It’s no secret that 5 Rabbit Brewery is my favorite brewery. It’s one of the first beers I’ll ask for in a bar and I’m always telling people about it. We even drove 6 hours a few weekends ago to check out their tap room/retail grand opening. So when we met with this great guy from 5 Rabbit named Nick at a beer festival, we got to talking about the brand and how their beer just really speaks to food, and next thing you know, there’s a beer package in the mail with our name on it!
We really appreciated the opportunity to try all of these beers side by side because it just showed how diverse they really are. When you only have one or two 5 Rabbit beers at a bar or a festival, they’re great, but I don’t think you really appreciate how unique they all are and why that makes 5 Rabbit stand out from the rest. It seems like with some breweries, they’re brewing the kind of styles you’d expect (IPAs, stouts, etc) and while they’re good, they’re not great or they’re not all that different from all the other beers out there. But with 5 Rabbit, they’re really shaking things up and creating this unique line of craft beer that has almost a brand sense of similarity, but they’re all very unique.
5 Rabbit is using things like passion fruit, ancho chile, and Tasmanian pepperberry…. I mean, you don’t find that too often in a beer. It makes sense, of course, considering that they’re the first Latin microbrewery in the United States. As a chef, these beers really speak to my palate because the spices and flavors that 5 Rabbit’s using to create their beers are things I would use in my food and they’re building it the same way I would build a dish. Anyone can make, say, a raspberry beer or a coffee beer, but it’s the combination of multiple flavors in a layered fashion that really makes a beer (like a dish) stand out to me.
I’m really big into layers of flavor because it gives you more diversity than some people realize. I might use a brown sugar, a raw sugar, and a honey in the same dish or a balsamic vinegar, a white vinegar, and a fig vinegar in the same sauce; someone might say that’s just a ton of sweet or a ton of vinegar, but they’d be wrong because those ingredients all taste a little different and that’s what gives your dish a touch of diversity and subtly. That’s what I feel like 5 Rabbit is taking advantage of in creating these unique beers and I love it.
In writing a pairing menu for these beers, I wanted to stick with a Latin theme but I also wanted to take advantage of the distinctive flavors. When you’re pairing food with a drink, you want to create a bridge to the drink that ties them both together, but you also want there to be something that cuts the flavors so you have a nice balance. You wouldn’t eat a pile of sawdust and wash it down with Kool-Aid. I know that’s a weird example, but the point is there’s nothing connecting or balancing those two completely different flavors and I think that’s a very important part of pairing drink and food, especially beer and food.
My favorite beer in this package was easily the 5 Lizard Latin-Style Witbier. It’s not your typical wheat beer and I like that. It’s fruity but not obnoxiously fruity and there’s a nice balance of sweetness from the passion fruit and tart from the lime. It’s also a little bit creamy for a wheat beer (in fact, it reminded Jess of an orange-lime creamsicle). The 5 Lizard hangs on a little bit in the mouth for just a second but then it goes away and finishes pretty clean. I like that the flavors lend to this beer going with a wide range of foods, especially fatty seafood. For this beer, I’d make a deconstructed Latin-style lobster roll: ancho-brined avocado poached lobster claw with chiffonade romaine and a cilantro honey lime remoulade served in an orange pork belly tortilla.
The 5 Vulture is an Oaxacan-style dark ale that really utilizes the ancho chile flavor well. It enhances the beer without adding any heat or overpowering flavor. The 5 Vulture seemed to have a heavier mouth feel and less carbonation, so it didn’t permeate your nostrils in the same way as some of their other beers. Because it doesn’t have that effervescent bubbly factor, it almost had a flatter taste – not in a bad way, but in a way that means it pairs well with heavier fats like game meat (as opposed to what I’ll call “lighter fats” like the seafood that pairs with the 5 Lizard).
I liked the 5 Vulture because it was different. I’m not usually a dark beer drinker because they seem to be either really bitter or full of coffee (I like hints, but not full-on coffee), but not this one. Like I said, subtly seems to be a key component of the 5 Rabbit brand, so it’d pair well with a coffee and sweet cocoa dusted bison ribeye served with cactus-cherry tomatillo salsa and whipped anise sweet potatoes plantains.
The 5 Grass Hoppy Ale is perfectly named. It really does have a very natural/grassy taste to it. It reminded me of a farmhouse ale, but not your typical farmhouse ale – something earthier like the desert. I say that not only because of the spices they used (like juniper berries, sage, white sage, rosemary, and Tasmanian pepperberries), but also because it had an interesting dryness to it which, as far as food goes, is a great beer for bridging that flavor with some smoke and sweetness to clean your palate up a little bit. I don’t know why, but I was feeling savory breakfast with this one, so I’d like to do a sundried-tomato infused crepe stuffed with smoked chanterelle mushrooms, scrambled quail eggs, diced pineapple, and roasted cauliflower (served with lavender queso and caramelized fennel guacamole).
From their Gringolandia line, we tried the Super Pils, which was Jess’s favorite. It’s so different than your normal pilsners/IPAs because it’s got hops, but not crazy hops, and the citrus isn’t the same either (more like red grapefruits and golden berries).
We were drinking this around sundown, so you really noticed the deep golden color. It was super smooth and had a very creamy head. I think it’s a great beer to pair with some fried food component, like fried oyster and confit duck stuffed pupusas topped with a fried garlic and balsamic dressed golden berry cucumber salad, red grapefruit and achiote aioli, and a cumin-lemon spiced sour cream.
Last but not least was the Gran Missionario. This wheat beer (with a surprise touch of bitter) is brewed with muscat grapes and pears, which makes it rather unique among the ones we sampled. It reminded Jess more of a wine than a beer because of that fermented fruit flavor. For not being a big wine drinker, I didn’t mind it. I noticed, however, that when you do a fast pour with this bottle, it completely changes the taste and really opens up the floral flavors, which brings a lot of hidden aspects of the beer forward. I’d want to really open this beer up with a grilled stuffed burrito with papaya sazon braised chuck roast, herbed-lemon wild mushrooms, and dark cocoa, honey, and blackberry boiled peanuts topped with chimichurri and a tomato cream sauce.
Having tried some of these beers on draft in other restaurants and bars, we definitely have to say that the tap system does lend to a better 5 Rabbit drinking experience sometimes (just because, like we said, the more air that gets into some of them, the more you can really taste and experience those diverse flavors).
We really appreciated 5 Rabbit thinking of us for this review. You know, we’ve gone to a lot of beer festivals now and we’ve talked to a lot of people, but Nick was the first one to really take an interest in what we had to say. He was very knowledgeable, so I enjoyed the chance to talk food with him, not only because I love pairing beer with food, but I was interested to learn more about how food shapes this beer brand.
It speaks really well of 5 Rabbit Cervecería that they engage with their fans like that (and they do the same on Twitter, which is essential in Jess’s book) because I think when you find someone who really likes your product, you should want to make a connection with them and do things like send them samples (even if they’re not food/brew bloggers!) and get them involved because that builds an important relationship that’ll help your business thrive.
Anyway, long and short of it, we love 5 Rabbit Brewery and think you should too. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below, and also let us know which dish you’d like to see featured on the blog soon: