Exploring the craft beer scene in Oaxaca

Beer is one of the world’s oldest fermented beverages–a hymn to the goddess of brewing was even discovered on a Sumerian clay tablet dated to 1800 BC. While the  tradition of beer-making in Mexico doesn’t go back quite that far, it does date to 1542 when Emperor Carlos V of Spain granted Alfonso de Herrera permission to open a cerveceria in the Americas. Mexico quickly established a reputation as a nation of beer lovers and big brands such as Corona, Sol and Victoria became synonymous with good times. Recently, there’s been a surge of interest in small-batch, artisanal beer. One of the newest and most exciting destinations for craft beer aficionados is the state of Oaxaca.

Chica Mala beer Teufel Nanocerveceria Oaxaca Mexico

Chica Mala beer Teufel Nanocerveceria Oaxaca Mexico

I had the opportunity to explore this developing scene as part of the launch of the inaugural Spirit of Oaxaca Mexico: Mezcal & Beer Lovers’ Cultural Tour in November 2013. Led by Oliver Dawson a beer expert who established his career at The Upper Canada Brewing Co., Toronto’s original micro-brewery and Alvin Starkman, co-owner of Oaxaca Culinary Tours, the seven-day tour introduced us to mezcal, pulque (a popular fermented beverage made from agave) and artisanal beer.

 

One of the pleasures of craft beer is the diversity of taste. In between stops at iconic landmarks such as Monte Alban and Hierve el Agua frozen waterfalls, tour participants were tutored on the distinctive flavors of fresh, natural ingredients such as barley, wheat and hops during a special event at La Olla restaurant in Oaxaca City where Chef Pilar Cabrera created a four-course menu paired with Tempus beer, Mexico’s first altbier, a traditional style German ale, brewed by Primus Brewery.

We also explored special cuisine during Day of the Dead festivities.

Fernanda-Suelto-Alicia-Martinez-and-Fernando-Bolaños-of-Teufel-Cerveceria.jpg

Fernanda Suelto, Alicia Martinez and Fernando Bolaños of Teufel Cerveceria

Another of the first stops along the beer-tasting route was at Oaxaca’s first micro-brewery, Teufel Cervezas Artesanales, perched above a lush valley in San Andres Huayapam. Brewmaster Fernando Bolaños and his wife Fernanda Suelto spent six years in Germany honing their brewing skills and their ever-evolving line of award-winning beer includes Babalao a medium-bodied ancient ale featuring malted blue corn and Chica Mala, an Imperial Red Ale with the lovely aroma of rosita de cacao, an ingredient more typically seen in the chocolate-maize drink known as tejate. Although demand for their beer is high, Teufel is committed to small-batch quality and produces only 150 cases per month.

Monte Alban archaeological site in Oaxaca Mexico

Work up a thirst by climbing the ruins of Monte Alban

Some of this fine-quality artisanal beer is making its way to Puerto Escondido on the coast. Currently, the most extensive selection of Mexican craft beer is available at Beer O’Clock on the Rinconada where owner Virginie (from France) and Brewmaster Patrick (from Quebec, Canada) offer a nicely-curated selection of more than 80 craft beer from around the world including Eel River, America’s first certified Organic Brewery as well as Mexican craft beer such as Minerva, Cucapa, Tempus and Teufel.

Benditas beer is brewed in Santa Catarina Juquila, pilgrimage site of the Virgin of Juiquila

Bendita beer is brewed in Santa Catarina Juquila, pilgrimage site of the Virgin of Juiquila

Other spots serving artisanal beer in Puerto Escondido include Almoraduz Restaurant near Playa Principal on the Adoquin where chef Quetzalcoatl Zurita Bustamente, who is a firm proponent of locally-sourced cuisine, offers Bendito, a nano-cerveceria beer (claro and oscuro) brewed in Santa Catarina Juiquila, located between Oaxaca City and Puerto Escondido, and an important  pilgrimage site for the revered Virgin of Juiquila.

