brothers Jose and Javier Lopez are from the M. Osa neighborhood of Chicago and founded their brewery, Casa Emailed, a survey Syria from their childhood home. The brewery operates out of District Brew Yards, an innovative taproom concept that brings four breweries. Casa milled around the Bend, Bulldog and Burnt City together around the shared seating area, allowing customers to choose and pour their own beers from any of the four breweries. Jose and Javier got their start as homebrewers, as most craft brewers did, and from their earliest batches have infused their beers with flavors and ingredients from their Mexican heritage. Beers using prickly pear, cactus, hibiscus, Cacau, coffee, Palencia, Sugar and others connect these brothers to the sensory memories of their childhoods and the culinary traditions of their culture, and offer windows through which those of us outside those traditions can peer in and take a look. Several of their beers are based on Belgian ale styles, and one uses no additional flavor ingredients at all. Campesino is a Cezanne French word for season. Cezanne is a Belgian style, sometimes referred to as farmhouse ale. He often told Origin story for the style holds that it was brewed on Belgian farm estates in the 19th century and given to seasonal farm workers while they labored in the fields. There's likely a thread of truth to that story, though it's probably not as direct lineage as some brewery marketing departments would like us to believe, regardless of how much of that story is romance and how much is reality. The agrarian imagery of the style has caught on in the popular imagination, and Jose and Javier chose campesino, the Spanish word for farmer, for the beer. Campesino is dry and effervescent, with light lemony hop notes Ah, subtle underlying minerality and gentle clove and pepper fermentation notes. It perfectly balances on the rustic but refined tight rope. The best beers of this style walk to learn more about Casa Imelda's beers. Using ingredients from Mexican tradition, I reached out to Jose and asked him how this all began. Appropriately, he started with a story from childhood about eating prickly pear cactus on road trips into Mexico. Just tell me a little bit about how you use these flavors to kind of tell part of your story. Three years, man, that's one will probably be the prickly pear one, probably the with what? We know them as Tunas. The prickly pears in Mexico. Um, that's pretty much just the memory of us driving to Mexico every every year, every summer, on driving through. And my dad always taken up on the side of the road pretty much ready to go. Ready to eat prickly pears. Um, in a bag. That's pretty much what inspired the beer. And we decided thio kind of throw it in there and play around with it with our one of our farmhouse, which ended up being Nepali. You said you get these ready to eat? How do you eat these? Normally peel them Or how do you eat a prickly pear candidates? You You would peel them. Yeah. Yeah, you would appeal them, Andi. Just pretty much just eat them like that. Yeah, just pretty much go to go to town on them. Can you describe that flavor to me a little bit? It's more of a refreshing flavor to us. And it worked out well because they came through in the beer. Just just how we how we know the flavor kind of has like, um, similar to a watermelon in flavor. So you get a little earth in its little refreshing us from that kind of watermelon flavor. Not a lot of sweetness from from from that fruit, which is which we like, you know, because we wanted the beer, not not to be just like a sweet beer, like some fruit beers could be. We wanted it to actually be representative of the actual fruit, the flavor, and it worked out just just well. I mean, we were happy with that. And it's been it's probably it's one of our best sellers actually know Polly, So people have really come toe to enjoy it. So when you're making a beer like this, do you start with this ingredient that you want to use and figure out a beer that would work? Or do you start with a beer and then kind of figure out what flavors to bring into Could go either way? Um, sometimes, well, we will start with the ingredient and then kind of see what kind of style we think it would work. And then sometimes we brew it and it doesn't work at all, which is sometimes ah, little frustrating but fun at the same time, for example, We wanted to do a mango one not too long ago, and we decided to go with a good quality mango period that we found. But it just it didn't come through in the beer way, brooded a couple of times, and we're like, No, this is No, this is not what we think it is. So we're revisiting that one. I'm kind of tweaking the base recipe and playing around with small five gallon batches seven gallon batches for now, but yeah, sometimes it could go either way with that one in particular with Polly the prickly pear farmhouse we kind of already had in mind, kind of like a Cezanne farmhouse style beer. And we wanted that earthiness. So So, the yeast we use and our grain belt everything kind of comes together for that earth Penis on its own. So we thought it would be great with the prickly pear, and we brooded. We brooded, I think maybe once or twice, and and we were happy with both groups and yeah, that would just happen to work out for us. We played around with other fruits as well. Like I said, sometimes it's just better. Most can you share an example of a time where you started with an ingredient you wanted to use and then had to figure out what a beer would be from the ground up that would work with that. Our table beer are hibiscus table beer s. Oh, that's a 3.4% or so. We brew that one on its own on, and that was kind of to be based for many different