Monday, April 18, 2011

Mexico's Craft Beer, Latin America, and Context.

It's a familiar story: a handful of small brewing outfits struggle for exposure in a market dominated by giants. The LA Times has this feature on craft brewers in Mexico.

Mexico is in the second tier of Latin American national beer scenes. Argentina and Brazil are well ahead of the pack, thanks to sheer quantity of small breweries. Then you've got the second tier of countries like Chile, Colombia and Mexico with a handful. Finally you've got everyone else, which like Costa Rica or Panama is lucky to have a one or maybe even two micros or brewpubs.

If you want, we can even make a fourth tier with those countries that have absolutely nada in the way of independent brewing--like Nicaragua, where I'll be later this week.

Just to further beat a dead horse, that is type of context that gives meaning to the phrase "craft beer." Remember that next time someone is struggling to define it or arguing that it's meaningless.

This context also leads to a certain amount of hero worship of brewers and entrepreneurs, the ones brave or foolish enough to have a go at it. But is that sort of appreciation really misplaced?

If you live where the diversity of breweries allows you to debate quality instead of merely wanting something different... If you're in a place where the guy running your town's small brewing outfit is just another businessman... Well, lucky you. Count your blessings.


  1. For what I've read in local beer blogs, Chile is way ahead of Mexico and Colombia, quite close to Argentina, I would say when it comes to micro breweries per head. Also, in Chile two micros already have been bought by bigger companies, Kutnsmann (I don't now if I'm translating this well), by CCU (the biggest brewing concern there) and Kross, by Concha y Toro (a big wine maker).

    And BTW, I have the exact same sign hanging over the bar at home. It's done in "Fileteado", a home grown art form of Buenos Aires.

  2. Thanks Max, I'll look a bit more into Chile. Argentina and Brazil are a bit staggering in sheer numbers, but it's true that Chile is a smaller country. I'll see if I can get hold of a number there.

    Come to think of it, maybe numbers for all of these countries would be a good idea.