From left to right: Rogue and Xicha brewers Charlie Van Meter, Ricardo Antunez, Joel Shields and Roberto Velasco sip on their Pineapple Tamarind Blonde Ale. Photo by Caitlin Wallace.

Sweet and Spicy Beer

Rogue and Xicha Brewing created a summer beer that pays homage to Xicha’s Latin roots

Finding a craft beer in the Pacific Northwest that isn’t a rich, high alcohol by volume (ABV) IPA that sort of tastes like crushed-up pennies can be difficult. 

I actually like the hoppiness of IPAs, but on a warm spring day, I want something crisp, maybe fruity, but definitely not too sweet. Basically, I want to sit by the river and sip on a beer without getting drunk and/or full after a few sips.

Charlie Van Meter, head brewer at Xicha (pronounced cheech-a) Brewing, and Rogue head brewer Joel Shield saw “the tides changing in terms of beer,” as Van Meter puts it, from people wanting an IPA to people reaching for a lighter, fruitier alternative. He says, “I think it used to be something that there was a cliché of, you know, I’ll get one of these for my girlfriend or whatever. But now it’s like, wait a minute, these are my favorite beers.”

Shield and Van Meter took note of the public’s interest in a fruitier beer and created a Pineapple Tamarind Blonde Ale that they hope will pay homage to Xicha’s Latino roots, Shield adds, and be the “beer of the summer.” And clocking in at five percent ABV, it’s light enough to have one or three. 

Xicha started brewing in 2017 in north Salem when owners Ricardo and Maggie Antunez collaborated with Xicha’s former head brewer, Matt Dakopolos, to create a space with Latin American food and Mexican lagers. Since then they have opened up two locations in Salem and one in Eugene with all of their brewing done in north Salem.

“Matt loved incorporating a lot of Latin flavors in our brews, and he is very much still involved in the brewing process,” Van Meter says. “But I’m also seeing this as an opportunity to break the rules a little while also paying homage to traditional lager styles as well.”

Xicha’s Latin flair caught the attention of the Oregon craft beer veteran Rogue, established in 1988. According to Rogue representative Caitlin Hopkins, Rogue CFO Brian Benavides saw a “lack of diversity” in craft beer and drove out to Salem to try Xicha’s brews himself. 

“He saw Xicha, checked it out and thought that it felt special in this part of the world and in this industry in general,” she says. Conversations about a collaboration began shortly after Benavides’ trip, according to Hopkins. 

“The day of the brewing we brought in tamarind pods and peeled them all,” Shield says. “It was this fun hands-on process that you don’t always get to do.”

Van Meter and Shield landed on pineapple and tamarind because they wanted to introduce people to a “less common ingredient” like tamarind, the sweet and sour fruit in a “sweet and palatable” way. 

“I was listening to a news anchor earlier this week describe it as a ‘taste of sunshine.’ As corny as that sounds, it’s true,” Van Meter says. “It’s supposed to be a beach brew.”

 The Pineapple Tamarind Blonde Ale is on tap at the Eugene Xicha at 747 E. 32nd Ave., Suite B, and is also sold at select grocery stores until July 2024.

This story has been updated.