Friday, February 23, 2024

Looking for beer in Oaxaca? Women’s brewery continues producing

As mainstream beer makers begin to see their inventories dry up, a women’s artisanal brewing cooperative in Oaxaca has found a foothold in the local economy and has plans to expand.

Capucha beer has become an alternative to the plethora of brands brewed by Mexico’s two major beer makers, Grupo Modelo and Heineken, both of which halted production at the beginning of the quarantine period.

“Our beer tastes like freedom and rebellion,” said Nightshade, a member of the Women’s Beer Making Cooperative, which brews Capucha, Spanish for hood.

“The capucha is the hood that covers us, … that functions as an element of … feminist activism,” Nightshade reminisced with fellow coop member Chita. “It was part of our identity and it identifies us at the same time.”

Production started out small, just enough for family reunions or small parties with friends. But as time went on, the coop partnered with another microbrewery called La Juquileña to increase their production to 200 liters per year.

Brown ale produced by Capucha in Oaxaca.
Brown ale produced by Capucha in Oaxaca.

“We had a homestyle production [at first]. We made some and when we had enough we’d throw a party. We’ve done three up to now. Beginning this year, now that La Juquileña opened its doors to us to increase production, we’re … beginning to seek out more clients,” said Chita.

The increased production allowed the coop to branch out from house parties to local bars and restaurants in Oaxaca city’s historic center.

The makers of Capucha and La Juquileña are among a growing trend of female brewers in Oaxaca. Nayeli Aquino, who works for La Juquileña, estimates that as much as 40% of artisanal beer production in the state is made by women.

“We wanted to make our own beverages beyond the commercial industry of the big duopolies that, in the end, don’t have beer as good as ours,” said Chita.

Upon halting production, those companies had enough stock to supply the country with suds through the month of April, but since the federal government extended the quarantine period through the month of May, stocks are drying up.

The situation is most dire for small store owners, many of whom depend on beer sales for nearly half their revenues.

“Corona quit distributing three weeks ago. I closed my business two weeks ago, since my stock ran out,” said Lucy, the owner of a small beer distribution center in Oaxaca city.

But small brewers stepping into the space Mexico’s big beer makers left in the domestic market shouldn’t be the only thing worrying them, said Karla Siquerios, director general of the industry group Cerveceros de México. They should be worried about their clients abroad as well.

“Mexico is No. 1 in beer exports at the global level,” she said. “Now that we’re not producing there are many commitments that must be fulfilled. We could go from an export powerhouse to an importer. … The impact of the lack of production, export and distribution is evident [and] affects the economy.”

She added that other countries with Covid-19 outbreaks have considered beer an essential product and have not halted production due to the importance of the value chain to their economies.

Source: La Silla Rota (sp)

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