So, the next time you’re thinking of having a beer, think small (and big taste) and reach for one of the new artisanal craft beers from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Travel Planner 

Oaxaca Culinary Tours: Custom tours with beer and culinary pairings are available. www.oaxacaculinarytours.com

Beer Lovers Tours: Learn more about beer and take a beer-themed tour with the pros.

Beer O’Clock: Located on Calle del Morro on the Zicatela Strip. Open 1:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. daily

 Almoraduz located on the Rincondada in Puerto Escondido offers a selection of Mexican craft beer Open 8:00 am-11:00 pm daily

Learn more about what to drink in Oaxaca in A Beginner’s Guide to Mezcal. 

 

 

 

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Showing 18 comments
  • sarah
    Reply

    Very cool. Yet another reason I regret not making it to Oaxaca on our recent Mexican adventure.

  • esperanza
    Reply

    It’s a long way to go for a beer but sure would be worth the trip! What a way to spend a hot day, immersed in a pool, cool beer in hand and gazing at mountains in the distance!

  • Lesley Peterson
    Reply

    Amazing! I would never have guessed that the history of beer making in Oaxaca went back to 1542.

  • Donna Janke
    Reply

    I didn’t realize that there was a craft beer scene in Mexico, but considering it’s popularity in the rest of North America, it’s not surprising. Your beer tour sounds great.

  • Irene S. Levine
    Reply

    What a great post! You have given me another reason why I want to get to Oaxaca. Never heard of the beer route before.

    My Mexican beer route is through the aisles at Costco during the holiday season when they sell an assortment of Mexican beers:-)

  • santafetraveler
    Reply

    Craft beer is all over these days. Didn’t know Oaxaca had one. Beer tourism is a growing sector of travel.

  • noel
    Reply

    Love those two bottles – very colorful lables. I would definitely try those out when I get a chance to visit….great post

  • A Cook Not Mad (nat)
    Reply

    Sounds like a great tour, very informative!

  • Doreen Pendgracs
    Reply

    Oh, Michele … you’ve definitely got my mouth watering. I would love to explore the world of craft beer and the culinary scene of Oaxaca. I can hear it calling my name. I hope I will be able to answer soon …

  • The GypsyNesters
    Reply

    Wow! That natural infinity pool is something else! We’ve just started enjoying craft beer (I’ve never been a beer drinker, mainly because I’d never HAD good beer until lately!). What a great way to see Mexico!

  • Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it
    Reply

    I am so amazed by your photo of the natural infinity pool. That would be the ultimate beer commercial. Is this beer served at room temperature or chilled? Just curious.

  • Linda ~ Journey Jottings
    Reply

    Oh!!! The look of that cold glass of beer really has got my throat wanting to gulp 😉 It looks so refreshing and delicious and the thought of that in hand while reflecting on that view over the edge of the infinity pool – I think you’ve just found heaven 🙂

  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    Reply

    I always think of Oaxaca as a place for beautiful crafts and mole sauces but craft beer makes a terrific addition. Tasting and sampling various beers sounds like a great theme for a journey!

  • Wandering Carol
    Reply

    Beer O’clock? Too funny. I’ve always been a wine girl myself but now knowing that there is a goddess of brewing, I’m much more inclined to give craft beer more of a try.

  • Raquel
    Reply

    Thanks for the information on the beer tour. What a wonderful way to explore the region and taste some great craf beers! I love craft beer (and tweet about it as OCBeerGal). When we went to Cabo, we were really disappointed in the beers there, but we missed these. Great article!

  • Sand In My Suitcase
    Reply

    We’re not surprised that Mexico (and Oaxaca) are developing some great craft beers. Their Corona is a pretty good light sipping beer for the beach :-).

  • Ursula Maxwell-Lewis
    Reply

    Normally, wine is my choice, but on a hot day beer is called for. Great to know craft beers are giving Corona a run for its money – and travellers an option.

  • Michelle
    Reply

    Now this sounds like my kind of tour! Everyone is always drinking fancy wine when I go on group tours and I have to admit to being a beer drinker 🙂

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