It was heartwarming to watch videos of Claudio Velez (better known as the Tamale Guy) leaving the hospital last week after a 35-day stay during which doctors treated the local entrepreneur for COVID-19. A longtime fixture of North Side bars, where he'd frequently show up selling homemade tamales out of a red cooler, Velez and his family realized a dream earlier this year when they opened a restaurant in Ukrainian Village—aptly named Tamale Guy Chicago.
Naperville's Solemn Oath Brewery had been working on a collaborative beer with the Tamale Guy crew to celebrate the opening of the new restaurant before Velez was diagnosed with COVID. When Velez was suddenly hospitalized and his restaurant was forced to close just a few weeks after opening, the project took on new meaning, offering a way to raise funds for Velez's treatment, his family and his business.
In speaking with the team behind Tamale Guy Chicago, Solemn Oath's brewers learned that Velez's favorite flavor of paleta (the ubiquitous Mexican popsicles that are frequently sold by street vendors) was mango. That information served as the inspiration for a "hazy paleta pale ale" that clocks in at a reasonable 5.5% ABV and is made with strawberry, mango and a hint of ancho chile.
"I think we can all agree that while there have definitely been many different tamale vendors throughout the Chicago bar scene, Claudio has always been the undisputed king of the scene," Solemn Oath director of marketing Jared Saul told us, explaining how the brewery settled on the name El Rey Del Tamal ("the king of the tamale") for the new beer.
Cans of the El Rey Del Tamal (which sport artwork by local illustrator Jourdon Gullett) will be released at Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville on Friday, October 23, with delivery available to the Chicagoland area. If you can't make it out to Naperville, Solemn Oath will be delivering four-packs throughout Chicago on Saturday, October 24. You can order the beer through their website beginning at 5pm on Thursday, October 22.
While the Tamale Guy Chicago restaurant doesn't have a liquor license and is unable to carry the beer, you won't have to go far to snag some cans after a delicious meal at the reopened spot. Nearby bottle shop and restaurant All Together Now will be carrying four-packs of the paleta-inspired brew beginning on October 24.
A portion of proceeds from the hazy, fruity beverage will go directly to Velez and his family, so you can raise a glass knowing that you're helping out a guy who's probably played a part in making a couple of your hangovers a little less painful.
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