“Frieday” Fact: The State of Control

At latest count there are at least 18 “control states” in the United States.

First, what is a “control state”? No, it’s not an over the top description of Miss Jackson (if you’re nasty) but a short-form name for a state government that controls the wholesale distribution and/or retail sale of alcohol – whether wine or spirits – to the general public.

In some states they control of distribution spirits but allow for the general retail distribution of beer and wine. In the U.S. of the states that control liquor sales only 9 actually run retail stores: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Others either permit licensed retail sales or contract out retail operations.

The entire list of control states includes: Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. (Plus a county in Maryland and a town in Minnesota.)

Everyone- from M.A.D.D., to distributors, to consumers, to importers- pretty much has an opinion about whether this set up is a good or bad thing. The State of Washington (where I am from) is opening up this question to the voters this Tuesday. The general argument pits potentially less tax revenue and decreased monitoring versus greater product selection at more locations at potentially cheaper prices. All things for us all to consider. On Wednesday, we’ll see what Washingtonian’s decide and learn what’s the “will of the people”.

Want to know more about liquor control in the United States?

A good review from Wikipedia can be found here and here.

You can also check out this from legalbeer.com.

Uno – Dos – Tres – Rock ‘n Roll

Tres Agaves Tequila is making fans with those who are on behind the scenes as well.

Gotta love Rich Bartle at BIG Productions. Not only does he do some mighty fine production work, he’s one of Tres’ biggest fans and, he’s never to far from a flip cam (and apparently merchandise as well).

Get a load of the footage that he just “got” and how the Scorpion’s James Kottak preps for his drum solos.

Tequila Talk – Hijuelos

Hijuelos are the baby agave shoots or “pups” that grow up around the main plant when the plant has matured to about the 3 years of age.

In the wild agaves reproduce with the help of bats who pollinate the large yellow flower that emerges at five to seven years. As a practical matter this method of reharvesting has been widely abandoned because it takes too long and importantly the stock and flower rob the plant of vital starches required for making quality Tequila.

An hijuelo in the fields

As such, most farms cultivate the hijuelos and replant them as a means of replenishing the crop. To find out more about Tequila harvesting check out this site.

Frieday Fact: Yanks Like Tequila (a lot)

According to the Mexican National Chamber for the Tequila Industry 135 million liters of Tequila were exported in 2009 – and most of it heads north. Nearly 108 million liters crossed the border, representing almost 80 percent of all Tequila exports. That’s a lot of shots and margaritas, folks. How about over 3.6 BILLION?

Ready for some shots in Guadalajara

The top five Tequila importing (drinking and/or consuming) countries also might surprise you. Here’s how they stacked up in 2009:

1. United States (108 million liters)
2. Germany (5.9 million)
3. Spain (3.1 million)
4. France (2.3 million)
5. Japan (1.4 million)

Winning Recipes from Margarita Challenge

Thea Sommers, who bartends at Carefree Station in Carefree, AZ was the winner of the Tres Agaves Margarita Challenge at the recent Arizona Taco Festival. Thea was clearly on her game with her Apple Pie Margarita and Sombero cocktails. She served them up with sass and class.

Check out these photos.

For those who want to make these winning cocktails here’s the secret to Thea’s success:

Apple Pie Margarita
1oz green apple puree
1oz cinnamon simple sryup
2oz Tres Agaves Tequila
3 squeezes of lime
sparkling cider

Add all ingredients into shaker, shake well, pour into a tall glass with cinnamon sugar rim, garnish with apple and carmel.

1 slice red bell pepper
2 cilranto leaves
2 oz Tres Agaves Tequila
1 oz Tres Agaves 100% Organic Agave Nectar
2 lime squeezes
Float of Mezcal
habanero sauce(abourt 2 drops)
Smokey Salt for garnish

Muddle red pepper, cilranto, and agave nectar, add rest of ingredients, shake well, strain, pour over ice into a bucket glass, garnish with a smokey salted rim and a slice of red pepper.

Sounds better than yummy, Thea!

Tequila Talk – Jimador

Agave harvesting is tricky business. First of all, they take at least 8 years to mature. Second, if you harvest them too early you’re gonna wind up with a bitter batch. Harvest them too late then the Tequila will be too sweet. Perfecting the process is the job of the jimador (HE-mah-door).

Jimador tending to the blue agave

The jimador is the master farmer who tends, picks and harvests the Agave plants to ensure that they are of the highest quality and harvested at precisely the right time. They tend the fields, select which plants are mature, slice off the leaves to expose the piña – which is then cooked, fermented and distilled to produce Tequila.

Getting to the heart of the agave

Want to know more about Jimadors? Check out Lalo’s – Tequila Connoisseur Corner.

The art of making Tequila

One of the great things about my recent trip to the Tequila Valley was that I got to see a lot of distilleries and learn first hand how each distillery adds their personal stamp to their batches.

All Tequilas start with the basic ingredients- agaves, water, yeast- and must be produced in one of five states in Mexico – Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. The master distiller adds his/her own processes and techniques to arrive at a very distinct flavor. Some distilleries are mammoth like Herradura. Others like Cofradia are contracted by many to produce a variety of brands.

El Llano (meaning “the Plains”) is a small, boutique distillery that was founded in 1900 by one of Mexico’s foremost Tequila families. Eduardo Orendain is a fifth generation Tequila master. His pride and passion show in every word he utters. He was a complete joy to talk with and meet. While down there we recorded Tres Agaves’ Eric Rubin as he took us on a tour of the “fabrica” and highlighted why some might fine Tequila flows from El Llano’s stills.

Note: The “tour” progressed to the tasting room and, er, we “forgot” to get footage. Next time I’ll add more from the cellars and tasting rooms.

Tequila Talk – Tahona

While visiting El Centenario distillery in the highlands region I got to see a Tahona working in action.  The distillery produces Siete Lequas which is named after Pancho Villa’s horse.

A Tahona is basically a 1-2 thousand pound wheel that is moved by mules in a circular fashion to crush the cooked agave to extract the pulp and get it ready for fermentation. Here’s a pic of a Tahona at El Centenario.  It’s both nostalgic and impressive to see:

Mules pulling a Tahona at El Centenario.

At El Centenario they work the mules in two shifts, at 6am and 11:30am, for an hour and a half each time. The pulp and fiber are then removed by hand to be fermented – labor intensive for sure.

Want to learn more about the Tahona?  I suggest starting at TequilaSource.com which has nice alternative definition.