By Larry Woelfel
Yes, all over Mexico the revolution of the beer duopoly (2 big beer companies) has begun. Craft beers, artisanal beers, microbrews, whatever you wish to call them, have made their way to Oaxaca. There are at least 25 artisanal breweries in Mexico. There is even a day tour from San Diego to the microbreweries of Tijuana. In Oaxaca there is Bier Stube, a beer store dedicated to selling craft beers and educating the public. Their slogan, “Artesanía Liquida de Mexico y el Mundo”, Craft Liquids of Mexico and the World, reflects their purpose– .
On a recent trip to Oaxaca City, with the best of friends, we discovered Cerveza Camarada, first at a Origen restaurant (you don’t want to miss this place!) then a visit to the brewery, which is not open to the public.
Coming from a background of home brewing and California wine making, we used to say “it takes a lot of beer to make good wine”. In Oaxaca you might say “It takes a lot of mezcal to make good beer”. Although, I don’t think the brewmeisters of Camarada would agree with the need for that amount of alcohol to make their fine craft beers. About a year and half ago, Fernando Bolaños and Fernanda Suelto began selling their craft beers made in the beautiful Oaxacan hill town of San Andres Huayapam. Their brewery is part of Fernando’s father’s hotel. Just the perfect setting to make a product like beer. I was ready to “Work for Beer”.
These two young entrepreneurs met in Germany in 2006 while Fernando was educating himself in the German style of beer production. He prefers to be called a beer designer. They are currently producing 4 styles of beer, Schwarzbier (full body dark beer), Weissbier (fruity wheat beer), Pale Ale (rich, full body) and a Red Ale, and are working on seasonal releases as well. Talk about making them truly Oaxacan in style, the Red Ale has the addition of the flower rosita de cacao, a typical flower of Huayapam, and the Pale Ale is made with, what else, agave honey. The 77 on this label refers to the type of yeast used. The Schwarzbier took a bronze medal at the 2011 Copa Cervezas Competencias Amateur y Profesionales in Mexico, DF.
Cerveza Camarada is currently producing only 70 cases per month which just about covers my needs. One of the issues of cost of production as many ingredients need to be imported (this is where the revolution needs to begin) because of the beer duopoly controls. This is especially true of the hops. I don’t see that they are grown in Mexico likely because they don’t like much heat, which makes me wonder about growing them in the coffee regions. An internet search brings up a great related story of Elba Copado and her challenges opening of a brewpub, The Beer Lounge, in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco
As we left Cerveza Camarada, we were able to run off with 2 cases of the Pale Ale- Agave Honey Ale. I can just taste a revolution coming. For more detailed information and some terrific beer facts, you must check out their website , http://www.cervezacamarada.com/, but be aware you need to be of legal drinking age to enter their site. Did you know that St. Arnold is the patron saint of Brewers? He had his parishioners th drink beer instead of water during the 11 century plague in Europe. Beer saves lives when drank appropriately. In Huatulco, the Pale Ale is currently available at Hemingway’s and Café Juanita . Remember, at this time, Fernando and Fernanda only make 70 cases per month!