My wife and I just returned from a week-long visit to Baja California Sur in Mexico. This is the southern portion of the Baja California peninsula. We were visiting friends who live there half the year to see the sights, enjoy the nice weather and learn about the culture.
Craft beer is not nearly as prolific in Mexico as it is in the U.S. There’s a few places scattered here and there, often in the border towns like Mexicali and Ensenada. The main purpose of the trip didn’t involve beer, but it always works it’s way in there.
Normally I’m not a big fan of lime in beer (e.g. Corona) and especially when they don’t give you a choice (shove the lime wedge down the neck of the beer). However the first beer I had was at a beach front restaurant eating nachos after spending an hour or so swimming in the Sea of Cortez. In that environment, a Modelo Especial with a tiny squeeze of lime went down very well. I had previously rated Especial as a 3.0, but bumped it up to 4.25. Freshness and place help out a lot.
The town we were staying in (El Sargento) didn’t have a big grocery store, but several small C-stores. The one we shopped at the most was called Oscaritos and it was closest to the house we were staying there. We went there almost daily to pick up vegetables, local cheese and other things for cooking at the house. It was there that I found a series of beers from Cerveza Fuana. This brewery is located in Mexicali, which is up on the border of Baja California and the U.S. So not “local” for El Sargento, but at least from Baja California. They had four beers in the case. Mala Vida Belgian Blond (4.25), Penelope Coffee Porter (4.5), Nox Arcana Imperial Stout (4.0), and Tristan Blonde Ale (3.75). Unfortunately, most of these beers had some serious age on them. The Belgian had good yeast character with some oxidation, the Imperial Stout was sweet and boozy, but pretty tasty. The Coffee Porter had held up the best, with good flavor and only slight oxidiation. The Blonde Ale, unfortunately, didn’t really have any strong flavors to hide the oxidation.
On another trip to Oscaritos, I picked up a six pack of Bohemia Vienna lager, Obscura (4.0). This beer is made by Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma. One of the two macro breweries that have pretty much a monopoly on Mexican beer. The other is Grupo Modelo, makers of the Especial I had earlier. This brewery is in mainland Mexico but it’s at least a Mexican beer. This beer was decently good, but a little sweeter than I would have expected for the style. A lot of Mexican beers are based on German styles, but I’m sure they’ve tweaked them.
On the next to last day of out trip, we happened to be spending a second day in Todos Santos. Something I had missed the first time, there was actually a small craft brewery called Todos Santos Brewing.
This was mostly an American style craft brewery with several varieties of IPA and Pale Ale, accented by a Stout, a Red Ale, a Brown Ale and a few others. I settled on the Chuck Norris Red Ale (4.75) and my wife got the Midnight Oil Double Black IPA (4.25). The hop profiles on both were fantastic. Very American/New World style. The owners are from Australia originally, so I’m sure they throw in some New Zealand and Australian hops that are all the rage now. The Black IPA was on Nitro, which was a little unfortunate, but it was still good. Neither my wife or I really care for beers on Nitro and it’s sort of out of place on an IPA anyway. To my palate, nitro beers tend to be a little sweet, lacking the carbonic “bite” of carbonation. That’s fine in a creamy Irish stout like Guinness, but for an IPA you want that bite. All in all, very good, friendly staff, great service. It’s out of the way, but if you’re ever in Todos Santos, B.C.S, I highly recommend you stop by.
The last beer I had on the trip was actually in the airport on the way home. San José del Cabo is a really small airport and the one choice for a sit down place to eat was a sports bar themed in Corona dressing. They had beers from Grupo Modelo, and the two draft options were Modelo Especial and Negra Modelo. My wife and I both opted for the Negra Modelo (4.5). Negra is a dark Vienna style lager similar to the Bohemia Obscura, but quite a bit better. I’ve enjoyed Negra here in the States on a couple of occasions, but fresh on draft at the airport in Mexico was a very enjoyable experience.
Another interesting thing that I noticed was that all of the C-stores, and even some of the small cafes were completely decked out in beer logos. A lot of the C-stores had their name painted on the side of the building, but the light up sign on a post would be a beer logo. The three I saw most often was Pacifico, Tecate and Modelo. Restaurants would also have logos on chairs, tables, napkins, etc. It seemed as if each place was “branded” by one of the breweries.
This logo was painted on the side of Oscaritos, and as you can see the whole building is decked out in the blue and yellow of Pacifico. The other C-store down the street was completely decked out in the red and black of Tecate. This seemed to be the way all of the stores were decorated. (Car shops were also completely decked out in white and green with a Quaker State logo on the side, so it wasn’t just breweries who advertised this way).
So there we have it, a small sampling of some beers from Mexico!