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Mexican breweries declare a beer revolution

August 23, 2014
Minerva factory worker

Founded in 2004, Cerveceria Minerva is now one of Mexico’s biggest independent breweries.

Like many sectors of the national economy, Mexico’s beer industry has long been dominated by a powerful duopoly. But a flourishing craft beer movement led by independent microbreweries is showing signs of finally forcing open this lucrative market.

Since assuming office in December 2012, the Enrique Peña Nieto administration has passed major reforms to combat monopolies and foster greater competition in key industries such as energy and telecommunications. Mexico’s beer industry, which is worth approximately $20 billion a year, according to government figures, is also experiencing significant change.

The world’s sixth largest producer and consumer of beer, Mexico brews over 8.6 billion litres annually, while the average Mexican drinks 62 litres per year. But two dominant breweries, Grupo Modelo and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma, control 98 percent of the market, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report from 2013.

Minerva factory

Production at Minerva’s factory totaled 1.1 million liters last year. The goal for 2014 is 1.5 million.

Microbreweries account for less than one percent, although their combined market share is growing rapidly by 50 to 60 percent a year.

Breaking the mould

“When we started out 10 years ago the market was completely closed. The only beers that existed were those of Modelo and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma,” Jesus Briseño, the tall, middle-aged founder of Guadalajara’s Minerva brewery, told Al Jazeera.

Minerva, which proclaims itself the leader of Mexico’s “beer revolution,” sought to shake up the industry by encouraging Mexicans to embrace new styles of beer, while forcing open the market through legal action. The latter path led to a federal decree in 2013 limiting the duopoly’s use of exclusivity contracts which prevent most bars, stores and restaurants from selling rival beer brands…

Click  here to read this feature in full over at Al Jazeera.

La Blanca microbrewery

Run by German expat Petra Kittel, Guadalajara’s La Blanca microbrewery produces a range of excellent wheat beers.

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