infusions. Um, we wanted that with the biscuits, which worked out grade, but we tried it with other stuff, like mango as well. We tried on that one, but it just it just didn't didn't work. But no, for the most part, we we have an idea with the base. I think I think it Zika that's already kind of in our heads. What? What we kind of feel or have an idea? What would it work? So we always kind of soon as we think of a fruit were like, we think it could work in this type of beer and kind of just go at it. Eso with that one with the the hibiscus that Zita, what would hibiscus typically be used in in you know Mexican culinary setting. You know, I'm familiar with it from T. Would it be used in a different context in your background? Well, the most popular form would be on the wall Fresca, like if you go to a Mexican restaurant, don't have data, which is the the rice water. They'll have the line made still have like a cantaloupe water. I was in Milan, or they will have, Ah, with Jamaica, which is always a darker the purple deep, purple looking one. Eso That's pretty much where we known it from off our lives. Just going to eat with the family, Mexican Or anytime we go out to a Mexican restaurant, you kind of enjoy your food with with one of the I was Fresca Michael one of them. So we kind of grew up just drinking it like that. Yeah, way didn't play, at least in our in our household. Play with it as far as cooking too much besides a t here and there that my mom would make. But that's about it. We knew it from that, and mostly from the from the Waffen SS comes from the Mexican restaurants. Now, both of those beers the Nepali and the casita with prickly pear and hibiscus. Those are both very bright, vibrant flavors. With something like Fillon, your Belgian golden strong, we're using Yuan CEO sugar. That's not that's more like an earthy, deeper, more comforting flavor. How do you get that to still come through in an expressive way where it's still contributing to the profile to beer? That we played around a little bit, just just kind of where we added at the end of days, it's just sugar, but we played a round of where we're throwing it into the into the boils where we throw it in. So it's ah, way, way later into towards the end of the boil, Thio kind of keep as much of that flavor and with the beer, and it just it worked out for us, especially because I mean it has other flavors in there. It's still like a traditional Belgian with the coriander with the orange peel, and we thought it would just it would just work just the deepness, the richness of the flavor of it, and it so happened there. It worked out for us and people. People have enjoyed it, which which we thought was not the most popular style, you know, a Belgian or or farmhouse like Cezanne. The most commercial, I would say. But it's something that we felt we can take something that we already enjoy and at at our twist to it. So all three of those like you just mentioned are Belgian based styles. What drew you towards those And is there any unique way that those fit in with the kind of flavor ingredients you're using? Yeah, I think I think the main thing for us, it is just that that earthiness like we're huge fans of Cezanne's of Belgians. Um, we're just I don't know. We discovered those beers, those styles and we cannot just fell in love with that style. You know, we we obviously we love all types of beers. We do porters. We do some stout, so we do I p A s and all that stuff. But yeah, I think it's just that earth. And it's the kind of draws is in and and kind of the easier drink and, like nothing too crazy alcohol. We don't go too crazy like I'm on r r e B E s. I think our strongest is our stout, and Bastad with will be back and fall. Other than that, the loan is probably the strongest at around 7%. And then everything else is. We got a 63 and everything else is like below below six. Pretty much, yeah, switching away from the Belgian beers. Tell me a little bit about Cafe Cito, your coffee beer. So Cafe Zito? Yeah, we wanted a We're big fans of of porters, but on the lighter side, because even campus Ito it supporter. But it's it's still a bit lighter in body than than regular porter normally is. So we kind of wanted to do something that was kind of like a beer and a cold brew. You know, something easier drinking where you can drink it on its own or, if you'd like, even pour it over ice and it'll still it'll still work, you know. So we ended up using this Colombian blend that we really enjoy. Um, and it's actually from a bigger, bigger coffee company. Um, it's we use it from Allegro, and we wanted to use something local, but we just couldn't find something that worked for us with that same with the right balance. So we right before we launched, we wanted to use some the local kind of keep everything together. Chicago. But we just decided to go with what we felt was what we enjoyed. You know, it's still still work for us. You know, it wasn't a small roast or anything, which we are still working. I'm doing variants of it with small coffee companies here in Chicago down the road. But for now, it just It just works very well when we tried it. So we just didn't decided not to change it. Why mess with it? Uh, in simple stuff, your imperial stout. You're using Vanilla and Cacau And I thought it was interesting in that one. How relatively subtle. You kept both of those flavor ingredients. They don't run away with show. Tell me a little bit about that beer and kind of achieving balance within the Yeah, so we're really happy with that One on gets kind of all across with our beers, especially that when we you know, so many stops are out there that are sometimes just go overboard. Like if there's they say vanilla, it's in there. You really