There’s a butterfly in my beer: Morpho Herbal Ale

Morpho Herbal Ale

It is inspiring to watch a butterfly flutter by. They move with the elegance of a scarf flickering on the wind while their wings have the power to redefine color and even create chaos. Yet their delicate existence is contradictory to the bold image they possess. Fortunately there is now an ale that has captured the gripping beauty contained within the petite stature of these winged jewels.

The Story
Morpho Herbal Ale is a collaboration gruit ale brewed by MateVeza and Mill Valley Beerworks. Gruit ales do not contain any hops and therefore are not technically beers—at least not in a classical sense. Historically, Britain used the term “beer” to denote the addition of hops, while “ale” referred to the use
of an herbal mixture as a flavor enhancer and preservative. Sweet gale, yarrow, and wild rosemary were commonly used, however a wide variety of botanicals also found their way into the brew. In the case of Morpho Herbal Ale, yerba mate, hibiscus flowers, and bay leaves are used for flavor. The ale’s bitterness is provided by yerba mate—a naturally caffeinated herb cultivated in South America and served as a tea.
MateVeza specializes in organic brews that are crafted with yerba mate. Although, the founder of MateVeza, Jim Woods, does not just want to make a line of generic organic ales, but rather, he feels that it is important to create new and interesting flavors that offer the benefits of organic beers. It was this
interest in herbal beers and creative flavors that inspired a natural camaraderie between Jim and Justin Catalana of Mill Valley Beerworks. Justin had tried MateVeza’s beers while he was a senior bioengineering student at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Having worked in a yeast laboratory at UCSD, Justin brews with a variety of yeast strains in addition to experimenting with barrel aging and uncommon herbs at his microbrewery & beer cafe in Mill Valley, CA.

Their common interest in the book, “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers” (Buhner, Brewers Publications) got them discussing a collaboration beer. The first batch combined Jim’s yerba mate experience with Justin’s bay leaves brewing techniques. But there was something missing, Jim suggested hibiscus flowers to add an exotic tartness, and it was then that the ale was completed. To keep everything organic they had to source the hibiscus flowers from Egypt and the bay leaves from Turkey while the yerba mate is provided by the Argentinian family farm that Jim uses for MateVeza’s other beers. With the recipe completed, they only needed a name to identify the complex array of flavors. Moments before falling asleep, Jim saw the image of a morpho butterfly appear in his mind. He knew then that only the brilliantly blue South American butterfly that feeds off of fermenting fruit could represent their work.

The Flavors

In 3 Words: sour-strawberries & tropical spice
Jim feels that this brew contains the visually striking and magic-like quality of the Morpho butterfly. With a huge hibiscus-lemon aroma accompanied by an enchanting pinkish glow, it certainly does possess a mystical presence in the glass. The initial flavor is reminiscent of strawberry & rhubarb followed by a lemon-pepper note that leaves an herbal warmth in the chest. The mate becomes more present in the aftertaste but provides a gentle bitterness throughout. The layers of flavors quickly evolve in the mind, changing as rapidly as the glimmer of color in a butterfly’s wing.

Food Pairings

The balanced sweet & sour flavor is the driving force behind this brew and gives you plenty of pairing options for food. The acidity can break up fattier meats while the hibiscus and berry-like sweetness can enhance fish and lighter proteins. The tropical-laced tartness makes the ale a natural accompaniment to
Hawaiian-style burgers, Polynesian flavors, and even stands up nicely to fruit dessert—especially a strawberry rhubarb pie. Jim suggests using the herbal-pepper notes of the bay to accent red sauces and work with the natural acidity of tomatoes. For a quick meal, try oven-broiled sweet potato fries seasoned with oregano and topped with red onions, feta, and a spicy barbeque sauce.

Entertainment Pairing

“The Science of Sleep” is directed by the imaginative Michel Gondry who has produced such movies as “Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind” and “Be Kind Rewind”. The story follows Stéphane as he begins a fresh life with a new job and apartment. He becomes enchanted by his neighbor, Stéphanie. Their relationship establishes itself around similar creative minds with a charmingly awkward wooing that ensues. As Stéphane’s artistic mind is challenged with the burden of the surrounding mediocrity, his world becomes a mixture of reality and fantasy—affecting his work and his romance with the neighbor. Both in French & English, “The Science of Sleep” captures Morpho Herbal Ale’s exotic creativity and fantastical flavors. Mixed in moods and tastes, this movie is sweet at moments with sour tones accenting the dream-like imagery. Morpho Herbal Ale was not only named after an image produced in a near-dream-like state, but it was funded by Boston Beer Company’s new microloan program, “Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream”. Together, this movie and ale are representative of how your dreams can encroach on reality and affect the flavor of life.

Try MateVeza’s Other Offerings

In addition to Morpho Herbal Ale, MateVeza makes a Yerba Mate IPA featuring flavors of mangoes, tangerine peels, and an earthen herbal quality. Their Black Lager is brewed with toasted mate and has a crisp chocolate character with smoked fennel notes. MateVeza retails their beers throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Colorado and can be found at such markets as: Whole Foods, Fred Meyer, BevMo, local co-ops, and many natural food stores.

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