As Mexicans, beer has accompanied our lives since we were kids. And not because we could taste it from our earliest years in elementary school, but because for several decades, different brands of this golden drink have been present at sporting events, metal, plastic and wood furniture in restaurants, on TV and even in the shop on the corner where you used to go for a kilo of sugar.
Perhaps even as a child, you gave it a sip from a bubbly jar of beer forgotten by your father in the room and, probably like me when I was seven years, you thought that liquid “tasted really bad”. How could anyone drink and enjoy something so bitter?
Beer culture in Mexico: The History
The first brewery in Mexico tried to settle in New Spain around 1542, according to research by historian Maria del Carmen Reyna. With all the brand new authorization of King Charles V, the conditions for the success of that mission were not optimal (lasted only about 5 years this project developed in Amecameca), and it is not until the nineteenth century, over 200 years after the first attempt, that the efforts of European entrepreneurs were consolidated to settle craft breweries in Mexico City, Jalisco, Sonora and Chihuahua. Beer then began to compete with “pulque”, Mexico’s most consumed alcoholic beverage at that time.
The twentieth century came and, once the revolutionary turmoil passed, it started a long period of relative stability in the country, which allowed to flourish big brands: Modelo, Corona, Indio, Tecate, among others. The vast rail network, inherited from the Porfiriato, allowed beer to be distributed throughout the country, in glass bottles and bottle caps.
Today, Mexican beer is highly appreciated in the world, we are fourth place in worldwide production of beer! Similarly, the export of beer accounts for 20% of Mexico agribusiness exports, worth 2,814.3 million in 2016. What?
Eventually, we arrived at 18, the age at which you are legally allowed to access to this magical and mysterious elixir. Our palate has left behind the kilos of sugar we used to consume as sweets and was ready to try other flavors… And what did we do? Consume the same beer that our parents or the most popular one of that time! Why? Habit, massive marketing campaigns or simply because that was the selling beer near your home or that your family and friends drank, right? Oh, how tasty were the few beers with friends after college!
Although the annual production of Mexican beer could fill 10 Aztec stadium, how many Mexicans really know what they are consuming? How many know the history of beer in our country? How many ventured out of that brand of beer of our lifetime to appreciate the differences in taste, scent and body that are generated when brewers change the proportions of malting barley, hops and yeast or mix it with other cereals such as wheat, oats, rice or corn and even cocoa? The answer: very few.
But there is hope! We are few but, more and more, the number of us interested in learning and disseminating the beer culture in Mexico grows.Thanks to the boom, in the late 90’s, of small craft beer brands in Mexico, many have become aware of the manufacturing process of this tasty beverage, its ingredients and variations, its combination with different types of food depending on the beer in question and, above all, of their full enjoyment.
And you… which beer do you drink?
With collaboration of Miguel Hernández, @lavidaesviaje, http://www.lavidaesviaje.com.mx/