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Local brewery opens workshop to advance ‘beer revolution’

July 24, 2013

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Ever wanted to home-brew but felt you lacked the equipment and the know-how? Well now you can take advantage of the professional apparatus and expert advice available at the Taller de Cerveza, a beer workshop recently opened in Guadalajara’s Colonia Americana.

The first workshop of its kind in Mexico, the taller is run by Cerveceria Minerva, a Tapatio brewery intent on leading a “beer revolution” to transform the country’s drinking habits.

“A year or two ago, the average person didn’t have the means to make beer. Even if they bought a brewing kit the only option they had was to look for instructions on the internet,” workshop manager Ivan Torres tells the Reporter. But as of January 2013, Minerva has been aiding ale enthusiasts to produce their own craft beer, with a range of different courses on offer.

At a cost of 1,500 pesos, the beginners’ course includes three days of classes over the course of a month. Participants learn about the basics of brewing and end the course with a batch of 20 liters of their own beer.

The advanced course is aimed at those who already have some brewing experience, or at least a basic understanding of the chemical and biological processes involved. It also consists of three days of instruction over the course of a month, although participants are free to come in at any time throughout the brewing process to observe and ask questions. The advanced course costs 2,500 pesos but participants finish with 40 liters of more sophisticated beer.

Should you wish to take both courses, they are available at a combined cost of just 3,100 pesos, to be paid in advance. The monthly courses require a minimum of five participants and at the end of each cycle everyone gets together to try  each other’s produce and share feedback.

The taller also offers a third, mostly theoretical course for 1,500 pesos, which is focused on detecting and eliminating defects and improving the quality of a craft beer. “Discipline is very important,” Torres says, explaining that the three most important factors in brewing are the quality of ingredients – particularly the water, which comprises 96 percent of the beer; the process – which must be well defined in advance; and the levels of hygiene – with thorough washing, sanitization and sterilization crucial to maintaining the beer free from bacteria or harmful microorganisms.

Classes could be arranged in English for groups of non-Spanish speakers, Torres assures, and upon taking the courses, participants can buy all the necessary equipment from the workshop in order to continue home-brewing or even set up their own microbrewery.

More experienced home-brewers who do not feel the need to take classes but would like to take advantage of the equipment and expertise on hand can also rent the facilities and produce their own beer through the workshop’s “Haz Tu Cerveza” program. Minerva will provide the basic materials (if desired, brewers may have to provide more specific or exotic ingredients themselves) and all of the necessary equipment, while the instructors will always be present to impart advice.

The cost is 5,000 pesos – this can be split between members of a group – and participants will produce 40 liters of beer at the end of the month. Should they wish, participants can depart with 20 liters in a container with a tap, while leaving another 20 liters to be sold or stored for them to enjoy whenever they choose to return to the premises.

How Minerva became Mexico’s leading craft brewer

Founded in 2004, Minerva has grown from a tiny microbrewery to an ambitious operation aiming to position itself as the third most important beer producer in Mexico and the biggest Mexican-owned brewery in the country (Grupo Modelo belongs to Begian-Brazilian firm Anheuser-Busch InBev, while Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma is now owned by Dutch company Heineken International).

“At first we just had a tank of Vienna and one of Colonial. It was just sold by the barrel because we didn’t have bottling equipment,” recalls brewing master Roberto Rodriguez, who joined Minerva in May 2006 after nine years of home-brewing.

“We began bottling in around 2008 and we started to produce different styles of beer and sell them in a few bars and restaurants,” Rodriguez says. Minerva now has five flagship beers: Colonial, Viena, Stout Imperial, Pale Ale and Malverde, plus a number of special or seasonal beers, including Imperial Tequila Ale, a strong beer matured in oak barrels previously used to age tequila añejo; El Dorado, a fruity Indian pale ale; Rila, a red ale; Lupe Reyes, a Weizenbock; and Diosa Blanca, a white Belgian-style beer.

“Minerva has its own styles of beer, but other microbreweries also have their own styles,” Rodriguez adds. “We don’t see them as competition but as part of the growth of craft beer culture.”

The growth of this culture is the cornerstone of Minerva’s beer revolution and Torres says the main purpose of the new workshop is simply to encourage people’s interest in craft beer. Before the taller was conceived, the phase first of the revolution was the opening of El Deposito, “a boutique for Minerva products,” Torres explains.

There are now four Deposito stores across Guadalajara (the first at the Glorieta de Caballos; the second on Avenida Chapultepec; the third beside the workshop on Lopez Cotilla; and the fourth in Providencia), while two more have opened in Mexico City, where Minerva sales are also strong. Besides selling Minerva’s full range, El Deposito stores stock many other Mexican craft beers and import a wide range from Minerva’s partners in Europe: Fullers, Erdinger, Warsteiner, Schlenkerla and Delirium.

Minerva has also sought to promote quality beer through Guadalajara’s Festival de Cerveza, which began as a small event on Avenida Mexico and Chapultepec in 2008, but has grown into a large three-day showcase held every October in the Parque Metropolitano.

“Every year more important beer companies come with more interesting products. Practically all of the organization is done by Minerva. With events like this we can help people discover their favorite styles of beer,” Torres says.

Minerva’s central role in the festival reflects its senior status among Mexico’s craft beer industry. Its produce is now available in major retailers like Wal-Mart, Sam’s, 7-Eleven and Farmacia Guadalajara, while small quantities are also exported to the United States, Europe, Australia and Israel.

With a staff of around 15 overseeing production in 17 tanks – which each hold 5,000 liters – Minerva currently produces around 85,000 liters per month at its plant on Avenida Aviacion. It remains a small operation in comparison with giants like Modelo and Cuauhtemoc, Rodriguez says, but with Mexico’s Federal Competition Commission recently opening the market to smaller brewers, Minerva is well placed to capitalize as its revolution begins to bear fruit.

El Taller de Cerveza Minerva is located at Lopez Cotilla 1905-A, Colonia Americana. Open hours: Mon-Wed, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Thur-Sat, 2 p.m. to midnight. For more information call (33)1813-6111 or visit www.facebook.com/eltallerminerva

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