I met Cesar Sosa, founder of Thodes Ale, when he happened to come into Linda Merida to eat dinner with his family. As I was talking to the bartenders about locally brewed beers they pointed him out and told me he is one of the brewmasters in town. I spoke with him that evening and he invited me to his small house brewery where he has been slowly growing a microbrew business. The following week as I pull up to his house I was greeted by his wife, his son, and Cesar. We made out way into his father’s house in Brisas where Cesar occupies 2 of the back rooms to brew his beers. Cesar first fell in love with the idea of brewing beer while he was reading Mario Puzo´s The Godfather. The book is famous for its wine scenes and Cesar was inspired by the process of making homemade wine. He did some investigation, but realized here in Yucatan it would be hard to make wine, therefore, he decided to try his hand at making homemade microbrew. He bought himself a beer brewing kit for Christmas, used a tamale pot to brew the beer and made his first batch one year ago. He jokes that the first batch was basically undrinkable, but he bought several books (in English) and began to study the process of beer making intensively. He quickly learned what his errors were and by batch 3 he was very happy with the results. He spoke with a friend who is a graphic designer and they designed a label for his beer and thus he started his small beer company.
Little by little he was been growing and perfecting his beers. He currently offers an Amber Ale, Blond Ale, Brown Ale, Export Cacao Stout, American Pale Ale, IPA. His beers are full-flavored and are definitely on the watch list for up and coming Yucatecan craft beers. The most popular brews are his Stout and the IPA and you can find his beers in Merida at Raices, The Beerbox, Beershooter, La Linda Merida, Taninos para Todos and Hop Experience. He continues to study and read everything he can about the process and is very dedicated to his craft. His hopes for Thodes Ale is that it eventually builds a reputation as one of the best craft beers of Yucatan.
Miguel Tziu has more than 10 years’ experience as a brewmaster and officially started Alux Brewery three and a half years ago. Alux, named after the Mayan mythological spirit, is located in Oxkutzcab which is a small town about an hour and twenty minutes from Merida. I headed out there with my friends Tracy and Dan as well as my son, Alex. We decided to make a day trip of the brewery tour. Tziu greeted us and gave us a tour of his brewery which is now the third biggest brewery in Yucatan where they sell over 900 crates monthly throughout the Yucatan peninsula. They also brew the beer for 7 restaurant brands including La Negrita, Amaro and El Cardinal.
Alux is a family run brewery. It is important to Tziu, who is originally from Mexico City, to make a product which is very distinctively Yucatecan and Mayan. His beers differ from the other regional brews in that he adds local ingredients to his beer. They pay homage to Oxkutzcab by using the name and ingredients in their beer. Ox means Ramon tree (Mayan Nut tree) Kutz means smoked and Cab means honey. Ox-Kutz-Cab.
OX Stout is made with the ground nuts of the Ramon tree (Maya Nut tree) which is a very important tree in the Mayan Culture.
Cab is a honey beer
Kutz is an Ambar Pale Ale. The malt is smoked with the roots of zaptoe and Tabaco leaves
Alux also tries to be as environmentally friendly as possible, using biogas to fuel their stove burners and having a garden to grow their own ingredients for their restaurant. You can usually find one or two beers on tap at the restaurant. They also provide kegs or bottles for private parties.
Yucatecan Craft Beer:
Ceiba, Thodes Ale, Alux
About four months ago, I decided to finally try the new restaurant I had seen open up on Calle 60 and 49 called La Linda Merida. It is a place that I was curious about, I had passed by a hundred times on my endless walks through the Centro. The restaurant front is all glass so you can see everything inside from the street and there is an intriguingly peculiar pink and blue mural on the back wall that always caught my eye. So, one Friday evening I had no plans and decided to pop in.
As I sat down, I realized—to my delight—that they had 3 micro beers on tap. I know for many living in other parts of Mexico or abroad, having microbrews available or on tap is common; however, apart from restaurants and a few select stores that sell bottled imported beers, Merida´s own craft brew scene has just fairly recently started to emerge. I decided to try one of their beers on tap called Gitana which is an extra pale ale. I was pleasantly surprised to taste a real hoppy full flavored ale. Needless to say, I had found my new Friday night happy hour spot. As I continued to talk with the young, friendly and laid back bartenders, I asked about the craft beer scene in Merida. They told me about several budding microbrews, many started in the spare room of their houses. Thus started my hunt for great beers, brewed right here in Yucatan.
Founded in 2012 and named after the noble Ceiba tree native to Yucatan, Cerveza Ceiba is one of the oldest established craft beer companies in the region. It was started by Carlos A. Jaime who wanted to bring back to Yucatan a sense of pride in a great beer from the region. Since 1886 the state of Yucatan was a national leader in the beer industry with the Gran Cerveceria Yucateca that later merged with Grupo Modelo. However, in 2002 the corporate brewery left Yucatan and left the local beer lovers with nostalgic memories for the state´s rich beer culture. Jaime made it his mission to return Yucatan to its former brew glory. He traveled extensively to learn about craft beers and decided to turn his mattress factory into a microbrewery located in Garcia Gineres. Many of the staff, mostly women, from the mattress company stayed on to learn the new craft of beer making. As I got a guided tour of the brewery from Jaime’s son Carlos, I saw women fast at work labeling bottles and doing different duties. It is very much a family business with a local feel.
Staying true to his goal of making a craft beer the locals would be proud of and drink, Jaime tried to find a balance of tastes that suit Yucatecans who are not very accustomed to drinking hoppy brews. Even their hoppiest brew, India Pale Ale, has just a slight bitterness making it more palatable to the locals. Ceiba beers tend to be more of a malt based beer which makes them less bitter and gently sweet. They use all certified organic hops and malts imported from Belgium and England. Their beers include a Golden Ale, Amber Ale, Stout, Light Ale, Hefeweizen Citrus, India Pale Ale and their seasonal Christmas beer Navideña which is a chocolate bock. You can find Ceiba in almost all restaurants in Merida as well as craft beer stores such as Beerbox, Beer company, and Raices. They are also widely distributed in several other Mexican states.