taste the vanilla like like its present present, and sometimes it could be too much, you know. So So we wanted a vanilla that we chose one from Veracruz, Mexico, that it's funny because the bean is actually about twice as long as a regular, like Madagascar bourbon with Levine. But I tell everyone I describe it as kind of being softer and whiter, so there's a lot more of the little seeds in there. But it's It's a much mellower flavor, so it's not as sharp as a Madagascar bourbon. So it's like spreads spreads wide a little bit more, which we we really enjoy because we wanted to be there. We wanted to be subtle, but but present and the same thing with the Cacau, it took a cow that I've I've known for for probably. I've worked in the food industry before. We actually did full time brewing, and so I worked with that. That being specifically for I've known it for 67 years already, and I know it's a great product out of they bring it out of Ecuador from Ecuador, so we kind of decided to mix it up a bit with two products we know are very good and just right after first attempt, we kind of I think we got it just right where we found the right balance of it. Where you still get used to get some chocolate toffee notes from the cow and the vanilla comes in, but it's still nice and soft and white. One last note on the facade you mentioned you're using Ecuadorian Cacau. Who are you sourcing that through? How do you get your account? So the one we're using it from a company called Show. I think they're based out of San Francisco Otcho Like I mentioned, I worked in the food industry for for a while and both companies, That was previously we we distributed their products. So every time something new like that would come across, I would always pick some up to just play around with. And we first time we tried to like this is this is good things could work for us. Yeah, so we've always had in the back of our mind. We've used it in, uh actually we that we used in the very first, like start we ever did. Probably three or four months into going and we really enjoyed that beer. So when it was time to do a stop for for this, we wanted just not use any other just the regular vanilla. Because, like I said, I think sometimes it could be a little harsh, depending on eso, depending on how you does it. But but still it's a more of a sharp flavor. So in my head, it just seemed like it would work that Cacau with the Veracruz vanilla. And when we came together, it worked out because yeah, because sometimes you can have what you think is ah, awesome idea or flavor combo or something. Then you try it and you know it was off. But you never know until you try. Um uh, What's next for you in terms of drawing on these familiar flavors? Do you have some beers and works that you're excited about? We dio I know Tempesta were actually brewing it again very soon. We're working hard to get some tequila barrels, some tequila and Nico barrels to throw it in at least for 678 months. We're excited, excited from that one. And then in September we also have another one called on media on Aronica, which is, uh it's a phrase in in Spanish that pretty pretty much means you're other half, you know, like you found your other happen like, you know, your partner, Andi. And it kind of just works on perfectly because I'm I'm actually getting married in September and the beer is just happen to be We were ableto get everything going. So we're gonna release in the first week of September. So it just adds another level of a feeling of, you know, thio their beer, but it's it's gonna be Ah, nice and more simpler. Poele Citrus forward. We're using mosaic and etcetera, but we're also using orange peel, So yeah, we haven't really done like a paleo. That's like a clear crystal clear paleo does exist anymore. Yeah, there's something out here that are that are that are delicious, but yeah, we haven't done one. And and it's been funny because we've always said like, it's a hard beer to do, right? Like a good paleo like Like one would think when we started brewing like you would think this would be a knee easier beer to do, but but no, I mean you, you kind of have to get it right. And what we're focusing on is kind of that middle on and on. And that's why we're also putting in a little orange peel to kind of just hiding it up a little bit. But, yeah, we're excited for that one way. We need a good tol, but we want a good pale ale. More important, looking at the tequila barrel on the simplest stop, that's kind of an unusual flavor combination. Tequila with an imperial stout. How do you picture that working together? So it's been tough because, man, we were We don't want to just get any tequila barrels, so we're hoping we can make it happen. But we want a very like a good a Nico tequila barrel, like like tequila that that we ourselves respect and would drink regularly. Um, we don't want to just get a tequila bar, adjust to say, in tequila barrels. You know, we want there to be a story to it, and we want to be happy with the product, you know, and honestly, if we're not able to weigh, probably won't do it unless we can find something some kind of bourbon that that they were happy with. But yeah, if we don't find a good tequila barrel or even more rare is a mess. Colony Echo barrel, those air even more rare. And we we've made some contacts and are trying to work something out, and hopefully we can make it happen. But yeah, I don't I don't think we're gonna settle for just like any tequila barrel. It's got to be something that that we feel what would work well within if anyone else thinks An imperial stout brewed with Cacau and vanilla and aged in on ya ho tequila or mescal barrels. Sounds fascinating. You're not alone. I'll make sure I get my hands on.