Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tacoa Brewery and Restaurant: Just one more reason to vacation in Tenerife

Just for a minute, close your eyes and imagine yourself soaking up the bright sunlight and the tropical or near tropical heat while listening to the sound of the surf washing across a sandy beach, and let’s not forget the palm trees swishing in the gentle coastal breeze. What style of beer comes to mind with that image? Well, if you’re like most beer drinkers, then the obvious answer simple: pale lagers—perhaps a San Miguel, a Tiger, or maybe a Singha. After all, some of these beers offer up well-carbonated, thin-bodied alternatives that are easily refreshing enough amid the blazing sun and heat.

Still, if you’re like me, downing a dozen or so pale lagers over a couple of days in a row becomes rather tiring, and the search for alternative beers begins. If you happen to visit Tenerife, the largest island in what constitutes Spain’s mildly-climated Canary Islands, then you’re in luck. Not only are there a bounty of thirst-quenching pale lagers—and some good ones to be sure, on the northern side of the island, there’s also a small craft brewery that offers five different draft varieties of first-class brews that markedly contrast against the widely available lagers. In fact, if you’re looking to vacation in a spot with predictably warm and dry weather, but also want the option to savor the finer sides of beer, then Tacoa brewery and restaurant makes Tenerife a surely rewarding vacation spot.

The Brewery

With a population of about 8,300, El Sauzal is quiet coastal town located in the heart of Tenerife’s wine country, which lies about 20 kilometers (32 miles) to the west of Santa Cruz, the island’s capital. El Sauzal is also home to Tacoa’s brewery and restaurant. Even if you happen to stay in the popular beach resort towns like Las Americas and Los Cristianos, both of which are located on the opposite side of Tenerife, Tacoa is still barely more than a one-hour drive away via the highway or a three hour’s drive via the majestic roads leading over El Teide, the island’s infamous volcanic mountain that today is reminiscent of a Martian-like landscape. As you might see from my earlier post, I absolutely recommend renting a car and taking the ladder route. The scenery is out of this world!

Tacoa is easy enough to find when pairing the address below with Google Maps, just as we did when driving from Las Americas. Parking at Tacoa is even easier, and your arrival there will be met with a golden-colored façade on the outside of the brewery, along with the off-white tiled floors and golden-colored walls on the inside, thus giving the restaurant a very warm Spanish-like feel. Tucked in to the left of the restaurant area are two sizable black fermentation tanks, confirming that indeed you are in the right place. The door to in the back, left-hand side will expose you to a spacious terrace, along with generous amounts of sun as well as umbrellas for shade. All in all, the atmosphere of Tacoa’s restaurant and a bar is all aces.

Tacoa is a perfect lunch destination, offering a variety of dishes that, in their entirety, resemble an amalgamation of traditional Spanish and German cuisine, and I personally recommend trying the plethora of flavors that come with the German sausage sampler. Tacoa also boasts a wide selection of wines and a refrigerator stocked full of bottled beers, including Chimay Grand Reserve, Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier, and Guiness Special Export, that are perfect for stocking up your own hotel refrigerator.

But the feature flavors, and indeed the justifications for our journey, are found at the bar in the centrally-located taps. Although Tacoa boast five house beers on tap—Clara, Cobre, Negra, Trigo, and Light, the Light was not available during our visit; so we were only able to sample the first four. But these four, after all, are by far the most important ones.

The Beer

While each beer is top fermented at 18 degrees Celsius (64 f.), each beer also boasts its own unique flavor profile. Nevertheless, a word of advice is in order. Folks in Tenerife, and in many places for that matter, generally serve beer at rather cold temperatures and with frosty mugs. Yet, the volitization responsible for releasing the beer’s flavors generally takes place at higher temperatures. So, be sure to let Tacoa’s beers warm for about 10 minutes before passing judgment on them. Trust me! As the descriptions below testify to, it’s worth the wait. 

Clara (4.5 percent ABV): When confronted with Clara, my first instinct was to classify it as a Belgian pale ale of sorts. However, after a few more sips at warmer temperatures, Clara reveals her bitterness that’s reminiscent of a fine pilsner and a fruity and funky character that makes it feel like the a distant and lighter cousin to an Orval. Life in the glass begins with a dark golden color and a towering, frothy white head. Taking a few sips exposes the side of glass, unearthing a field of densely packed lacing. Overall, Clara’s presentation is simply excellent. The aroma is a bit on the timid side at first, but some potency enters the fray as the beer warms up. Cracker notes—saltiness or soda crackers for example—pepper the nose through and through. In what at times feels like an Orval of sorts, a mild fruitiness and a distinct barnyard note also enter the scene. Fruity notes are also prominent in the taste, followed by a bready and a slight barnyard feel. Clara finishes with a rather subtle yet lingering bitterness, but one that seemed to be a bit less than the way it was described on the menu. In fact, I found Cobre to be a bit more bitter. Clara comes with a medium body and generous amounts of carbonation. All in all, with a 4.5 percent ABV, Clara is a rather refreshing and well-balanced session beer, although it was probably my least favorite out of Tacoa’s four sudsy treats.

