Beer Tripping | Yucatan, Mexico
Earlier this month, I visited the southern Mexican state of Yucatan. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a craft beer scene had sprung up since my last visit in 2015. Read on to learn more about Mexican beer, Yucatan’s brewery scene, and the best places to get a pint.
Beer in Mexico (not the Kenny Chesney song)
Mexico’s “big two” brewers Cerveceria Modelo (Modelo and Corona) and Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma (Tecate and Dos Equis) make more than 90% of the country’s beer. The immense popularity of their products has translated internationally as well–Mexico has been the world’s largest beer exporter since 2003. However, this hyper-consolidation has stunted Mexico’s craft brewing scene. There was not a single craft brewery in Mexico until the 1990s, almost 30 years after American craft brewing began.
Yucatan’s first craft brewery, Cerveza Ceiba, opened its doors in 2012. Ceiba is named for the giant, spiny trees that the Maya culture holds as a sacred link between earth, heaven, and the underworld. Cerveza Ceiba is the most common craft beer throughout Yucatan, showing up on restaurant menus almost everywhere I went. Their lineup is reminiscent of old-school American craft brewers like Anchor Steam or Yuengling: five core beers and two seasonals. Ceiba’s Ambar Mestiza became my go-to restaurant beer during the trip.
If Cerveza Ceiba is the Anchor Steam or Yuengling of Yucatan, Cerveza Patito is the Sierra Nevada or Bell’s. Only founded in 2015, Patito has experienced rapid growth and is the best-known of Yucatan’s breweries outside of the state. In addition to three brewpubs around Merida, Patito also distributes statewide, though their products are not as ubiquitous as Ceiba’s. They also have a core lineup of five beers, but a wider variety of seasonals and limited releases. Patito’s Porter Vainilla was among my favorite brews on the trip: creamy, smooth, and not too syrupy.
Cerveza Cuerno de Toro
Founded the same year as Cerveza Patito in a nearby neighborhood, Cerveza Cuerno de Toro is the most contemporary of Yucatan’s breweries. They emphasize collaborations, limited releases, and innovative recipes. Their taproom in downtown Merida would not feel out of place in Austin. Cuerno de Toro brews a wide variety of styles, but their bread and butter are stouts.
Beer Bars: Idilio Folklore Cervecero and Apostol Tap Room
With a smaller craft beer scene, there are also fewer beer bars in Yucatan. However, the pair that I visited were both excellent. The first is Idilio Folklore Cervecero in the town of Valladolid, a two-hour drive east of Merida. Valladolid does not have any breweries of its own, but Idilio fills in the gap. They had at least a dozen beers on tap when I visited as well as an extensive list of bottles, almost all from Merida breweries. In addition, their outdoor beer garden is fantastically landscaped and lit. They also have one of the more eclectic food menus of any restaurant in Valladolid.
Merida’s best craft beer spot is Apostol Tap Room. Located across from the posh Plaza Santa Lucia, Apostol opened last year. Their twelve-tap system was roughly half Yucatecan beers and half craft beers from other parts of Mexico. The singles fridge features Mexican, American, and European craft. Put it all together, and they have the widest variety of craft beer options in the state.
While Yucatan is not going to make any beer lover’s bucket list, the fast-growing brewing scene is a nice addition to the great weather, delicious food, and incredible natural and historic sightseeing opportunities in the state.
After this post was published, reader Mike Escamilla wrote in with a few more things to know and places to visit in Merida:
There are a lot, and I mean A Lot of what we here would call home brewers, that down in the Yucatan are able to, and do, bottle and distribute. A great place to check into local small brewers is to stop by The Beer Box, a retail store in Merida that specializes in Yucatan craft beer, or Hop 3 – The Beer Experience, a tap house featuring local Yucatan and other Mexican brews.
In addition to the fantastic Cuerno De Toro tap room and the Patito-operated Hermana Republica craft beer restaurants, There is the Cerveza Mastache tap room (two locations in Merida) which offer as many as 16 different house made beers in an open-air, ice house setting.
Finally, new to the scene is Bacab Cerveceria (two blocks east of the Apostol tap room). Owned and operated by a Californian expat, Bacab is immersed in Merida charm and cuisine, and its house-made beers (stainless tanks visible throughout the venue) are easy drinking and tasteful to match.