Monday, April 7, 2008

A Beer by Any Other Name ...

Imagine you have a brewery (I now have Señor Gato Gringo's attention) and your master brewer has just developed a new beer. Maybe it's a lager, maybe it's an ale. And arguably the only thing better than drinking your new beer - assuming it isn't totally crap - is christening it. For surely naming a beer is tantamount to naming your child - although arguably, if you give your child a crap name (like Enid or Troy), s/he can change it later on. But for weal or woe, your beer is stuck with it.

The Beerosphere is awash with fabulously bizarre beer names. Dead Guy Ale, Alimony Ale, Mort Subite (Sudden Death), Snowblower Ale, Seriously Bad Elf, Moose Drool and Arrogant Bastard all promise to quench the seeker's thirst with varying degrees of success (and good taste).

My favourite beer name is Mezquita - mezquita being Spanish for mosque - brewed by the Grupo Cervezas Alhambra. The unofficial official story is that the brewery, based in Granada, came up with the name in homage to its neighbouring city of Córdoba. At least that's one version.

One can't help but wonder if it was an agent provocateur of sorts to Spain's Muslim community. A community that has strong historical ties to Andalucía in so much as Moors from North Africa had invaded the region and ruled here on again/off again (although mainly on) for almost 800 years. And Córdoba was its jewel in the crown. Surpassing those
poseurs Cairo and Baghdad in its scientific innovations, education, arts, and culture, Córdoba was the first city in the world to boast indoor plumbing and street lights.

In 997, Moorish ruler Mohammed ibn Abu-Amir al-Mansur led a raiding party as far north as Santiago de Compostela. After his horse drank holy water from the church fountain, al-Mansur ordered that the church's bells be strapped to the backs of those Christians unlucky enough to be standing around with their thumbs up their asses and carry them back to Córdoba - a bracing 800 kilometre walk. Then he had the bells melted down to make lamps for the city's grand mosque.

A bit of a slap in the face.

But in 1236, Ferdinand III and his Christian forces retook the city. F-3 ordered that the mosque's lamps be strapped to the backs of those Muslims unlucky enough to be standing around with their thumbs up their asses and carry them back to Santiago de Compostela - a bracing 800 kilometre walk. Then he had the lamps melted down to make bells for the church.

A bit of a slap in the face.

So "Mosque" Beer ... a bit of a slap in the face? Hard not to think so. Naming a beer - even an amber beauty like Mezquita - after Islam's primary place of worship is a bit ...well ... cheeky. You can get away with stuff like that with the Catholic church. After all, monks were history's first master brewers and brewed the world's best beer. In one of Señor G.G.'s previous incarnations he was undoubtedly a Trappist Monk. A very happy one.

I don't know what Islam's response - official or unofficial - was to the brewing - or more accurately, the naming of Mezquita. I can't imagine that they were overly thrilled. But perhaps the best revenge is knowing that Islam has finally ousted Roman Catholicism as the largest religion in the world. Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold. And a glass of Mezquita is best served at 4-7 ºC.


neil wykes said...

Have you tried the wonderful Mezquita Negra beer? Not sure how that fits in with jist of the article though. May be it's a conciliatory nod at Spain's not-so-European history?

Some North Africans think it's ok to drink if there's roof above you. Presumably because Allah can't see you then..

senor g.g said...

I have had both the regular and the negra Mezquitas and I really like them. All of the Alhambra beers are very good.

It is rather amusing that M6 (King of Morocco) is rumoured to have shares in Heineken but more or less forces people (like Westerners and the moderate locals who drink) to consume alcohol in basements or back rooms of bars with shudders on the windows. It was like being on an undercover mission.

neil wykes said...

Invoking gods as absolute arbitrator of right and wrong when it suits them and believing he/she/they can be hoodwinked when it comes to riches and pleasures..? Yes, amusing and not so unusual.

No, I didn't know that, and is another reason not to drink Heineken !

Di Mackey said...

The photograph at the top.
Did you do that?

Damn, I scrolled to see if you had written about it, I need to go back and read seriously ... brb

Okay ... read again but did you take that photograph?

Anonymous said...

I agree with di mackey, that photo at the top is great. Where is it?

La Gatita Gringa said...

No I stole it from a CNN travel article. Or NY Times. Wish I had though. It has 'inspired' me to visit Cordoba again - last time I was there my camera had just died and I have no photos.