Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., Boulevard Brewing Co. and Cigar City Brewing have combined forces to create the “Chipotle Mexican Lager,” a brew that’ll only be available at the burrito chain’s Cultivate Festivals in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 30; Kansas City on July 23 and Miami November 12.
This year will be the sixth that Chipotle has held the Cultivate Festival, which “encourages attendees to think and talk about food and food issues in a fun and engaging environment” with educational stations, on-site chef demonstrations and live music, according to a release. You can find out everything you ever wanted to know about the festivals here, if you’re interested.
But the component of the festival we’re most interested in? Beer. In years past, Chipotle has collaborated with popular breweries to put together a festival-only brew that’s always leaned farmhousey and utilized ingredients unique to the partner brewers (5 Rabbit Cerveceria’s creation in 2013, for instance, featured Mexican honey as an adjunct; Surly Brewing Co. made its beer last year with Minnesota-grown rhubarb). The idea for this year’s batch was different. Instead of a different versions of a saison, all three breweries will craft near-identical batches of what Chipotle calls a “Mexican-style lager.”
For Gilbert-based Arizona Wilderness, whose version of the beer will be the first to premiere, this was kind of a big deal: “We’ve never made a lager before. None of us have even homebrewed a lager before,” says brewery co-founder Jonathan Buford. The recipe, Buford says, came courtesy of Cigar City brewmaster Wayne Wambles and called for flaked yellow corn, Citra and Lemondrop hops, and annato, the orange-red seeds that are ground up to make achiote paste.
This may sound obvious, but the brew actually smells like the inside of a Chipotle: corn kernels, warm tortillas, a hint of herbal cilantro. Its hops come across lemony, accented by mowed grass and softened by underlying cornlike sweetness. A clean flavor kicks off with earthy grain and a subtle peppery note, then dries off with rising corn kernels and a gentle tug of bitterness. At just 4.8% ABV and with a body made velvety by all those unfiltered proteins, the beer’s characterful but not boisterous, which was the point: “This beer wasn’t meant to knock people’s socks off,” Buford says. “It was meant to pair with food.” Foil-wrapped burritos, perhaps.