Every Wednesday in The Man Who Invented Beer, Adam Cowden runs down the best in craft brews, and maybe a history lesson or two while he’s at it.
This past week, I started to feel a bit self-conscious about all of the high ratings I’m been throwing out lately. In the interest of not seeming like an excitable 18-year-old who just lost his beer virginity, I considered actively seeking out a mediocre beer to temper my high average rating. Then I thought “nah, I’ll just get another Dos Perros.”
What’s the story?
Yazoo Brewery allegedly had its humble beginning in a home brewing kit ordered from the back pages of Rolling Stone. According to founder/brewmaster Linus Hall, this seemed a little less illegal than his roommates’ pot grow-op. Yazoo Brewery officially opened its doors in October 2003 and has since become something of a Nashville institution, making a name for itself on the popularity of its top-fermented ales and charmingly anti-authoritarian attitude.
If you are a little confused at how a brewery could be described as having a “charmingly anti-authoritarian” attitude, I don’t blame you. What I’m referring to is mostly the fact that Yazoo Brewery has managed to flourish despite Tennessee having the most prohibitive sin tax on beer in the country. The 17% wholesale tax on beer, which is calculated on top of existing state and federal barrel taxes, raises the total tax on a barrel of Yazoo beer to an almost prohibitive $37. Needless to say, this has been a bitter pill to swallow for Yazoo, and facing a distinct disadvantage to big name brewers as well as other craft brewers has helped cultivate their fiercely independent image and openly anti-establishment stance toward Tennessee’s existing tax structure. Yazoo’s ongoing battle to overthrow the tax recently culminated in a joint brewing venture with Calfkiller that resulted in a beer seditiously named “The Beacon: Tennessee High Tax Ale.”
Why should I drink it?
Yazoo’s two flagship beers, Dos Perros and Yazoo Pale Ale, can be found on tap in Nashville bars and restaurants almost without exception. Personally, I haven’t yet tried Yazoo Pale Ale, and I’ve actually never seen someone opt for one over a Dos Perros. This is with good reason; Dos Perros is a very good beer in and of itself, but is really a perfect example of a session beer. If you’ve ever read a beer review on the internet, you’ve probably heard this term tossed around like a frisbee. Often (if not most) times, the label is incorrectly used to try to make a beer sound classy, as if it should be sipped on by two men with Ph.Ds having a bull sesh in a room full of books. What the term actually refers to is a beer with a relatively low alcohol content (usually no higher than 5% ABV), several of which can be enjoyed in succession without putting you on your ass. Supposedly, the term originated in Britain during World War I, when there were two four-hour “sessions” of the day during which shell manufacturers were allowed to drink. (Can you believe it? Only a four hour drinking break during work?) A good session beer, therefore, was one they could enjoy several of over the course of a few hours and still be sober enough to return to work.
At 3.5% ABV, Dos Perros is a perfect session beer, and in Nashville, where public transportation is all but non-existent, chances are you will be needing to drive home at some point after your drinking session. Light not only in alcohol content but also in body, it also pairs perfectly with heavy food (another Nashville mainstay). It’s hard to find a non-light beer that’s more agreeable and easy to your stomach (and head) than Dos Perros, and this probably has something to do with its popularity.
What does it taste like?
Like Negra Modelo’s less heavy, more agile little cousin. The striking similarity is somewhat surprising, since Negra Modelo is actually classified as a Munich dunkel lager, while Dos Perros is technically an American Brown Ale. Yazoo claims that it is inspired by Mexican beers that are “descendants of old Austrian styles, from when Austria ruled Mexico in the late 19th century.” This seems to be somewhat of a misnomer, since most Austrian beers are lagers. Nevertheless, Dos Perros does keep in line with Mexican brews such as Negra Modelo by the inclusion of flaked maize, which helps lend a characteristic sweetness.
With almost no head and a dark brown hue, Dos Perros pours like a slightly flat glass of coca cola, and tastes pretty similar too. The amount of sweetness and flavor in the light, watery beer is actually pretty amazing. Sweet and toasty, there’s almost no bitterness to be found here. The inclusion of a lime (which is pretty common where I’ve seen Dos Perros served) helps balance out the sweetness and add a little more variety of flavor. Clearly designed as a companion to Mexican fare, Dos Perros also makes for an absolutely fantastic way to wash down any sort of rich or spicy food.
Should I try it?
So far, I haven’t answered “no” to this question yet. Take that as a testament to how many varieties of good brew are available today, or as a testament to how much of a sucker I am for beer, but either way believe me when I say that Dos Perros is one of my favorites. A perfect beer for those of you looking to begin expanding beyond Bud, Miller and Coors Light, Dos Perros is pretty much the definition of a good, dependable beer. It’s not easy to find outside of the South, but if you do happen to find any (or if you happen to be in the South), make sure to snatch it up.