Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cerveceria Minerva

One of the craft beers that are more available through larger production and better distribution than most here is Cerveceria Minerva. Sandwiched between the two beer giants, they get a small allowance of real estate on the shelves at some of the larger grocery stores. That said, the main convenience store chain Oxxo (the 7-11 of Mexico), is owned by Femsa (Coka Cola) who also owns Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma (Bohemia) and includes Heinekin. Naturally, Oxxo only sells Moctozuma brands and Coke, not Pepsi, and so even though there are a million of these stores you will never see a craft beer in any of them.

So, against all odds, the 'big boy' of the craft beer movement in mainland Mexico is Cerveceria Minerva  out of Guadalajara, with their line up of five popular beers including: Colonial which claims to be like a Kolsch which I'll talk about in a minute, Vienna, Pale Ale, Imperial Stout and their idea of a Pilsener called Malverde.

A thumbnail sketch of Minerva's history: Jesus Briseno, the major share holder along with several other owners opened the brewpub La Minerva in 2003 and quickly found that he had outgrown the demand of the brewery. They managed to fund the purchase of larger equipment from the U.S. and focused on growing the business, bottling beer and finding a way to break into a market dominated by two giants, the Modelo and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma breweries. They made there mark on the brewing community after winning gold at the World Beer Cup in 2010 for their pale ale. Emboldened by their success, they ventured forth with some interesting and provocative specialty beers. One, their ITA or Imperial Tequila Ale and a couple of honey ales that are marketed towards the gay community, one called Purple Hand and the other Salamadra.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I sampled a bottle of their Colonial Ale which is marketed as the brew that made Cologne, Germany famous, 'Kolsch'. I was excited to try this beer as this style is one of my favorites and I imagined would go down great in the heat of Mexico. Unfortunately, I was deeply disappointed when I was initially impressed with the huge amount of diacytl in the nose and first taste. It over-powers all that could be good in this beer, like the subtle balance of malt and hops which took a concentrated effort to discover. This beer is 5% abv and is filtered clear and has a beautiful color and white head. The mouthfeel is full and carbonation is moderate but I just couldn't get past the aroma and taste of butterscotch. I'm not discouraged, I'll plan to sample some of the other beers they offer and report back but I hope there is improvement.

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