This Guy Turned a Volkswagen into a Portable Michelada Bar
There is a magical Volkswagen bus going around in the ever-congested streets of LA, roaming through peoples backyards—getting them turnt through its free-flowing, James Beard Award-winning Mexican spicy beer cocktail on tap. We met the brilliant...
This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in July 2015.
There is a magical Volkswagen bus going around in the ever-congested streets of LA, roaming through peoples backyards—getting them turnt through its free-flowing, spicy beer on tap and then making them dance uncontrollably through cumbia remixes.
The spicy beer concoction known as a michelada is a Bloody Mary-like Mexican beer cocktail that hits the spot when you're miserably hungover or when you're drinking some with a plate of tacos. And that same rumor also claims that these micheladas happen to be James Beard Award-winning too.
My thirsty friends, this party lore is true, and the genius behind the concept is 28-year-old Fernando Lopez of Guelaguetza, a restaurant that has been named "one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the country" by local food god Jonathan Gold.
I sat down with Lopez, who is singlehandedly redefining what a "party bus" can be, to see what inspired such stroke of mechanical genius. And of course, I begged him to share his recipe for the rest of us, even though you can buy his award-winning mix online if you're too lazy.
MUNCHIES: Batman has his batmobile and you have your michelada mobile. What inspired you to create your amazing spicy beer-dispensing vehicle? Fernando Lopez: The MicheMobil came from a conversation with Alex Blazedale of LATaco, a local website that celebrates the taco lifestyle in Los Angeles. We were at the LA Street Food Fest and he asked me what was next for our award-winning michelada mix. Since that was around the time that LA's food truck scene really exploded, I almost jokingly said that I would do a michelada truck. We laughed it up, but obviously the idea stayed in my mind and fermented over time.
That night, I drank mezcal with a couple of friends and just started drawing up the schematics for my idea on paper, buzzed of course. The next day, I drove around the entire city after looking for the van of my dreams, which turned out to be a harder task than I initially imagined.
I eventually found one that grabbed my attention but it wasn't for sale. So I kept driving back to it every day until I saw a group of men hanging out by it one day. I walked up to the men, and sure enough, one of them was the owner. When I expressed interest, he laughed me off. I'm sure he didn't take me seriously. But I pushed further and further, and finally he gave in and gave me an insane price that I'm sure was just to scare me away.
Still determined, I drove back to the restaurant and got as much cold hard cash as I had to negotiate. Most of it in one pocket, and some more in the other. I went back, showed him the money and straight-up asked him: "How about this?" That's when he took me more serious, and we finally came to an agreement.
And that's how I came into the possession of a random '69 VW type 2 transporter Van.
How does you get away with this legally? The MicheMobil is essentially a glorified jockey box, so it's the same permits as any catering company dealing with beer. We don't sell beer in the street or anything, so it's nothing fancy with permits. For public events, the organizers pull day liquor permits that allow for the beer distributors to deliver beer to the event. Within the permitted space, it's all legal in boring ways.
How much beer can your beer-modified '69 type 2 carry? The MicheMobil has four beer taps but one of those is reserved for our mix, which we keg in house. But don't trip, we can—in theory—carry as much beer as we need, as our amazing beer suppliers are very helpful in working with us and delivering product.
How much does it cost to rent out? It's $350 per hour and one keg is included with the first two hours, and an extra keg included with every hour after that. This includes staff, michelada mix, setup, and cleanup. It also includes our on-board Sonos, which lets you control the music from anywhere in your party, and access to everything on Spotify and Soundcloud. If you want an actual DJ, we can definitely hook you up with one of our many homies we work with.
Damn, but real talk, though: What's the craziest thing you've seen while working? Because of our onboard WiFi, screen, speakers, and microphones, once people are lit, its very easy to turn the MicheMobil into a portable karaoke mobile too, and people love to sing. This is maybe not my craziest, but one of my favorite moments has to be a group of grandmas who got turnt on micheladas [and started] crying and singing along to Chente, chugging the entire time.
So are you going to tell us how us we Ford-driving squares can recreate this michelada fantasy at home?
Sure, I'll tell you.
But the problem with making micheladas from scratch at home is that by the time you finish making one for your fifth homie, the first homie will come back and ask you for another one. Which means that you'll pretty much be the michelada bartender all day. Also, you end up getting inconsistencies in flavor, and then people will even start questioning your michelada-making skills. So, why not just buy a bottle of and tell your homies to pour their own shit?
What makes a Oaxacan michelada different than any other michelada? Oaxacan micheladas are more complex in flavor as compared to the Northern ones, kind of like our moles. Northern micheladas are tomato juice-based with lime, pepper, and a blend of a couple of hot sauces. This makes these micheladas really red, even once the beer is mixed in. Our michelada is primarily lime-based and although it does have tomato juice in it too, there is way less of it, so the resulting flavor is pretty crazy. One ingredient that people are always quick to point out is the Worcestershire sauce, but that's just the beginning. Also, our secret mix makes micheladas come out chocolatey brown, and as we like to say, brown is beautiful.
Any other vehicles that you're thinking of transforming into a michelada mobile? A michelada low-rider perhaps? As of right now, not really, but you never know. What if I tell you that I'm making a michelada paleta cart?
Thanks for speaking to us.