Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cuautemoc Moctezuma Brewery Tour

A little brewery tour back-tracking here.

Because our flight back to the states this year was out of Guadalajara, Mexico. we decided to spend a few days checking out this colossal city and part of that exploration for me was a tour of one of the brewing facilities of the second largest brewery in Mexico, Cerveceria Cuautemoc Moctezuma.

The makers of such popular light lagers as Dos Equis, Sol, Indio, Bohemia (my personal favorite), Tecate and many others, Moctezuma takes second place behind Modelo in beer sales and popularity (Moctezuma and Modelo are kind of like the Coors and Budweizer of Mexico). Moctezuma is the result of a old merger between Cuautemoc and Moctezuma, and combined, operate six large scale breweries in several states in the country including Guadalajara, where they primarily pump out Dos Equis (light and dark). I understand that they were recently bought out by Heineken.

Traveling by taxi through the run down and heavily graffiti'd urban streets of Guadalajara, I arrived at the front gates of this huge factory and got a couple pictures of the exterior before being met by their spokesman and tour guide. Because the brewery was mostly shut down for the religious holiday 'Semana Santa' for the week, they were not open to the public. However, with the help of Susan's excellent spanish to sympathetically translate my desperate pleading over the phone, I was granted the privilege of a private tour of the facility. Unfortunately, as I entered, my camera was confiscated at the front desk by the security guard, something about stealing trade secrets was what I overheard and was able to interpret with my limited Spanish. Consequently, I have no pictures of the interior of the plant except the one my tour guide took of me in front of the stainless steel boil kettles.

I can't be held responsible for the quality of this picture, my guide took it!

I've been on tours of large breweries before and this one, like the others, was impressive simply because of the grand scale of the operation. But I space out trying to comprehend the vastness of ginormous production plants like this. It simply overwhelms me. Looking around, I generally understood the enormous equipment used, the boil kettles, lauter tuns, etc. but was again amazed and confused by the abundant and seemingly endless stretches of oversized stainless steel pipes coming from and leading back to who knows where.

Leaving the main brewing room, we spent a little time in the bottling facility watching miles of conveyor belts shuttle thousands of bottles. Next to this was the bottle cleaning machine. In Mexico, deposits are paid on the bottles and most beer bottles are returned to the retailer after consumption. They are then returned to the bottling plant where they get cleaned, sanitized and refilled. Because of this, it's difficult for homebrewers to accumulate bottles for their own use. As we stood watching from an elevated platform with the high pitched grinding of gears and clattering bottles my guide explained important information. It was difficult to understand what he was saying to me as he competed with the loud machines. I couldn't hear over the noise, I just nodded.

The tour ended quickly and I was anxious to get to the sampling. He led me to an outdoor picnic area that was shaded with huge canopies with Tecate printed across the top. A stand up refrigerator stood behind a worn plywood bar. beside this was a wall mounted display case with the many different labels of beers. I was about to write many different 'styles' of beer but there are really only two styles found at Moctezuma, light or dark lager. In any case I noticed a bottle of bock but was quickly told that that was a seasonal beer of limited supply and not available now.
I looked through the assortment.

"Bohemia?" I asked.


Then I noticed and asked about the Superior brand but again, no, that is an export which you can get in the U.S.

"How about a Dos Equis?" he asked.

"Sure." I replied.

"O.K., light or dark?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Upcoming Beer Related Events

A quick note for those interested, I will be brewing at the American Homebrewers Association's Big Brew day on May 1st. at Seabright Brewery with fellow Zymurgeeks from 10am until we're done (6 hours?). Come out and watch the process of brewing on a small scale. There will probably be examples of extract brewing and all-grain brewing going on, not to mention examples of strange behavior after I've hoisted a few.

For those in the area that have been wanting to attend my brewing classes at Cabrillo College, here are the dates for the summer brew class scedule:

Beer tasting and evaluation - Sunday June 27th
5 week brewing intensive - Sunday July 11th, 18th, 25th, and Aug. 1st, and the 8th.

Go to my website for details about the classes at the college or at my home.

