with another kind of food, sometimes successfully, sometimes in a befuddling and unappetizing manner. Surely you’ve heard of the cronut, the waffle taco, the ramen noodle burger, the turducken, the quesarito and the far superior quesanacharito. These foods speak to uniquely American sensibilities about food – open to trying new things and foreign cuisines, but too lazy to eat things separately.
Even beverages are not immune to the frankenfood trend. Can’t decide between a beer and a Margarita? Save yourself the agony and stick a Corona in your frozen Margarita. And why stop at fusing two kinds of foods or two kinds of beverages together when you can fuse food with beverages? These days you don’t even need to order a drink and food separately; just ask your bartender to stick a pizza and a chicken wing on top of your Bloody Mary and call it a day. And they say we can’t have it all.
And now there’s finally a solution for those times when you would like to get drunk while also consuming a healthy, caffeinated herbal infusion. Everyone, please meet the MateVeza.
Made by a San Francisco brewery, MateVeza is an organic beer brewed with yerba mate. The brewery was founded by a mate and craft beer enthusiast and produces an India Pale Ale and a Black Lager. The Cervercería de MateVeza also serves empanadas, because of course it does.
MateVeza combines two things that America (and I’m not talking about America, the continents, I’m talking about ’Murica) loves: beer and South American “superfoods.” Mate products have long since had a place in the hippie health food stores of the US, but lately it has been creeping into mainstream American grocery stores as well. It is only one of many in a long line of South American “superfoods” whose magical properties we have “discovered.” Quinoa, amaranth, acai, chia seeds, yacon root and yerba mate are all packed with nutrients that we’ve been led to believe will fight cancer, obesity, cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes, trim your waistline, fix your marriage, send your child to college, etc. A handful of chia seeds will basically cancel out the cronut and waffle taco you had for breakfast.
Now, the frankenfood trend has met the craze for exotic superfoods. Finally someone has thought to combine one miracle drink with another miracle drink: alcohol.
Compared to some of the food and beverage fusion monstrosities listed above, beer infused with yerba mate sounds downright tame. But MateVeza is quietly wacky in its own way. This is a beverage that uses a pirate/gaucho with muttonchops as its face to the world after all. As the bottle proudly proclaims, MateVeza is organic and naturally caffeinated. I am dubious of how happy we should be about the latter point. Doesn’t anyone remember Four Loko?
Despite those hesitations, when I saw the MateVeza Black Lager on the shelf I knew I had to try it. I like mate and I like beer; I drink them both on a semi-regular basis. But I needed other opinions and taste buds for a well rounded take on MateVeza. Fortunately some friends of mine are beer snobs and enjoy spending an evening sampling lots of beer. They are not above trying beer infused with weird things. On such an evening I bought a bottle of MateVeza.
After everyone had knocked down a few other beers, I felt confident enough to break out the MateVeza and force everyone to try it. My first impression was that it did not taste like mate whatsoever. It might not have even tasted like beer. The website claims that the Black Lager is brewed with chocolate, but my guinea pigs detected notes of “honey” and “really sour, over-caffeinated coffee” over anything else. Whatever bitterness the yerba mate wanted to bring to the mix was overwhelmed by sourness and even a faint sweetness.
The overall consensus was not in MateVeza’s favor.
On how it compares to beer:
“It almost doesn’t taste like beer.”
“Is this even beer?”
On how it compares to yerba mate:
“It’s not nearly as gross as the actual thing. I’d drink it.”
On coming back for seconds:
“I can’t drink more of this mate beer, I’m gonna get an upset stomach.”
ME: “Do you want more?” GUINEA PIG: “God no.”
Not everyone outright hated it, but no one actually liked the MateVeza and I was forced to finish the rather sizable bottle by myself. This beer is definitely caffeinated. I like caffeine before drinking alcohol, I like it after drinking alcohol, but I don’t like the sensation of both of them pumping through my veins at once. This is no Four Loko, but neither is it a gentle rum and coke. MateVeza made me want to drink more beer so I could return to a normal state of drunkenness, rather than remaining buoyed between feeling alarmingly alert and tipsy.
Like most fusion foods and drinks, the MateVeza is fun in concept but I think I will be sticking to drinking my beer and mate separately.
(Feature Image via Five Thousand And One Beers)