I was reluctant to write about Chicago Area (Bedford Park) 5 Rabbit Brewery (5 Rabbit Cervecería) on Cinco de Mayo, despite the brewery’s dedication to Mexican and Latin brewing. It’s not because the beer isn’t authentic, and it isn’t because I don’t enjoy the beer, it is because it represents genuine Latin culture, and that makes me appreciate it more than I already do - it’s fantastic.
With all due respect to Cinco de Mayo festivities and the history attached to it (which most people don't understand), 5 Rabbit Brewery is not about cliche. Instead, 5 Rabbit Brewery is a testament to the culture of modern, contemporary Latin America, and it’s a celebration of the region’s rich and vibrant history.
When I visited with Andrés Araya last year as part of an article I wrote for Chilled Magazine, he uttered a phrase that has stuck with me to this day. He said, “We (Latin Americans) may be many things, but we are not boring.” How true. I don’t think it’s possible to think of a Mexican restaurant, a trip to Brazil or Mexico, or going to a Salsa club and think “boring.” Touristy type attractions, sombreros, and most Cinco de Mayo celebrations are standard, run of the mill, cliche…..boring. They fall far short of showcasing the rich Latin heritage comprised of colorful flavors, eclectic food, energetic music, and an extroverted and friendly culture. 5 Rabbit Brewing not only transports those Latin flavors to the States, but it also showcases beer that exemplifies craft brewing. The beer is GOOD. Really good.
As it says on their website:
Our goal is to make beers that are fun, that feel completely at home in the Latin American culture, but are not derivative of anything in particular. Using chiles anchos and piloncillo cane sugar is a great example of ingredients we use and like to mix. We want to do something to honor ingredients and really make them add something special to the beer. Always striving for unique and complex creations.
In a world where craft brewers are attempting to integrate every conceivable ingredient into every genre of beer, Andrés Araya has only needed to use the very tools provided to him by Mother Nature - the Latin American harvest. The same ingredients that have inspired Taco Tuesdays and helped create a Food Truck revolution are what’s in 5 Rabbit Brewing Beer.
Some beers scream “Latin,” such as the 5 Rabbit - Cigar City collaboration El Bizarron, part of the Las Chingonas Series. The beer is a Porter brewed with caramelized plantains.
Others are just innovative and happen to be Latin in nature, such as the Ponche! Barleywine (12% ABV) brewed with grapes, apples, orange peel and an array of spices.
Finally, one of the "Fives," the 5 Rabbit flagship 5 Lizard Latin Witbier is brewed like a Belgian Wit, but with the inclusion of coriander, lime peel, and passion fruit. It's a Belgian, but it exudes Latin flavor.
Feel free to drink a 5 Rabbit Cerveceríaon on Cinco de Mayo - I did! But, just know that the beer brewed at 5 Rabbit Brewing represents far more than sombreros and bad nacho dishes. It’s a celebration of Aztec, Mexican, and South American, history, culture, and flavors. Or, just drink a 5 Rabbit Brewery beer and enjoy the fact that it’s exceptionally good.