Remember that I am also available for brewing classes at my home upon request.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's Good To Be Back

Back in California and feeling a little dissoriented from the culture shock and the transition to an unknown future. Holed up for a week in the Rio Sands hotel in Aptos while Susan is in So. Ca. visiting with family. We will be house sitting these next six weeks and searching for a permanent home while we're at it. When we left California last year we gave up on the 'sure thing' house to return to, for various reason and so the challenge of finding a new place in the over crowded and over priced rental market of Santa Cruz county is upon us. Let us pray.

In the mean time, I've spent the last week and hundreds of dollars having repairs made to my car. Fixing mechanical failures because of the abuse it suffered exposed to the winter weather for the five months while I was in Mexico. Lesson learned - cover vehicle with a big blue tarp while away for any extended period of time.

On the up side, I'm really enjoying all the beers that now seem to be everywhere, enjoying beyond moderation to be frank. It's overwhelming to have such a great variety of fantastic beers after that dry spell I call Mexico. I went after my favorites right away, Sierra Nevada pale ale and Torpedo from the grocery store, Trumer Pils on draft at the nearby bistro and Pelican Pale ale at Seabright brewery. Not to mentions the beers that I've had chilled in my kegerator while I was gone, La Chouffe Golden, Affligem Double and Paulaner Salvator. Besides that, I've got twenty five gallons of homebrew that has been lagering this whole time including a year old 10%abv. Russian Imperial stout, a Weizenbock and a Schwarzbeir. As much as I like Mexico, Oh it's good to be back.

My upcoming beer activities begin with the American Homebrewers Associations Big Brew Day on May 1st. where I plan to brew with fellow Zymurgeeks homebrew club members at Seabright Brewery. I've also got the five weekend intensive brew course scheduled at Cabrillo College in July but first a beer tasting session at the end of June. If you're in the area and want to attend the Cabrillo College classes but have questions, please feel free to email me for more information.

Now, I've really got to get back to drinking some more of this beer!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Der Krug Brauhaus In Guadalajara

We don't have a lot of time to spend in Guadalajara before returning to Santa Cruz. So before we left San Miguel, I got on line and looked around for breweries and brewpubs to visit in the vast city. Naturally the list was short and highly suspect. I crossed a few off after using Google Earth to discover their address as a heavily grafittied business district or suspicious store front.

I did come up with a couple legitimate places, one of those being the Cuautemoc Moctezuma brewery the makers of such classics as Sol, XX, and Bohemia, which I will review later. The other was the Der Krug Brauhaus in Colonial Americana, about a fifteen minute taxi ride from our hotel.

I have to admit I had high hopes for this place and was very excited by the prospects of sampling a variety of German beers and at the same time cautiously familiar with the deceptions that occurs around beer in Mexico. For example, there is a place in San Miguel named 'The Limerick' that gives the impression they are an authentic Irish pub with a clover leaf sign out front and Irish and English beers on display behind the bar. The fact is, they only serve Modelo. So I tempered my enthusiasm and boldly aproached Der Krug with a hopeful spirit.

Der Krug is located in a quite residencial neighborhood with a substantial outside seating patio facing the street. Upon arrival I took note of the shiny, if not antiquated, stainless steel brewing vessels behind the bar. We took a seat outside and looked over the choices of beers. There are only three, my first dissapointment. A stout (not typically German), a hefeweizen and what they refered to as a Red Ale which as it turns out is a blend of their stout and hefeweizen (huh?). I suspiciously ordered the stout and hefeweizen, holding off on the red ale.

At this time I want to point out that I try to be as generous as I can when reviewing beer and breweries. These businesses are trying to do the best they can and earn an honest living and I applaud their efforts. This is also just one persons biased opinion and should be regarded as such. No ill feelings are meant on a personal basis.

The best I can say for the stout was that it was o.k. On the thin side with no remarkable character but not offensive and I finished the glass. On the other hand the hefe was not only room temperature (a room in Guadalajara this time of year is about 75f.) it was fermented without the use of the traditional German wheat yeast and so was missing the classic spicy phenol and fruity ester characters needed to be defined as a German hefeweizen. This beer was bland and unremarkable, so I won't elaborate other than to say that it was politely returned after a couple sips to confirm my displeasure. As I said,I left the Red Ale up to my imagination and saved myself the equivalent of $3.50 usd.

To make matters worse, the food was marginal at best, my schnitzel was some kind of corn breaded flank steak(?). In the end I can not recommend Der Krug Brauhaus for anything except the Modelo on draft.
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