For years ordering a beer in Mexico has for us meant a refreshing light lager, almost always served as a michelada in a cold mug with lime juice or spicy clamato juice as accent in the heat of the afternoon. The narrow variety of brands to accompany the house michelada mix, from pale pilsners to dark vienna lagers, all come reliably from one of two giant conglomerates. (For the record, our favorites are Indio, Pacifico, and Bohemia Oscura.)
But I like small breweries – and especially since starting to brew my own beer a year and a half ago, my appreciation for the details of a brewery and of the breadth of beer styles has grown even deeper. Until this trip, seeking out beer in Mexico was never a focus – a real rarity a few years ago, here craft beer (“cerveza artesanal”) came later than craft liquors and we put our energies into trying good tequila and mezcal. This trip in Oaxaca that all changed as we enjoyed some truly good beer by three local cervecerias (and a few more).
The highlight of these is only a year old, La Santisima Flor de Lupulo (“The Holy Hop”), at the corner of Allende and Porfirio Díaz near Santo Domingo. Run by brewer Jorge and bartender Miguel, this is a tiny brewery that keeps three rotating taps run from 15 gallon batches in corny kegs upstairs.
On two visits we tried five different beers, all excellent examples of their style: a mid-malty APA with piney Simcoe hops, a Mango-Wit (a better combination on my tongue than most orange wheat ales), a fantastically nutty Brown Ale, a bright Cream Ale, and a smoky Porter. Jorge was kind enough to show off the backroom as they were brewing a new batch of the Mango-Wit in their homebrew-esque pumped cooler-and-chest-fridge setup. I wish it were feasible to have a similar business at home in Georgia – La Santisima shares space with a neat bakery/deli next door, and Jorge and Miguel are clearly enjoying themselves.
Two other breweries in Oaxaca are staying relatively small as well but doing a great job of distributing bottles to many local bars and restaurants: Tierra Blanca (since 2012) and Teufel Cerveceria (since 2011). Tierra’s Ahumada is a distinctly Mexican take on stout, with chile pepper and coffee evenly balanced with the dark base, while their Dorada golden ale is nicely light and hoppy. Teufel’s Chica Mala is probably best described as an imperial red ale, but with plenty of coffee and complexity – I look forward to trying Tierra’s Grana red ale to compare approaches.
As a closing honorable mention, our favorite outside-of-Oaxaca craft beer so far is Insurgentes (from Baja) Nocturna, a Black IPA that is a great blend of bitter porter with a strong hop finish. A happy surprise to find craft beer on such a strong trajectory in Mexico this year!