Beyond Corona

Cueva Carvajal bartender Jesús and Leslie

Cueva Carvajal bartender Jesús and Leslie

Mexico produces a lot of beer beyond Corona. Think Tecate, Dos XX and Pacífico. But there’s a whole lot more. My advice: on your next vacation to Mexico, visit a brewpub or a bar with a good craft selection.

On Tuesday, I wrote about being in Mexico while the country went dry for 57 hours due to national elections. Hours beforehand, my husband Hugo and I dropped by Cueva Carvajal, an upscale, 8-month-old gastropub in the Monterrey suburb of San Pedro. We weren’t there to eat, but I was tempted by the menu that included rib eye tacos, pork belly tapas and imperial stout brownies. Each item was followed by a description, a suggested beer pairing and the price. While gastropubs and their more sophisticated food fare (as opposed to brewpubs) are common enough today in the States, to Hugo’s and my knowledge, this is the first in Monterrey.

Cueva Carvajal IPAs

Cueva Carvajal IPAs

Of a dozen beers on tap, I tried a sampler that included a respectable house ale, Democrática. As a hop head, my favorite, of course, was Albur Brewery’s creatively named Mano Pachona (see the red bottle to the right in the photo). The” Hairy Hand” is roughly the Mexican equivalent of the Boogey Man. It’s a fragrant, nicely-hopped IPA (pronounced “ee-pah” in Spanish) that I’ve enjoyed on previous trips. Albur’s first beer when they started brewing a couple of years ago, Mano Pachona is now common and popular in Monterrey’s craft beer scene.

2015-06-05 18.15.39We arrived at Cueva Carvajal before the Friday rush hour and had the good luck to find Jesús, one of those classic bartenders, knowledgeable and willing to carrying on conversation between orders. He had plenty of encouraging things to say about Monterrey’s and Mexico’s growing craft beer scene. We asked how the pub’s growlers were doing, another thing we hadn’t seen in Mexico. “Very popular. Sales are good,” he reported. “Lots of people like the idea of drinking craft beer at home or taking a growler to a barbeque.” Don’t we know it. Cueva Carvajal get a big thumbs up for the solid bartender, some good beer and nice digs.

Mexico’s craft brewers face plenty of challenges—including obtaining supplies, a smaller target market than in the U.S., higher taxes, the absence of a craft brewing industry lobbying arm like the Brewers Association in the US. As an observer of the Mexican craft beer scene for a while, what I found particularly exciting was a refrigerator behind the bar, packed with different beers and the pub’s extensive menu of craft beers. The Regias are Monterrey beers, while the Nacionales/Industriales are those brewed elsewhere in Mexico and macro beers. Despite the myriad of obstacles, Mexico’s craft beer scene is slowly, steadily blossoming.

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