When we got an email from Blue Moon beer a few weeks ago asking if they could stop by the office to show us their latest Cinnamon Horchata Ale, I won’t pretend we didn’t collectively eye-roll a little. Without any context, it seemed like a gimmicky stunt to appeal to the Latin market, plus no one could really fathom how the combination of cinnamon and beer could possibly taste good. We agreed to the invitation with a heavy dose of skepticism.
But less than five minutes into our sampling, all of our hateration melted away because the beer is shockingly delicious. And the story of how it came to be is surprisingly charming, starting with the man behind Blue Moon: Keith Villa, a third generation Mexican-American (we didn’t see that one coming).
Villa, who grew up in Colorado drinking his grandmother’s horchata, started the Blue Moon Brewing Company after traveling to Belgium to get his PhD in Brewing Science (didn’t know that was a thing) at the University of Brussels. The young company got its name from an administrative assistant in the office, who remarked that the venture was an opportunity that only comes along “once in a blue moon.” With the help of parent company MillerCoors, it was soon getting distributed all over the country and helping to develop mainstream America’s taste for Belgian-inspired craft beers.
Now, Villa is bringing the flavors of horchata, a beverage enjoyed all over Latin America, to your bodega beer shelves. His latest Cinnamon Horchata Ale creation is a feat of beer wizardry: brewed with long grain rice, cinnamon and Belgian dark candy sugar, it manages to taste both exactly like horchata and exactly like beer at the same time, like some sort of quantum mechanics Schrödinger’s Cat situation. The smell of cinnamon is pungent, and yet the flavor is subtle; barely sweet, creamy and refreshing. As someone in the office pointed out, the Horchata flavor also works nicely with Blue Moon’s classic served-with-an-orange-slice presentation — after all, horchata is often brewed with orange leaves in Mexico.
The new beer will be available starting tomorrow (August 1st) in select cities in Texas, California, and Colorado, as part of Blue Moon’s sampler packs. In New York, it will be available in six-packs.