It all begins with confusion and chaos. If the chaos is loud and unnerving, the confusion is at least quiet and plentiful. Confusion like standing in the direct light of sunset, the feeling of warmth on your face and the dusting of salt on your lips. It could be the beach without the crash of the waves, without the screeching of the gulls. It could be the sandy beach, but it’s out in the middle of a baking salt flat in the middle of the desert. A sad-faced mariachi appears, dressed in his finest sequins singing about bullfights and dreamy fandangos. He circles around our hero, who pays no attention to him at all. El Cuatro wears the dust of the desert all over him, except on the striking moustache that extends from underneath his sombrero.
So, who is this guy? Well, all I can say is that he came out of nowhere at exactly the right time, with exactly the right skill set. In terms of the brewery (in a less thrilling but no less unnerving reality), El Cuatro is the combined first 4 brews undertaken at The Ale Apothecary. In order to make way for Sahalie and (TBFKA) La Tache, El Cuatro acted much like Marshal Rueben J. Cogbum in the epic western True Grit…with a little more swashbuckling in his step. Starting up a brewhouse for the first time is a major crapshoot in terms of ‘expectations’, so El Cuatro stepped in to take the heat off our precious ladies while I could get a baseline for brewing Sahalie and La Tache. Maybe not surprisingly, El Cuatro has performed very well. Very well indeed! The combination of caramel malt and an almost year-long fermentation by brettanomyces lambicus in brandy barrels has led us to a place that is strangely getting more familiar and enjoyable…the unknown! With the combination of new techniques and equipment that I was utilizing, I had very little factual knowledge about how this beer would turn out. I presented my little brewery with an idea, and she called in El Cuatro. I am certain that this is not his first rodeo, because the beer turned out very different than I had originally imagined. Much better than if I had struggled for control in terms of design. Where did he come from?
In many ways, I see El Cuatro as the opposing male figure to the muse. Where the muse presents ideas and inspiration, El Cuatro shows up to get us from the dreaming state to the doing state (with six-guns at his side, no less). He most likely has many names that stretch behind him like wisps of dust, but he carries the wisdom of the old ways because of it. Looking at it another way, the ‘old ways’ were as much about perseverance as they were about ingenuity. Survival can do that to you. I expect in years to come, our El Cuatro will not taste the same. While the beer will always be named after our Patron Saint of Determination, I expect that next year the beer will have much more of my influence than his. He will be off in NoDak working in the fracking scene, perhaps. Or maybe down in the Keys, ready to hop aboard a boat that signals a new life for someone. In our case, it was glorious beer that made us exclaim, “How the hell did that happen?!” and keeps us working toward the next El Cuatro sighting.
Which for some of you, will be very soon indeed. Ale Club 1st quarter beer 2013. I can’t wait!