Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Toro Brewing In Queretero

Brewer/owner Jorgé Torales
New friend and homebrewer Antonio (owner of The Beer Company) and I took a road trip this past Sunday to look in on a microbrewery in nearby Queretero to see how a small Mexican brewery operates and maybe taste a few small batch samples. As we reached our destination, we were not sure if it was the right place. We were parked in front of what appeared to be an abandoned building in a questionable neighborhood. The front had a couple of rusted and padlocked roll-up doors covered in grafitti. But as we looked around and considered the odds of getting caught up in a knife fight with a roving street gang, our host arrived.
Jorgé Torales is probably the youngest professional brewer I've ever met. Thin and energetic he comes across as unassuming, but passionate about brewing. He and his brother who have been brewing for close to ten years, own and operate the smallest brewery I've ever come across. Toro (a play off his name, Torales) brewing or Cerveceria Toro fits easily into one of the grafittied 40'x40' roll-up storage units with plenty of room to spare. But Jorgé and his brother have managed to operate the brewery and make enough sales of their three signature beers to stay in business. In fact they have been professional brewers for the last year and a half and are looking to soon expand. After being invited in, Jorgé, obviously proud of his product, was anxious to have us sample a couple of his beers but I wanted to take a look around first.

Malt mill
A sectioned off area where the actual brewing takes place is about the size of a large walk-in closet. A rectangular stainless steel mash tun that doubles as a boil kettle takes up most of the room. This reclaimed vessel has the capacity to mash enough grain for their typical 45 gallon batch.

I listened in amazement as Jorgé explained their process."The grain is mashed-in and left to rest."
Here he points out the false bottom for the tun which looks a little like an aluminum screen door."When the mash is complete the hot wort is pumped to a holding tank (their conical fermentor). This is a no-sparge process. The wort is held in the fermentor while the grain gets cleaned out of the mash tun. Once the tun is clean, the wort can then be pumped back in, the vessel is now the boil kettle. After the boil, the beer is cooled with an immersion chiller and then pumped back into the fermenter. This transfer oxygenates the wort at which point the yeast is pitched."

Jorgé brews once a week and they produce about 2,000 12oz. bottles per month. This production will double to 4,000 per month once they receive the additional fermenter that they ordered for their expansion.I noticed his malt mill against the wall in the next room. I was fascinated because it's basically the same type as I use for homebrewing in Mexico except a little larger (but not by much).

Mash tun and boil kettle
False bottom screen door
The fermenter was manufactured in Queretero for his brewery and has a 50 gallon capacity with ports for sanitary fittings. I was amazed to find out that he was able to purchase these new for about $800usd. and I took note since I may be needing a few of these for myself in the future. Next to the fermenter, on a heavy duty shelf on the wall was another stainless steel vessel that he said was used for the bottling process. The fermented beer is pumped into the vessel with additional sugar. Located at the bottom corner of the vessel is a valve for allowing the attachment of a filling hose. Each bottle is filled, capped and labeled by hand individually, after which they go into a temperature controlled room to condition in the bottle.

Beer bottle labels
 ready to stick
Now, I was ready to sample some beers and we sat together in a make-shift lounge/office area to taste and talk some more about nano-brewing. First up was the Mayan stout called 'K'ATUUN', a beer brewed with the addition of cocoa nibs. A decent beer, not as black as many stouts but the flavor of the roasted grains and the cocoa came through well. This unfiltered beer is not as clear as most commercially available but I'm not a big stickler about clarity in ales. Besides, the flavor of the beer was very enjoyable. This was followed by the Belgian Golden Ale that had flavors of light malt and wheat which was accentuated by the yeast giving it a smooth but tart characteristic. Again, enjoyable and easy to drink. The third beer was not available to taste at the time. That beer 'Mestizo' is (correct me if I'm wrong) their Golden ale but with the introduction of a quantity of mescal blended in at the time of bottling. I'll look for it at The Beer Company in the next couple of weeks to sample.

We got up to leave and I took one last look around but there wasn't any more to it. The basics of the basic. As we said our goodbyes to Jorgé and readied to head back to San Miguel I felt privileged to witness the spears tip of the craft beer movement in Mexico. In the future, Jorgé Torales and Cerveceria Toro may very well be looked back on as the pioneers of the craft beer movement here in Mexico. They are definitely part of the beginning of craft beer movement that seems to be mimicking the U.S. of the early 80's.


Jimmy said...

Hmm I'm not about them being pioneers, you should probably look for Cervecería Minerva, they really take the concept of art beer seriously, and have been around longer than Toro

Beer Diary... said...

Hi Jimmy,
Yes, I'm saying all breweries in Mexico aside from the two 'Giants' should be considered pioneers including the more obvious ones like Minerva, T.J.'s, Calavera because the craft beer industry is in its infancy here. Cheers!

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