As the weather gets colder, San Antonians turn their hearts and taste buds toward the traditional holiday favorite: tamales. They’re heavy. They’re made with masa, manteca, and pork, beef, beans – you name the nutrient-dense filling. What you’re going to need is something light and cleansing to counteract all that grease and wash it all down. There’s a reason so many San Antonians turn to Bud Light, after all, but we’d like to make a few more suggestions. Here are a few Texas brews to bring out the best in these cornhusk-wrapped gifts.
Let’s start with the Kolsch. This German style beer is light and cuts through all the grease of your favorite tamales. It also paired particularly well with chicken and bean tamales. San Antonio newcomer Roadmap Brewing has a great one, Obligatory, at 4.3 percent ABV, as does Twisted X out of Dripping Springs with its Gulf Kölsch (5.1 percent ABV).
A lager is another great option. It’s got a fuller body but it still crisp and not at all fruity, giving you the clean finish you need for the holiday meal. Southerleigh’s Gold Export Lager (5.5 percent ABV) is a good choice. The smoothness of this German lager played especially well with the chicken tamal. Ranger Creek has San Antonio Lager (5.2 percent ABV) that finishes dry enough to clean your palate even after a greasy pork tamal. Busted Sandal’s Finding Friday, a darker Mexican lager (5.62 percent ABV), worked predictably well with every tamal we tried.
For some of the richer, spicier tamales like the pork with jalapeno, beef, or Tamale Boy’s Kadillac tamal (chicken, jalapeno, cream cheese, and spinach), a German Oktoberfest paired amazingly well. Don’t walk – run to H-E-B to see if you can still nab a six pack of this seasonal style. We paired our tamales with the Oktoberfest from Strange Land in Austin (5.3 percent ABV). This malty, creamy beer melted perfectly into the spiciest tamales, while still finishing fairly clean on the palate. If you can’t get an Oktoberfest, Alamo’s Amber Lager (5.5 percent ABV) is slightly less malty but still played well with our more savory tamales.
Then there are dessert tamales. We ran our pairings against the Sweet Tamales at Delicious (coconut, raisin, pecan) and also the First Kiss (pecan, vanilla) and Sleepy Hollow (pumpkin, raisin, spices) at Tamahli. Coffee Porter is a clear front-runner. Real Ale’s is smooth and mellow, coming in at 6.6 percent ABV. Slightly stronger and more coffee-forward is Busted Sandal’s El Robusto Porter at 7.4 percent ABV. Both worked really well with the sweet tamales, picking up the spices and inviting the exchange that bitter beers and sweets usually discourage.
In a similar vein, Künstler has a chocolate Milk Stout, Mokka (5.6 percent ABV), that is amazingly smooth and creamy, with hints of both chocolate and coffee. This beer was perfect with the sweet tamales, picking up the cinnamon in the masa and fillings. The pair would make a great dessert or late night snack on a cold winter’s night.
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