If Mexican beer means Corona, Tecate, Dos XX, Negro Modelo, and Bohemia, you’re missing out! The craft beer movement in the US is being followed by an equally explosive movement in Mexico that already consists of over 500 breweries.
The Mexican Craft Beer movement started in 2013 when SAB Miller won its suit against Grupo Modelo over exclusive deals that kept other breweries out of the Mexican market. “The exclusive contracts that favor Modelo and Cuauhtémoc with these establishments may not, under any circumstances, limit the sale of craft beer small-scale producers in the country”, mandated the Federal Competition Commission. However, a consequence of the decision has seen significant growth in the craft beer market across the country. In 2012, before the judgment, craft brewers made up .05% of the market in Mexico. They have steadily increased to .5% in 2015, will break 1% in 2016, and are projected to grow to 3-5% by 2018.
While the Mexican craft beer trend lags that of the US, it has already caught the attention of the large breweries. For instance, Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma (part of Heineken) released a Chocolate Stout and a Weizen to compete in the craft market. Despite the competition, microbreweries are booming, particularly in the northern states of Baja, Nuevo Leon, and Chihuahua, but also more centrally in Jalisco, Michoacan, Guanajuato, and Mexico City. Border states have seen the most growth due to ease of getting ingredients and equipment. But the effects are felt throughout the country, even in Chiapas with microbreweries opening as well as bars catering to craft beer. Some of the mainstays are breweries like Cucapá, Insurgente, Calavera, Wendlandt, and Agua Mala. Some of these breweries have already started exporting to areas in the US.
According to Anabel Manzano, columnist at Animal Politico, the price of ingredients and equipment are difficult to bear for small breweries, particularly due to taxes. For example, Beerectorio reports that a case of craft beer costs $120 pesos (about $7 US dollars) to make while a case of mass produced beer costs around $30 pesos ($1.75). However, some craft breweries and the larger craft beer organization Asociación de Cerveceros de la República Mexicana are combating costs by growing more ingredients within Mexico. If they can produce more locally, it will significantly lower costs, making craft beer more accessible, cheaper to export, and allow more breweries into the market.
Highlights of Mexican Craft Beer
Due to my decided bias towards IPAs, I’ve been impressed by the quality of craft beer I could drink in Mexico, and that’s from Chiapas, the farthest state from the boom. Still I’ve been able to get access to IPAs such as La Lupulosa (Insurgente), Perro del Mar (Wendlandt), and Lycan Lupus (Cerveza Fauna) as well as a delicious black IPA Nocturna (Insurgente). Stouts have been good too from Baja Brewing’s quality Oatmeal Stout to Cervercería Jack’s Chocolate Stout and the best one I’ve tasted is from a tiny brewery named Cerveza Amnesia, an imperial stout named Apophis. But my favorite beer overall has been from Border Psycho Brewery, a double IPA named PeRveRsa, though strangley, I was not a fan of their regular IPA. All of these stand up well to comparable brews in the US, but that’s not to say there haven’t been disappointments as well (I’m talking to you La Br IPA!). But that’s the fun of the movement, with the bad comes some outstanding brews that are creative, delicious, and oh so much better than the Gallo and Cabro that were only available in Guatemala! As the movement builds, the beer will only improve and become more readily available to the point that the US will be able to taste Mexican beer not brewed with corn (damn you Corona!).