Sunday, April 1, 2012

Micro Breweries in Mexico City

Before saying our sad goodbyes to Mexico and returning to California we made a plan to fly out of Mexico City (D.F.) and I made further plans to visit a couple of the local breweries while we were there. The last time I was in D.F. I did a whirlwind tour of the Modelo brewery and since then the craft beer movement has accelerated and the chance of drinking some flavorful small batch beer was at hand. I was going to take advantage of this new opportunity.

La Belga beer store
Staying in the Roma neighborhood of D.F. afforded me two breweries within walking distance of the hotel and after settling in and getting my bearings, I headed in the general direction of craft beer. Walking down Orizaba Street I took note that a number of the local drinking holes were offering a number of Mexican craft beers in bottles along with some imported beer. I even found a beer store that specialized in Belgian imports call La Belga. This was encouraging considering San Miguel has only one store 'The Beer Company' with a wide beer selection. I soon made it to my first destination, La Graciela.

La Graciela is a small beer bar that also brews very small (homebrew size) batches of beer that is bottle conditioned. As I approached, the first thing I notice was a small glass enclosed room within the facility that was home to the brewery. Proudly displayed in the front near the street entrance is a 'Brew Magic' ten gallon system and behind that, shelves containing bags of a variety of malts. The brewer was also imprisoned here and seemed preoccupied with his brewers log. I immediately ordered their beer even though the waiter let me know that they also had bottled beer from other breweries available. He came back shortly with a bottle of beer he said was a dunkel.

This was a bottle conditioned beer and curiously it had been stored (as evidenced by the yeast sediment that was adhered to the side of the bottle) laying down. This was unfortunate because the yeast dislodged as I decanted the beer causing the slurry to drop into my glass, releasing heavy carbonation along with a murky, foamy mess. The beer itself was enjoyable but did not qualify as a lager and the yeast lumps that floated and bobbed about did take away from my experience.

In the mean time, I discovered through conversations with the waiter that La Graciela is a side project of the much bigger brewery Primus and their Tempus label which in turn may actually be contract brewed by Minerva? I'm not sure, it's all very confusing since Minerva contract brews for so many Mexican craft labels along with importing some English and German beers like Fuller's and Erdinger. Does anyone know the full list of labels Minerva brews? (By the way, the Tempus Alt is a very good beer and true to style.) In any case, La Graciela's Dunkel was the only beer at that time that was brewed on premise and so I wasn't able to compare for a better impression. What is interesting about La Graciela and I give them credit for this is that they give brewing lessons on their in house system twice a month for those interested in learning on the Sabco brewery.

Alvaro Fernandez serves up a pale ale
Further down on the side street Queretero I located Micro Cerveceria La Fabrica.  The owner Alvaro Fernandez, a very friendly brewer and owner, generously offered samples of his creations while filling me in on the challenges for small brewers in D.F.

"Most of the stores that sell beer are controlled by the big boys Modelo and Moctezuma brands. Most store owners that sell beer are contracted by the mega breweries to sell their brands exclusively in exchange for some small perks like free refrigerators, chairs with the Modelo logo or umbrellas for their patio. Naturally, if you're a craft beer producer, it's impossible to get your beers into these local markets."

So, what is the small brewer to do? Well, in Alvaro's case you open your own store and sell direct to the public. The upside is that you get direct profit, the down side is you also get a limited market, very limited. In addition, you've got a huge expense to overcome in order to be visible. This is why La Fabrica has decided to improve their odds of success by selling other brands of beer along with a small menu of food in addition to his own brews, a pale ale and barley wine which are on tap. Alvaro brews on a 3bbl system and is in the business with two other partners.

I sampled his pale ale first and was struck by the subtle mescal like smoky quality. This beer is light, dry and refreshing. Unlike any pale ale I've had recently, the unique qualities were a pleasant surprise. Alvaro said his didn't use anything that would impart the flavors I was experiencing, as he brews with the traditional ingredients like pale and caramel malts along with Cascade hops. Then I tried a sample of his barley wine. Rich and malty with a big fruity complexity this beer was very satisfying and fit the style perfectly. Over 9% abv. this beer still came across as easy to drink with just a little of the alcohol presence. I liked this beer so much that I made a plan to return the following evening to enjoy a full glass or two.

I wasn't able to visit any other breweries as we didn't have much time but I will when I return next year. But for now, if you're in Mexico City I would highly recommend you visit La Fabrica for a truly authentic Mexican beer. Oh, his pizza is delicious too!

1 comment:

Angel Benitez said...

Love this site, I learn about beer and artesanal breweries in my own country, thanks for share your experience and your trips

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