Cobre (4.5 percent ABV): Like Clara, I had a rather difficult time when trying to classify Cobre. Perhaps it fit best as a British premium bitter, but that’s not really it at all. But in contrast to Clara, Tacoa's Cobre is a bit more aggressive in the aroma and taste. For all tense and purposes, the head, the lacing, and the mouthfeel are at the same standards as Clara, but this time we are graced with a copper or amber-colored body. Giving it a whiff reveals some of the same tones found in Clara, most notably an ever so mild and brief horse blanket note that also comes off as well-aged sour cream. There is a slight fruity note, along with the predominance of wet hey. But the taste is where Cobre is most interesting and, in my view, superior to Clara. The centerpiece of the flavor is a very focused, but hard to identify spicy note. It's sort of gingery, but then again not really. For me, it was a bit reminiscent of a spiced-up Christmas beer that leaves a warm and tingly feeling on the tongue. Both my wife and I concluded that the spice most closely resembled clove. Personally, I found Cobre to be a tad more hoppy than Clara, although my wife and I differed a bit on this. All in all, the Cobre is a remarkably flavorful and palate-pleasing beer, especially considering its rather conservative 4.5 percent ABV.

Trigo (4.5 percent ABV): As Tacoa's take on a Hefeweizen, Trigo is a heaven sent 4.5 percent ABV mug of candy, making it radically different from both Clara and Cobre. Coming straight out of the tap, the head simply defies the laws of gravity and imparts a think and dense head that looks so inviting when juxtaposed on a bright and hazy golden body. The aroma is a blast of banana, or banana flavored bubblegum to be precise. References to bread are also evident in both the taste and the flavor. However, the focus taste closely resembles banana flavored bubblegum, although the bubblegum note supports the more dominant banana flavor – just as it should in a Hefeweizen. Trigo's mouthfeel comes with a medium body and a high amount of carbonation. Overall, Trigo is loaded with aroma and taste and is a super-sweet, candy like treat, and I’m sure you’ll love it.

Negra (6.5 percent ABV): Finally, we come to Negra, Tacoa’s 6.5 percent ABV take on what really appears and feels like a bock, although as a top-fermented beer, it is clearly a brown ale of sorts. And out of all four varieties we sampled, this one was probably my favorite, although Trigo comes in with a close second. Negra starts out with a dark brown color, culminating in a medium-sized, well-retained off-white head. The lacing is perhaps a bit more timid than the other three, but is still impressive nonetheless. Aroma? Well, try imagining the freshness of the sun-filled spring air just after a light rain shower. That pretty much captures Negra's background aroma, which is then peppered with dark fruit notes, especially raisins. The aroma and the taste are malty and nearly identical to one another, although I did miss some of the caramel flavor that often comes with beers of this character. The finish is ever so slightly bitter, and the mouthfeel comes with a medium body and average amounts of carbonation. Overall, this beer alone made the trip worthwhile. 

You might now be asking, so…how can I try all four if I have to then drive a car back to my hotel, which might be up to an hour or so away? Well, you have a few options. First, Tacoa beers come in two sizes, and if you drink two smaller-sized samples of their 4.5 percent varieties, eat a generous amount of food, and relax on the terrace for about an hour or so after finishing your beer, you should be okay to drive. You can then pay a bottle deposit and have the friendly Tacoa staff fill up several flip-top bottles with whatever you were unable to sample. In fact, you should just do this anyway, since their draft beers hold remarkably well for several days in a well-sealed bottle. Second, you can do what I did: talk my wife into being the designated driver, and then take away a bottle of each just so your generous driver is not excluded from the fun.

After sampling four different Tacoa brews fresh from the tap, and in light of amalgamation of German and Spanish atmospheres and dishes, I can do nothing else other than recommend taking a visit to Tacoa during your next trip to Tenerife. In fact, Tacoa really gives you another reason to make your next vacation a trip to Tenerife, as if you really needed another reason to vacation there. 

Please note: I must give special thanks to Colin Kirby. Without her excellent 2010 article on Tacoa, I might have visited Tenerife without ever knowing about Tacoa. 

Additional information

Address: Carretera General del Norte 122, 38360 El Sauzal
Telephone: (0034) 922564173

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