By Duncan Tucker
Guadalajara is famed as the home of tequila, but those who prefer a quality ice-cold beer may be more surprised to know the city is also spearheading Mexico’s cerveza revolution.
Brewing in Mexico has long been dominated by a powerful duopoly: Grupo Modelo (best known for flagship beer Corona) and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma (which produces Sol and the delicious Bohemia, among many others).
The vast majority of Mexico’s stores, bars and restaurants have exclusivity arrangements with the two beer giants, leaving consumers with a limited choice and independent breweries with a minute share of the market.
But over the past few years Guadalajara has experienced a boom in specialty beer joints, aided in no small measure by the success of local microbrewery Minerva. With a small but ever-increasing repertoire of “artisan” or craft beers, Minerva has recently established itself as the first choice of those who lust for a more malty, flavorsome beverage.
Many of Minerva’s beers have a more European taste, such as the Pale Ale, which won a gold medal in the “English-Style Mild Ale” category at the 2010 World Beer Cup. If you want a more Mexican experience, look no further than Minerva’s Imperial Tequila Ale, which is brewed in barrels previously used to age tequila, giving it a rich hint of agave.
Boosted by a 47-percent increase in sales last year, Minerva now produces 30,000 cases of beer per month and has even begun exporting ten percent of its production abroad.
Led by Minerva, the Mexican Beer Association (Acermex) has filed a suit before the Federal Competition Commission reporting Modelo and Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma for monopolistic practices. The case remains under investigation but a favorable outcome would provide microbreweries with easier access to the market.
Guadalajara provides microbreweries such as Minerva with the perfect stage to showcase their suds at the annual Beer Festival held each October in the Parque Metropolitano. First held in 2008, the festival has grown rapidly, with more than 100 domestic and imported beers from over 30 breweries drawing in crowds of around 30,000 during last year’s three-day event.
As the local population has grown accustomed to stronger, more subtle “chelas” – the slang term for beer in Mexico – dozens of new watering holes have sprung up across Guadalajara, selling craft beers by Minerva and Real Express, another Guadalajara based microbrewery, as well as British, American and European imports hitherto unseen in Mexico.
Here’s a selection of a few choice bars:
El Deposito (Lopez Mateos 805 and Chapultepec 129) and the Beer Box (Niño Obrero 502 and La Paz 2183) have two bars apiece in Guadalajara, all stacked with hundreds of different beers to fulfill your every need.
Red Pub is a popular, although not entirely authentic, chain of British-themed pubs. Red double-decker London-style buses tour Guadalajara’s four Red Pubs, as well as running tours to the weekly “Lucha Libre” wrestling on Tuesday nights.
Now go and practice your best Spanish: “Dos cervezas por favor… ¡Salud!”