September 24, 2013

Has the Time for Mexican Craft Brews Arrived?

By Martin Cabrera

Mexicans have a long history of beer brewing, thanks to a group of German immigrants who came to Mexico about 200 years ago. And beers like Corona, Modelo, and Pacifica compete with big American beers. But historically it’s been very hard to find Mexican craft brews in restaurants and bars, even though American craft brews are now widely available.

It’s not a big secret why this is. When I was researching this column, I asked some of the people I know in the Mexican brewing field, and they told me about the difficulties small brewers have competing with the big guys. For example, the big brewers work deals with the major retailers that mean those beers take up the prime space in the coolers, usually leaving the little guys, who have much smaller promotional budgets, little room.

And big distributors often don’t want to waste their time carrying a micro-brew that can’t afford to market itself well, and that can’t ramp up production if demand rises. Again, that means the big beers get the prime distribution, and the little craft beers don’t get stocked.

Some Good Signs

However, there are some positive signs in the market for Mexican craft brews.

In my business I visit Mexican restaurants all the time, and some smart restaurant owners are realizing that an interesting beer list can attract customers. After all, doesn’t every Mexican restaurant already serve Dos Equis and Tecate? Mexican craft beer on the menu can make a restaurant stand out.

For example, if a restaurant holds an event in which good craft beers are paired with interesting dishes – the way wine is often paired with food – they could attract a whole new customer base. People appreciate quality these days, and if a restaurant offers quality beer, it can pay off.

And there’s a movement underway to get more attention to Mexican craft brews. Called “Por la Cerveza Libre,” which translates to “For the Liberated Beer,” is an organization that promotes Mexican craft brews. Check out their website here.

Good Beers Available

Fortunately there are a number of good Mexican/Latin craft beers available. The beers on this list below are not available in all parts of the country, and some of them are seasonal, but if you want to add some interest to your beer list, ask your distributor about these:

* Cerveceria Mexicali, located in Tecate, Mexico, brews a Day of the Dead line of beer that includes Blond Ale, Hefeweizen, Amber Ale, Pale Ale, DOA IPA, and Porter. There's a Facebook page for Day of the Dead Beer, too.

* 5 Rabbit Cerveceria in Chicago offers a line of craft brews with Latin-inspired flavors, including 5 Rabbit, a classic golden ale; 5 Vulture, an amber ale spiked with roasted ancho chile; and Vida y Muerte, an Oktoberfest-style beer with a touch of dulce de leche.

* Cerveceria de Baja California SA de CV, located in Mexicali, Mexico, specializes in craft beers marketed under the Cerveza Cucapa brand. The line includes Lookout Blonde Ale, Chupacabras Pale Ale, and Runaway IPA India Pale Ale. Cerveza Cucapa is distributed in Southern California by Polaris Beverages (email Steve Walker at swalker@polarisbeverages.com for more info).

* Cervecería Toro is run by a family in the City of Queretaro. Their line includes Supernova, Katuun, Golden, Mestizo, and Artesanal.

My sources say it will be six or seven years before Mexican craft brews are widely accepted in the U.S. market, but that just means that putting these beers on your menu now will put you ahead of your competition!

(Read more about Mexican craft brews here.)

September 24, 2013

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