June 6, 2013

Mexican Craft Beer: New Launch Drives Interest

By Ed Avis

            Craft beer is a big seller in many restaurants, but Mexican restaurants haven’t had many options. Fortunately, that is changing – several breweries now offer lines of Latin craft brews, and two of them are reasonably well distributed in the United States.

Day of the Dead Beer

            The most recent launch is a line from Cerveceria Mexicana, located in Tecate, Mexico. The brewery, long known for its Mexicali brand, launched the Day of the Dead line and two other craft brews the week of May 20.

            The Day of the Dead line includes Blond Ale, Hefeweizen, Amber Ale, Pale Ale, DOA IPA, and Porter. Those names might not sound particularly Mexican, but that’s because the beers don’t contain specific Mexican-cuisine ingredients.

            “It’s just good craft beer made in Mexico,” says Joe Belli, vice president of sales for Worldwide Beverage Imports, LLC, which imports the line.

            One of the other two craft beers the brewery launched does contain an ingredient associated with Mexican cuisine – each bottle of Chili Devil Beer contains a Serrano pepper. The brewery also introduced Crazy Pig Mexican Ale, which is designed to accompany pork dishes.

            The idea for Cerveceria Mexicana’s craft beers started about two years ago, Belli says. The brewery was seeking a new introduction to the U.S. market, and a craft brew line seemed appropriate given the American appetite for it.

            Shortly thereafter Belli learned that Southwest Wine and Spirits, a distributor in New Mexico, was seeking to introduce a line of craft brews and had even hired an artist to create the labels, which feature colorful Day of the Dead designs. But Southwest didn’t have yet have a supplier for the beer itself.

            “We were perfecting the recipes for the craft beers, and they were developing this artwork and said they were looking for a brewery,” Belli says. “This was a perfect match.”

            The Cerveceria Mexicana beers are now available through distributors in 18 states, and Belli hopes to increase that to 30 states by the end of the year. He said restaurant owners interested in learning where the beers are available can email him at joebelli13@gmail.com or call him at 586-292-7933. There is no website yet for the beer, but the line does have a Facebook page.

5 Rabbit Cerveceria

            5 Rabbit Cerveceria in Chicago, which opened its doors in 2011, also offers a line of craft brews that would be appropriate for a Mexican restaurant. This brewery offers a line of seven craft beers 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.

            5 Rabbit beers are distributed in Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Visit http://www.5rabbitbrewery.com/where-to-buy/ for distributor information.

Cerveza Cucapa

            Cerveceria de Baja California SA de CV, located in Mexicali, Mexico, also specializes in craft beers. The brewery, launched in 2001, markets its line under the Cerveza Cucapa brand.

            “We have had some great success offering a true, authentic Mexican craft beer to Mexican restaurants,” says Stephen Walker, president of Polaris Beverages, which is distributing Cucapa in the United States, west of the Mississippi.  “We are marketing three permanent styles, all with a border theme. Lookout Blonde Ale, Chupacabras Pale Ale, and Runaway IPA India Pale Ale are all available year round, and we have some occasionals that we put out at times such as the Lowrider Rye IPA, Green Card Barley Wine, La Migra Imperial Stout, Diez Black IPA, etc.”

            As with the Day of the Dead Line, most of Cucapa’s beers do not include specific Mexican ingredients. “The beers that we have available all year round are just good craft beers with no typical Mexican ingredients,” says Rick Ortega, the brewery’s international sales manager. “We have a seasonal beer that we use Pilonsillo (brown sugar) when we brew. It is our Imperial Stout named La Migra.”

            Cucapa beers are only available in Southern California at the moment, but Walker says he hopes to expand distribution to Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas by the end of the year. If you’re interested in learning if the beers are available in your area, email Ortega at rick.ortega@cucapa.com.

Beer-Tasting Dinners

            Mexican restaurants are known for Corona, Dos Equis, and other popular brews, but few carry craft beers now. Day of the Dead's Belli hopes that will change, and is offering to sponsor beer-tasting dinners at Mexican restaurants to help the restaurants introduce the beers to their customers (email Belli if you'd like to have your restaurant hold a tasting).

            “How cool would it be to drink a Mexican pale ale with your meal? Or an IPA? Or a porter for dessert?” Belli says.

            Now that Mexican craft brews are available, Mexican restaurant patrons will soon find out how cool that would be!

June 6, 2013

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