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Home brewing: the rise of Mexican craft beer

November 2, 2012

Guadalajara’s craft beer industry is booming, with new microbreweries cropping up all the time. Among those to catch the Reporter’s eye during the International Beer Festival in October was the boldly named Cerveza Uno, a one-man operation run by Luis Enrique Lepe Tinoco.

“I called it numero uno from the outset,” he says, explaining that although he is only just beginning to sell it commercially, Uno is actually one of the oldest craft beers in Guadalajara.

A professional sock maker, Lepe started brewing as a hobby nine years ago, producing beer for his own consumption and for family and friends. Learning from books and internet guides, he taught himself to brew in a process he describes as “trial and error.”

The entire brewing process lasts four to six weeks, with Lepe producing Pilsner, stout and chocolate beers. What sets these apart from all other competition is the fact that they are 100 percent wheat beers.

“This is basically my own invention; it’s never been done before in Mexico,” Lepe says proudly.

Lepe’s beers can be found at the Tap Room (Lopez Cotilla 1533), the Beer Box (Niño Obrero 502 and La Paz 2183) and a few restaurants in Guadalajara. He wants to sell in more bars and restaurants and if successful he could one day take up brewing as a full-time profession.

Despite the traditional dominance of Mexico’s beer duopoly Modelo and Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma, the local market for artisan beers has grown considerably over the last two or three years, Lepe notes: “People are showing interest in trying something new; they want different flavors, not just Corona or Moctezuma.”

Guadalajara’s annual Beer Festival, having just held its fifth edition, has helped build a market for stronger, more flavorsome beers than those that Mexicans traditionally favor. Reflecting on his fourth consecutive appearance at the International Beer Festival, Lepe’s fellow brewer Jose Antonio Valdivia says, “People are familiar with more kinds of beer now. They’ll ask for a porter, a stout or a pale ale, not just a ‘dark’ or ‘light’ beer.”

Lepe sold his produce at this year’s festival, although he could not afford a full stand alongside more established brands. “It was very expensive; [the organizers] charge 22,000 pesos for a stand. So several of us got together and we split the cost five ways.”

There is a palpable sense of camaraderie among small-time Tapatio brewers, united by their love of quality beers. Lepe’s companion Valdivia opened up his microbrewery in Oblatos to the Reporter this week.

Valdivia runs Sileno beer, producing “1,000 liters of beer per month, all bottled by hand, 100 percent artisanal.”

Silenio has a staff of five, two of whom are currently taking a brewing diploma in Chicago, Valdivia says. His beers, which include the 7.5-percent-proof stout Perla Negra, are available at the Tap Room, Kolsch (La Paz 2123), York Pub (Chapultepec 189) and the Pig’s Pearls restaurant (General Coronado 79).

Of course the major success story in the world of Tapatio microbreweries is the ever-expanding Minerva brand, which has really challenged Mexico’s beer duopoly and is now found in bars, restaurants and supermarkets across the country.

“Minerva is a model for the future. It’s been very successful and it’s grown enormous in eight years,” Valdivia says. For now Sileno remains a much more modest operation and Valdivia says he is still “better known for running courses on how to brew beer.”

One of his current students is Pedro Trujillo, the young face behind Perro Negro, which can be found in the Black Sheep (Libertad 1872/1840) and many other Guadalajara bars.

Trujillo’s latest invention is Muerte Subita (meaning “sudden death” in English, it was inspired by the Belgian beer Mort Subite). Half pale ale, half wheat beer, it features unusual ingredients such as orange juice and coriander seeds fermented in vodka.

The first batch of Muerte Subita has sold out in most local establishments, Trujillo says, but the Pig’s Pearls still stocks a few remaining bottles. “It’s really worth going down to try it,” he assures.

For more information on home brewing and Jose Valdivia’s brewing courses, visit

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