Zapata-Bot (2014)

Zapata-Bot (2014)
Hooked up by my man Jay, 8.8% ABV

zapataAh yes, the rare CTMQ Connecticut whale review! (Bottled whale, anyway.) If we limit it to bottles/cans, Connecticut’s has what? Like three? (in 2014, anyway.)

I don’t really include this beer’s base double IPA – the Gandhi-Bot – because we residents can get it on the regular. Either at the brewery or in a store or on tap somewhere. I can’t really include any of the Two Roads bottles releases, because they are of unknown quality and simply can’t be sought after by those who have had them before. Same for those Beer’d Barrel releases. And as for any other brewery in the state with “special releases,” come on now. They ain’t no whalez. Hell, many of them are straight up jokes.

So I’d say NEBCO has the three legitimate “whale designates.” The Zapata Bot, the Imperial Stout Trooper, and the Chardonneighbor, a wild ale. (I guess they have a few other growler only whales, but I’m limiting this to bottles and cans.)

Having seen releases go horribly wrong all over the country lately (Cigar City for one) or just impossibly silly lines (Tired Hands), NEBCO has adopted the strategy of silent releases.

And I love it. Hell, I’d love it even if I didn’t get the whalez. No, really, I would. Especially when you think about it for two seconds and realize that in the age of social media, there’s no such thing as a “silent” release anyway. Once it’s released, that’s it. It’s no longer a secret.

So the locals happened to stumble upon the Zapata Bot on a random Wednesday and it was spread around among them and their friends (including myself.) If this had been released with a month-long build-up, it would have shut down that Lexus dealer next to the brewery and probably routes 63 AND 69 in Woodbridge and it would have been horrible.

And completely stupid.

All for 1,000 bottles of a tequila barrel-aged Gandhi-Bot that 95% of those seeking it had never had before in their lives. Such is the state of quality craft beer these days.

BadAssAnd let me just tell you how “silent” this release was. It was super silent. Just 10 days before the release of the Zapata, I was alone with head brewer/part owner Matt Westfall. We were in the brewery proper. NO one else was within half a mile of us. I saw a bunch of barrels and innocently mentioned that I knew a recent (2013) Zapata effort failed due to barrel leakage. I asked if they were trying again.

att didn’t flinch. “Yeah, there were issues with the barrels, but we have some cool barrel stuff coming soon.”

That was it. Nothing more. He didn’t let on at ALL about the new, proper round of Zapata that was going to be released in days. I must have freaked him out a little bit when I brought up a random rare NEBCO beer that hadn’t been released for 4+ years.

No, Matt, you don’t have a mole. Christ, you only have like 3 employees… My Zapata question was completely and totally out of the blue. I swear.

What happens when you put beer into tequila barrels? I must admit, I was a bit leery about this one. The pine and resin and hoppy hoppiness of Gandhi married to the sweet, boozy, unique flavor of tequila?


Grown from humble beginnings, born of two cultures, Zapata Bot is our tequila barrel aged double IPA.

Big fruit hoppiness, accentuated by citrusy and earthy tequila. Subtle oak and vanilla help meld these elements together. Vive la Revolucion! DRINK FRESH!

I tried to hold off on drinking the bottle until I could share it with one or two whale hunters (just kidding – one or two friends), but the bottle kept yelling at me to BEBIDA FRESCA! A couple weeks went by and BEBIDA FRESCA!

Ok, ok! It was time to bebida.

Zapata Bot poured into a Gandhi Bot glass. Not big aromatics from this beer; nothing really setting it apart from the base Gandhi anyway. First sip and I gave the beer a quizzical look – this was just a Gandhi.

Peaceful and serene, chilling out in Sukhasana pose.

Where was my Mexican revolutionary? Where was the call to mezcal arms and the bandito spirit? (It is kind of funny to me that Gandhi and Zapata went about their rural revolutions is quite different ways…)

I took another sip. Hola Tequila!

zapaI should mention that I have no issues with tequila. I never had a ‘tequila incident’ as many have. At some point, I even came to appreciate high-end tequila; the kind you can sip like you would a fine scotch. And I like that kind of tequila. (Not that I’ve had tequila in the last 12 years, but no matter.)

After spending some time with this beer, I came to realize how perfect it is. Barrel aging is not just a matter of dumping a beer in a barrel. There is much skill involved and NEBCO has those necessary skills.

[Calvin refused to wear the mustache. Lame.]

Zapata Bot is… just perfect. It is clearly a DIPA; and not just any DIPA, but Gandhi-Bot, one of the best DIPA’s around. All the pine and citrus hop characteristics are there, mostly up-front. But with each sip, the back-end of the tequila hits and dissipates, prompting you to have another sip.

And when I say that the “tequila hits,” I mean, “it subtly arrives, doffs its sombrero, says “Hola Amigo,” hops on its burro and rides off into the sunset.” Over and over again, with each successive sip.

I didn’t get much barrel (oak, vanilla), but I do think the barrel notes smoothed the transition from the Gandhi hops to the Zapata bite.

Zapata-Bot was a hundred times better than I’d thought it would be. As a result, this page is merely about the beer and not about Emiliano Zapata Salazar, who led the Mexican revolution and is still revered to this very day. (Much like Gandhi, of course.) If you care to learn about who Zapata was, there is a ton of information on this Internet thing.

And if you really wanted a bottle of this stuff, but didn’t score one, I’m sorry. Hopefully you will next time. However, if you really wanted a bottle of this stuff, but didn’t score one and have sounded off on social media about New England Brewing’s silent release policies or your ill-perceived notions of their “scarcity marketing,” then I hope you never, ever get to enjoy a Zapata-Bot.

Although my friend Jay helps me out with almost all of the NEBCO releases, I want to include a special thank you to him this time. He’s the best. And you should really give his site a read and his podcast a listen. Check it out: Leaf & Yeast

Overall Rating:A+
Rating vs. Similar style:n/a

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