Those who haven’t traveled south of the border in the last decade may be unaware of a new movement brewing in Mexico—craft beer.
“I think [the market] is still very much in its infancy,” said John Holl, editor of All About Beer Magazine. “It’s [similar] to where the United States might have been 25 years ago.”
Several craft beer outfits have popped up in recent years, Holl said, particularly in and around heavily populated cities such as Mexico City and Tijuana. Many are producing beer as different from pale lagers—like Corona and Tecate—as night is from day.
“We’re seeing stouts, Belgian-style ales, tripels, beers that have local ingredients in with the mash,” Holl explained. “I think local ingredients can really be everything. Beers are brewed with cactus. Beers are aged in tequila barrels, or with spices that might go into certain local dishes.”
Notable brews include Imperial Tequila Ale from Cerveceria Minervain Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara, which is peppery thanks to time spent in re-purposed oak barrels from tequila company Reserva los González. There’s also the rich, creamy Bucéfalo Imperial Stout from Tijuana’s Cervecería Rámuri, made with roasted Mexican coffee beans. On the sweetest end of the spectrum are seasonal beers brewed with mango and honey at Baja Brewing Company in Los Cabos.
Only a few Mexican craft breweries have infiltrated the American market, and many of these have American ties. Baja Brewing Company, which is owned by native Coloradan Jordan Gardenhire, recently announced a deal to distribute its medium-bodied blonde ale Cabotella in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.
The craft beer line Day of the Dead, produced by Ensenada-based brewery Cerveceria Mexica, is also available across the U.S. It’s sold at most of chef Richard Sandoval’s restaurants. (That said, there’s a possibility that Cerveceria Mexica is owned by MillerCoors, making it less than artisanal.)
Holl said he doesn’t know when the craft beer movement will reach critical mass in Mexico—or when it’ll make a big splash stateside—but he’s confident both will happen.
“As more breweries open up in Mexico, I think we’ll start to see them come up [to the U.S.] in small batches,” Holl hypothesized. “They’re not going to take on the drink-beers-under-the-hot-sun market [like Corona]. It’s going to be the more adventurous and food-minded people.”