Written by Stephanie Carmon
About four months ago, I decided to finally try the new restaurant I had seen open up on Calle 60 and 49 called La Linda Merida. It is a place that I was curious about, I had passed by a hundred times on my endless walks through the Centro. The restaurant front is all glass so you can see everything inside from the street and there is an intriguingly peculiar pink and blue mural on the back wall that always caught my eye. So, one Friday evening I had no plans and decided to pop in.
As I sat down, I realized—to my delight—that they had 3 micro beers on tap. I know for many living in other parts of Mexico or abroad, having microbrews available or on tap is common; however, apart from restaurants and a few select stores that sell bottled imported beers, Merida´s own craft brew scene has just fairly recently started to emerge. I decided to try one of their beers on tap called Gitana which is an extra pale ale. I was pleasantly surprised to taste a real hoppy full flavored ale. Needless to say, I had found my new Friday night happy hour spot.
As I continued to talk with the young, friendly and laid back bartenders, I asked about the craft beer scene in Merida. They told me about several budding microbrews, many started in the spare room of their houses. Thus started my hunt for great beers, brewed right here in Yucatan.
Founded in 2012 and named after the noble Ceiba tree native to Yucatan, Cerveza Ceiba is one of the oldest established craft beer companies in the region. It was started by Carlos A. Jaime who wanted to bring back to Yucatan a sense of pride in a great beer from the region. Since 1886 the state of Yucatan was a national leader in the beer industry with the Gran Cerveceria Yucateca that later merged with Grupo Modelo. However, in 2002 the corporate brewery left Yucatan and left the local beer lovers with nostalgic memories for the state´s rich beer culture.
Jaime made it his mission to return Yucatan to its former brew glory. He traveled extensively to learn about craft beers and decided to turn his mattress factory into a microbrewery located in Garcia Gineres. Many of the staff, mostly women, from the mattress company stayed on to learn the new craft of beer making. As I got a guided tour of the brewery from Jaime’s son Carlos, I saw women fast at work labeling bottles and doing different duties. It is very much a family business with a local feel.
Staying true to his goal of making a craft beer the locals would be proud of and drink, Jaime tried to find a balance of tastes that suit Yucatecans who are not very accustomed to drinking hoppy brews. Even their hoppiest brew, India Pale Ale, has just a slight bitterness making it more palatable to the locals. Ceiba beers tend to be more of a malt based beer which makes them less bitter and gently sweet. They use all certified organic hops and malts imported from Belgium and England. Their beers include a Golden Ale, Amber Ale, Stout, Light Ale, Hefeweizen Citrus, India Pale Ale and their seasonal Christmas beer Navideña which is a chocolate bock. You can find Ceiba in almost all restaurants in Merida as well as craft beer stores such as Beerbox, Beer company, and Raices. They are also widely distributed in several other Mexican states.
I met Cesar Sosa, founder of Thodes Ale, when he happened to come into Linda Merida to eat dinner with his family. As I was talking to the bartenders about locally brewed beers they pointed him out and told me he is one of the brewmasters in town. I spoke with him that evening and he invited me to his small house brewery where he has been slowly growing a microbrew business. The following week as I pull up to his house I was greeted by his wife, his son, and Cesar. We made out way into his father’s house in Brisas where Cesar occupies 2 of the back rooms to brew his beers.
Cesar first fell in love with the idea of brewing beer while he was reading Mario Puzo´s The Godfather. The book is famous for its wine scenes and Cesar was inspired by the process of making homemade wine. He did some investigation, but realized here in Yucatan it would be hard to make wine, therefore, he decided to try his hand at making homemade microbrew. He bought himself a beer brewing kit for Christmas, used a tamale pot to brew the beer and made his first batch one year ago. He jokes that the first batch was basically undrinkable, but he bought several books (in English) and began to study the process of beer making intensively. He quickly learned what his errors were and by batch 3 he was very happy with the results. He spoke with a friend who is a graphic designer and they designed a label for his beer and thus he started his small beer company.
Little by little he was been growing and perfecting his beers. He currently offers an Amber Ale, Blond Ale, Brown Ale, Export Cacao Stout, American Pale Ale, IPA. His beers are full-flavored and are definitely on the watch list for up and coming Yucatecan craft beers. The most popular brews are his Stout and the IPA and you can find his beers in Merida at Raices, The Beerbox, Beershooter, La Linda Merida, Taninos para Todos and Hop Experience. He continues to study and read everything he can about the process and is very dedicated to his craft. His hopes for Thodes Ale is that it eventually builds a reputation as one of the best craft beers of Yucatan.
Miguel Tziu has more than 10 years’ experience as a brewmaster and officially started Alux Brewery three and a half years ago. Alux, named after the Mayan mythological spirit, is located in Oxkutzcab which is a small town about an hour and twenty minutes from Merida. I headed out there with my friends Tracy and Dan as well as my son, Alex. We decided to make a day trip of the brewery tour. Tziu greeted us and gave us a tour of his brewery which is now the third biggest brewery in Yucatan where they sell over 900 crates monthly throughout the Yucatan peninsula. They also brew the beer for 7 restaurant brands including La Negrita, Amaro and El Cardinal.
Alux is a family run brewery. It is important to Tziu, who is originally from Mexico City, to make a product which is very distinctively Yucatecan and Mayan. His beers differ from the other regional brews in that he adds local ingredients to his beer. They pay homage to Oxkutzcab by using the name and ingredients in their beer. Ox means Ramon tree (Mayan Nut tree) Kutz means smoked and Cab means honey. Ox-Kutz-Cab.
