Craft breweries changing drinking culture in Baja California

A cold beer is no longer enough for millennials. Craft breweries, serving-up artisanal beer, are sprouting-up around the world, and the movement is also starting to ferment in Mexico.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports.

Corona Beer is one of Mexico’s most iconic products, and a beverage that has contributed to the country being the world’s largest beer exporter.

Mexico exported $3.8 billion worth of beer in 2017, almost double the second largest exporter, the Netherlands, accounting for 26 percent of all global exports.

Yet in Baja California state, on the border of the United States, the big brands have home-grown competition – a surging craft beer industry.

It is a gastronomic revolution that independent brewer Sergio Michel has seen grow from its grassroots start.

“When craft beer was first brought to the local market, we weren’t accepted,” said Sergio Michel, the Director at Ramuri Beer. “Many start-up breweries had to create what we called ‘transition’ beers; craft beer similar to the commercial beer the public was used to, to make the switch easier from commercial beer to 100% artisanal.”

Today, craft beer accounts for one percent of all beer sold nationally, and in Tijuana, Baja’s largest city, brew-pubs are abound.

The city’s craft beer industry has sprung up thanks to inspiration from this region’s closest neighbor – the city of San Diego, which many connoisseurs consider the craft beer capital of the world.

Today this Mexican state has more than 300 independent breweries, serving the national and international market.

 Yet business growth is slow; to remain ‘artisanal’, craft brewers can’t exceed 250,000 liters of production a year. Corona producer Grupo Modelo’s largest plant produces that amount in less than two hours.

Raul Funes is president of the state’s Independent Brewers’ Association. He says that at this stage, business growth still depends upon local preference.

“The vast majority of sales come from people who bring their own bottles for us to fill and take away, so tastes are changing,” Funes said “But in the rest of the country it’s difficult for that to happen. In the future, the idea is that independent breweries will end up exclusively serving their own neighborhoods.”

As Baja California’s craft brewers seek to change the culture around beer, it’s the quality of their product, that many brewers say, that will guarantee the growth of their artisanal industry.