Monday, March 4, 2024

Why craft beer in Mérida is a hit

There are few places as perfect to open a cold beer at the end of a day as Mexico. Not only are the beaches a tiny slice of paradise, but the beer — which accounts for 30% of the entire global export market — is perfectly flavored to match.

But why is Mexican beer so popular? According to the experts, it is down to a simple reason: taste.

“Mexican beers are very easy to drink,” said Jonnie Cahill, Chief Marketing Officer at Heineken USA, which distributes the Mexican beers Dos Equis and Tecate, in an interview with CNBC last year. Mexico’s Modelo Especial has now replaced Bud Light as the best-selling beer in the U.S., while imports are up 10.6% from last year and today, the U.S. has become the largest market for Mexican beer.

Mexican lagers, malts and stouts have captured the imagination of beer lovers around the world with their unique blend of ingredients and innovative brewing methods. According to the Washington Post, Mexico exports more than twice as much beer as any other country. Mexican brewmasters gained further global prestige this year when Wendlandt Brewery’s American-style stout, Foca Parlante, won a Bronze medal at the World Beer Cup 2023.

A Mexican beer boom

The latest trend in the industry is the production of Mexican homebrews with distinct aromas and aromatic flavors. In the southeast, the burgeoning tourism industry in Mérida — soon to be further boosted by the Maya Train — has also spurred the expansion of craft beer businesses. One pioneer, Carlos Jaime Gomory, 29, is proud of the family legacy his company left on Yucatán as the first craft beer brewery in the state. 

Since the Gomory family’s Cerveza Ceiba Company was founded in 2012, more than 20 artisanal breweries have followed in Mérida, with supply chains spanning the country.

Mérida’s upward spiral in tourism has led to the growth of craft beer merchants in the city. (Shutterstock)

“We started with a 50-liter production team, and we produced a total of 1,000 liters per month,” Gomory said. “Now we produce around 40,000 liters per month, which currently makes us the largest producer of craft beer in the whole of Yucatán,” Carlos explains.

The young entrepreneur believes Mérida will emerge as the next significant player in the growing global craft beer trend despite breweries being almost nonexistent in the city just a decade ago. He claims it was a struggle in the early years to convince locals of the value of homebrews, with many uncertain what the product was or how they could make a profit.

“At first, it was tough for stakeholders to understand the use of quality ingredients, careful brewing processes and the variety of styles employed in the product,” Gomory said. “Today, our craft beer is on the menus of the best restaurants in Mérida, Valladolid, Izamal, Chichen Itzá and along the Yucatán coastline. We have even received orders from Florida, Texas and California as well as other cities across Mexico. The growth of beer culture is not only seen in the number of customers but also in the number of new breweries that bring their own interesting ideas.”

Award-winning Cerveza Ceiba offers four regular beers, two seasonal brews and a number of experimental mixtures. One of their all-year-round blends is the multi-award-winning Ceiba Ámbar Mestiza, which Gomory said is one of the most popular choices for consumers in Yucatan.

“It has received medals in professional competitions including Gold in the Pacific Cup and is on the list of the best beers in Mexico according to CAVA magazine,” he added.

Gomory describes the 4.8% Ceiba Ámbar Mestiza as a Viennese-style beer with an ideal balance, thanks to being fermented with larger yeast.

“It makes it very drinkable and refreshing, but we use smoked malts that give it a particular complexity and elegance,” he said. “For this beer, we use superior quality German malts and hops. It is an amber-colored beer, with woody aromas and smoky flavors, but ideal to enjoy in the Mérida sunshine.”

Another popular choice is the Ceiba Summer All Year, a seasonal blend that is a little stronger at 5 percent proof with potent aromas and a fruity aftertaste.

“It is a Witbier mixture where we add sweet orange peel (in Yucatán we call it China — pronounced cheena) and coriander seed while it boils,” he said. “It is straw-colored, somewhat cloudy and a bit spicy with wheat and somewhat citrusy flavor. It is a juicy and very fresh beer. We have it in bottle and also on tap.”

Mérida’s craft beer renaissance

Gomory believes Mérida is witnessing the dawn of a craft beer renaissance and is wholly embracing the global shift in consumer preferences towards locally made beverages. The state capital’s cultural richness provides a fertile ground for the craft beer movement, with brewers infusing local flavors into their creations.

“Mérida’s rise as a craft beer hub combines a dynamic interplay of cultural identity, entrepreneurship, community involvement, and supportive regulations,” he said “As the craft beer landscape evolves, and Mérida stands out as a promising player, inviting residents and visitors to savor the unique flavors of its growing craft beer culture. We recommend staying updated on the latest developments, as the craft beer scene continues to rapidly evolve.”

To keep tabs on the latest brews and blends provided by Cerveza Ceiba and any other major developments in the craft beer craze in Mérida, Gomory recommends following the company’s Instagram account.

Mark Viales writes for Mexico News Daily.

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