OX Stout is made with the ground nuts of the Ramon tree (Maya Nut tree) which is a very important tree in the Mayan Culture.
Cab is a honey beer
Kutz is an Ambar Pale Ale. The malt is smoked with the roots of zaptoe and Tabaco leaves
Alux also tries to be as environmentally friendly as possible, using biogas to fuel their stove burners and having a garden to grow their own ingredients for their restaurant. You can usually find one or two beers on tap at the restaurant. They also provide kegs or bottles for private parties.
As I continue on my search for great Yucatecan microbrews I came upon three more breweries. Although each brewery is distinct and has their own story and vision, they all have one thing in common—passion. , is why I love to interview and speak to people who are working with what they love and making their dreams a reality. They have a constant curiosity and passion to learn more, to create a better product and to enrich their lives and the consumers.
Rodrigo Loeza first fell in love with the process of making beer while he was studying Industrial Engineering at the university in Monterrey. He visited the Sierra Madre Brewing Company and was inspired by the flavorful craft beers that were made right there on the premises. Then on an excursion for school, he went to Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery company and was amazed at how the four ingredients—hops, malta, water, and yeast—could come together to make such a diverse and historical drink. In 2014, he tried his hand at craft brew for the first time. His curiosity leads him to begin home brewing starting with a wheat beer he called Cazadora.
During that time, he frequented a bar that specialized in microbrews called Malta. This bar no longer exists now, but it was the first bar to offer microbrews and all local beer lovers would gather there and try new brews. He asked if they would like to try his beer. The owners of Malta agreed and were really impressed. They started selling Cazadora and it was a favorite in the budding microbrew scene.
He then went on to brew a brown ale he calls El Jefe, and an extra pale ale he calls Gitana. As a new business owner, he soon realized that in the business of craft beer it is very difficult to make a profit because of the imported ingredients, the high taxes, and the middleman distributor. He decided to try to open his own restaurant and offer his beer on tap. That was his idea when opening La Linda Merida which is a restaurant and tap room.
He asked Bea Ancona and Ovidio Suarez from Cuerno del Toro to join him in his restaurant venture and now they are also partners in La Linda Merida of the Centro. You can find three or four beers on tap at La Linda Merida as well as a wide variety of bottled craft beers from several microbreweries in Yucatan and Mexico. If you haven’t stopped my La Linda Merida to try their tap selection, it should be on your to-do list!
Cuerno del Toro
I first tried Cuerno del Toro at a Club Sibarita beer tasting event. Their oatmeal stout was featured in the tasting and it was quite a hit among the guests. It is a full bodied stout with a touch of chocolate that reminded me of curling up by the Christmas tree during the holiday season. Cuerno del Toro is a small brewery founded in 2015 by a young husband and wife team Bea Beatriz Ancona and Ovidio Suárez. They started out as many brewers do, in an extra room in their house with a big pot to try their hand at brewing beer.
Both Bea, a trained chef, and Ovidio, a cattle rancher from Tabasco, are avid craft beer lovers and wanted to try to make a quality product they could call their own. Their beers have been widely accepted by the local beer enthusiast and soon they became a medium sized business and expanded their brewery to a warehouse in Conkal producing 800 liters monthly.
They were nice enough to take me out to their brewery in Conkal where they spend a couple of days a week brewing beer. Their ingenuity impressed me. They have created their own bottle sanitizer, and have welded tools to use in the brewing process. They label each bottle by hand, one by one, and are both enamored with the process. They call their brand Cuerno del Toro (Bullhorn) in homage to Ovidio’s roots of being part of a family of cattle ranchers.
Their three main beers are Oatmeal Sweet Stout, Imperial Red Ale and Mexican IPA. Recently they have joined teams with Ciudad Blanca at La Linda Merida Restaurant and you can find their stout beer on tap there as well as their other brews in bottles. You can also try them at various restaurants in town including Hop 3 (Casa Dominga), Taninos and La Negrita or you can get their bottles at craft beer stores: Raices, Beer box and Beer Company. Definitely, a brewery to put on the must-try list!
Patito started in 2014 with the idea to make craft beers of excellence and reclaim the grand beer culture that was lost when La Gran Cerveceria, left Yucatan. Their founders travelled the world to learn about high caliber craft beers and have brought that knowledge back to Yucatan. They are the biggest microbrewery in Yucatan and can produce 19,000 liters. The word patito in Spanish means little duck; however, in Mexico it has a colloquial meaning of a cheap knock-off without quality. The brewery Patito decided to use this name as a rebellious statement. They wanted to prove that their small brewery could become something great and offer a great product. That sometimes from the humblest of endeavors emerges an exceptional product. They give a new perspective about beer and aspire to surprise their consumers so that when they hear the word patito instead of thinking about a cheap product, they relate it with a product of high quality.
David Ortiz gave us a tour of the brewery which was quite impressive and also has tours open to the public. Be sure to make a reservation first. Patito offers 8 styles of beer and every three or four months they come out with a different special edition. They have three beers available in cans—which is the next best thing to a tap: Pilsner, Belgium Blond and India Pale ale. On tap in their taproom and in their restaurant Hermana Republica and Bela Chela they also have American Pale Ale, Dry Stout, Heffe Wizenbier, Helles, Porter Vainilla, Indian Brown Ale. You can buy Patito in most grocery stores and restaurants all over the Yucatan Peninsula. This is definitely an up and coming Yucatecan brewery to check out.