Aztlán is the mythical land of the Nahua people and the concept has been used by the Chicano movement in America to refer to the Mexican lands annexed by the US and the cultural hybridity of Mexian-Americans. I am from Aztlán, though technically it is a place that does not exist and as a gringa it gets complicated.
Last night I went to the launch of BrewDog’s new AB04 at the White Horse. How strange to be standing in this West London gastro pub, full of upwardly-mobile young white professionals and to taste my home, Aztlán, in this beer. Brewdog have combined chocolate and chilis in this black imperial stout– sure to make you swoon at 15%.
The word chocolate is from the Nahuatl, and new archeological findings have not only dated the invention of chocolate by the Mesoamerican peoples almost 600 years earlier than previously thought, but this evidence suggests the first chocolate was actually a kind of beer. Researchers have suggested “the distinctive taste of chocolate was stumbled upon by ancient brewers fermenting cacao pulp to make a kind of beer known later to the Spanish as chicha.” Chicha is a beer which involves masticating the maize prior to fermentation and is still brewed in some parts of Mesoamerica, giving us a contemporary glimpse of ancient brewing practices.
Could the AB04 hint at what that ancient cacao-beer might have tasted like? Probably not, but like Aztlán, it can stand in as a glorious invention.
At the tasting James Watt asked the crowd what foods they thought might pair with it and immediately I thought of mole- named for the verb moler, or to grind. And what a grind making the mole is! The ultimate in slow food, it’s a lot like brewing beer: labor-intensive, communal and full of variations. It takes two days to make the mole, which contains chilis, chocolate, seeds and herbs. And like beer, it is a food in which one can put dreams and wishes, memories and hopes as you grind and stir and grind and stir.