What I did manage to get my hands on was a bottle of the seventh beer in Founders Brewing's Backstage Series, a "malt beverage fermented with mango and habanero" called Mango Magnifico con Calor. (I've already reviewed two beers in the series: Bolt Cutter, a barrel-aged barleywine, and Doom, a bourbon-barreled douple IPA.) Founders makes well-regarded fruit beers with cherry and raspberry (Cerise, Rubaeus, Blushing Monk), but this is its first proper go at a mango beer—as far as I can tell, the brewery's only previous attempt was a tap-only wheat pale, Main Guy Mango, in early 2012. Mango Magnifico con Calor was officially released on August 5.
The beer's bone-white head is loose, foamy, and generous, but it doesn't stick around long. You might persuade yourself that you can see a touch of mango orange in its jewel-clear amber color, not least because you get a whiff of the fruit as soon as you open the bottle—to me it smells most like an Ataulfo mango, the golden-skinned comma-shaped variety with almost custardlike flesh. (That's not to say I have any idea which kind Founders used. The larger, rounder Haden mango, whose skin shades from red to green, tends to be more fibrous and taste a bit of pine, especially when not fully ripe.)
The aroma also includes honey and caramel, plus something grassy and peppery that's almost like rye but might actually be the zing of the habanero chiles, softened by fermentation. Other notes in the nose remind me of the white muscat grape and saffron in Dogfish Head's Midas Touch, and like that beer, Mango Magnifico seems to have no hops to speak of, unless they're the kind that smell sort of like mango—under the circumstances, though, that would be a bit of a wasted effort.
The taste by and large follows the smell, unsurprisingly, with a flood of juicy mango up front—though this time, perhaps because I'm a suggestible person and just visited Devon, it seems more like the intensely floral Indian variety called Alphonso. The malts add flavors of buckwheat pancakes and syrup, but the sweetness is predominantly fruity, not sugary. The finish arrives with a hint of tart apple, followed by a bright burst of citrusy chile heat on your tongue and in your throat—on my first sip, I expected it to keep building until it got unpleasant, but it stays pretty gentle, lingering as just the faintest suggestion of itself. The fearsome reputation of the habanero notwithstanding, Mango Magnifico con Calor (for the Spanish impaired, "with heat") isn't particularly spicy—no cause for alarm here, unless you're one of those lifelong midwesterners who can't handle anything hotter than ketchup.
Between the honeyed tropical fruit and the pepper, the flavor is a bit two-note, but seesawing from one to the other and back with each sip is a fun trip—and it's easy to keep taking it, since the beer gives you no hint at all of its 10 percent alcohol content (at least until your brain starts to have trouble with subordinate clauses). I can see it being a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, but I think it's basically everything you could want from a strong golden ale brewed with mango and habanero. If that combo sounds like a great idea to you, you won't be disappointed—Mango Magnifico con Calor showcases both flavors with big blaring neon signs. If it sounds like a terrible idea, well, save yourself the $12.99 plus tax. (That's suggested retail, so if you find it priced higher, don't blame Founders.)
Those of you familiar with my customary method for segeuing into the metal portion of my Beer and Metal posts (I paired Bolt Cutter with Bolt Thrower and Doom with a shit-ton of doom) may figure I've backed myself into a corner by reviewing a fruit beer with a painting of two flamenco dancers on the label. But no! There is in fact such a thing as flamenco metal. If this is news to you, brace yourself:
I'll start with "La Iglesia del Odio" by French band Impureza, the title track of their 2010 full-length.
From San Francisco come Flametal, who've christened themselves with a thuddingly obvious portmanteau that I suppose you could consider the equivalent of a warning label for genre purists. This is "Bruja Tortura," from the 2005 album The Elder.
This week's final track isn't exactly metal—it's by Spanish experimental rock band Lagartija Nick (named after a Bauhaus song), with vocals by late Spanish flamenco singer Enrique Morente. It's called "Omega," from a 1996 album of the same name, and it adapts a text by Federico Garcia Lorca.