“El Grito” is the colloquial name for Mexican Independence Day, and it’s also the name of a very special beer collaboration project coming soon from Crooked Tooth Brewing Company.
Brewed on Mexican Independence Day (Friday, September 16), El Grito pays tribute to a celebrated emblem of Mexican culture we are familiar with here in Tucson. It’s the art of mariachi, and it’s so so much more than the soundtrack to your tableside guacamole.
How the beer was made
Crooked Tooth’s El Grito is a kettle sour brewed with help from the team at the Tucson International Mariachi Conference (TIMC) and is certain to delight the ears as well as the tastebuds. Brewed with nearly 80 pounds of fresh pineapple, and later to be “dry hopped” with chiltepin peppers, El Grito will be the official beer of the 23 Miles of the Best Mexican Food Festival, coming up in November. The addition of lactobacillus after mashing the grains will give the beer tartness, while the wheat-heavy grain bill will provide a balancing creamy mouthfeel.
Served up with a Tajín rim (my personal recommendation), I can only imagine El Grito will hit your tongue like a Mexican candy — sweet, sour, spicy, and salty all at once. Mariachi and Mexican food — two culturally defining treasures of our region — coming together to inspire a beer that captures our Sonoran heritage in a glass.
Celebrating mariachi in Tucson
In 2011, UNESCO declared mariachi music an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”
I’m a big fan of all things intangible; that untouchable, imperceptible magic that makes a beer taste better outdoors or makes a song evoke tears. We can’t see the intangible, but we can feel it, without a doubt. When it comes to mariachi music, the notes and rhythms played on traditional string and more modern brass instruments meet our ears as intricately woven sound waves.
However, the intangible aspect is much more heartfelt. Mariachi was designed to convey emotions. Originating in the small towns and ranches of western Mexico almost 200 years ago, the mariachi music we hear today holds the struggles and celebrations of those who first created it. It enthusiastically and reverentially embodies Mexican culture, values, and history. There is arguably no single genre of music that captures what America is, quite as well as mariachi represents Mexico.
In Tucson, we understand the significance of a UNESCO designation. Since 2015 it’s been a distinction bestowed upon our town based on the depth and breadth of our culinary culture, and the relative importance that is placed on the use of heritage ingredients such as tepary beans, white Sonoran wheat, cholla buds, and mesquite.
A UNESCO designation is an accolade to be proud of but also one to live up to. Just as Tucson has a responsibility to continue cultivating traditional ingredients in our food, the techniques of mariachi music and the stories told within the corridos and rancheras need to be preserved and passed on.
Preservation and celebration of the tradition of mariachi is the mission of the Tucson International Mariachi Conference, held in Tucson every April. This multi-day conference celebrates mariachi and baile Folklorico through performances, competitions, and workshops with some of the best musicians and performers in the world.
Proceeds of the conference benefit children’s services at La Frontera.
“Our primary mission is to support mariachi, baile, and the culture,” said Alfonso Dancil, president of the board at the TIMC.
On the day of the collaboration brew, I met up with Dancil, as well as board members Jose Jimenez, John Aldecoa, and Chantal Ralls, to talk about mariachi, the conference, and what this collaboration means to them.
“We get 400-600 mariachi students coming to the conference from all over the country,” said Aldecoa.
“And we get a couple of hundred baile students,” Ralls added.
“At the end of the workshops, students can get on stage and show what they’ve learned that week,” said Dancil.
“The equivalent of the teachers that the students get to learn from is like learning from a rock star — like learning from Bruce Springsteen,” said Jimenez, when I asked about the caliber of training led by the artists in the workshops.
“Tucson has become a hub as far as quality musicians go,” said Aldecoa. “A lot of the big professional groups that perform at places like Epcot Center and in traveling groups, a lot of those members started in Tucson. It’s amazing to see the roots that were planted here.”
The 23 Miles of Best Mexican Food Festival
To fund the world-class mariachi and baile Folklorico opportunities found at the conference, the TIMC board of directors came up with a delicious idea. The Tucson International Mariachi Conference has taken over as the host of the mouthwatering culinary celebration known as the 23 Miles of the Best Mexican Food Festival, which serves as a fundraiser for the educational opportunities available at the conference. The 23 Miles Festival will be held at the MSA Annex on Saturday, November 12 from 3 – 8 p.m.
“The whole point of the beer collaboration is to draw attention to the 23 Miles event in a way that it hasn’t had before,” said Tony Zamorano, director of sales at Crooked Tooth Brewing.
The 23 Miles festival will feature extensive sampling from dozens of the most revered Mexican chefs, restaurants, and food trucks from our region. Participating restaurants include El Taco Rustico, El Cisne, La Estrella Bakery, Brother John’s Beer, Bourbon & BBQ, Delicias, El Chinito Gordo, and many more.
El Grito Release Party
Of course, you are encouraged to pair your feast with the official beer of the festival, Crooked Tooth’s El Grito. Tickets to the festival can be purchased online) or at the El Grito release party, which features live mariachi, on Friday, October 14 from 5 – 8 p.m. at Crooked Tooth Brewing. The brewery is generously donating kegs of El Grito to the 23 Miles Festival, so the funds raised by the event can go directly to the conference and preserve the tradition of mariachi.
In the following weeks, you will be able to find El Grito in cans and on draft in your favorite local taprooms.
If you’d like to pair this very special beer with some of the best Mexican food offerings in all of Tucson, save the date for the 23 Miles of the Best Mexican Food Festival, to be held on Saturday, November 12 from 3 – 8 p.m. at the MSA Annex.
The 41st annual Tucson International Mariachi Conference will be held in Tucson in April of 2023.
To keep up with the Tucson International Mariachi Conference, visit tucsonmariachi.org.