Written by Patrick McEvoy. Owner of Elizabeth Station and the Bellingham Tap Trail Bottle Editor. He covers a variety of craft beer industry topics.
My favorite craft beer event in the world is the Expo Cerveza in Mexico City.
Ernesto Mora from craft brewery Central Cervecera in Mexico City was gracious enough to do an interview with me, on his 2014 collaboration with Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing. If you haven’t read up on the world’s most interesting craft beer drama, see this article.
This is the translation of the interview (translations are my own, as are any errors in spelling or punctuation):
Me: How did the collab with Evil Twin come about? And why did you decide to do it?
Ernesto: In addition to our brewery, I am also an importer of Evil Twin beers into Mexico. It was through that relationship that I got to know Jeppe. We invited him to the expo Cerveza Mexico in 2014 so he could visit Mexico and from that the idea came about of making a beer while he was here.
Me: What was it like to work with Jeppe? He talks in his article about how he arrived with an idea of what he wanted to make, but then you guys had to go get the coffee and ingredients (on brewing day). His explanation makes it sound like it all happened pretty quickly. Was it planned out, or just had fun winging it?
Ernesto: We tried to put a plan together before he arrived in Mexico. We often work out of other breweries (contract) and don’t have a lot of product on hand that we could use creatively. So we came up with the style we wanted to make, and a base recipe that we could modify as we started the process. I guess we didn’t really talk about it a lot, we took the hops that we had, we bought the coffee the day previous and got it roasted, and then just used the hops and worked with the quantities we had.
Me: What was brew day like? Did you guys have fun? Did you know it was going to be a success, or did you still not know what to think?
Ernesto: Brew day was very tiring, it was immediately after the expo Cerveza Mexico, and honestly we were totally exhausted. We left DF (Mexico City) at 7AM to the town of Puebla where we were going to make the beer. With just a few hours of sleep, having just bought the coffee, we chatted on the ride about how we started the brewery, how we work, how we see the market, and many other things.
The beer, we really had no idea how it was going to come out, we decided a lot of stuff in the moment. Fortunately it didn’t turn out bad at all, a little less bitter than we thought, but within what came out, it was really quite good.
Me: Was it a success? When I went to Mexico in November I searched all over Mexico City, finally ending up at El Trappist and bought their last bottle! The waiter even wanted to give me some of his personal stash, and was willing to run back to his house to get it (but I declined). But the beer was great. Congrats.
Ernesto: I don’t know if it was an amazing success, but it was well received, it has sold well, it was something different. Collaborations in Mexico are pretty new, and certainly on an international level there has been just a few. We are very proud to have two international collaborations in the three years that we have existed.
Me: What other beers do you make at Central Cervecera? What do you recommend?
Ernesto: We have a line of four beers, an American Pale Ale, American Brown Ale, American IPA, and am American Single Hop Galaxy IPA. We also have an annual barleywine on our anniversary, and this year we are making some variants: one with vanilla, one oak barrel aged, and if another idea occurs to us we’ll do that too. We’ve made a winter stout, we are starting to make a pumpkin ale, and other stuff. I guess I recommend all of them!
Me: Tell us a little about the history of Central Cervecera. When did you launch? What was the motivation to open a brewery? And what is your background with brewing?
Ernesto: Central Cervecera is a small brewery located in Mexico City, founded in February of 2012, now almost three years old. The owners started to produce beer as homebrewers and in 2011 we signed up to bring our beer for the expo Cerveza Mexico even before we had our business license, with the idea of receiving public feedback. We were very surprised as our beer was accepted very well and from there we dedicated ourselves to getting brewering equipment to grow production, perfect recipes, maintain quality control, until we decided to create and business and ended up deciding on a 1.5 BBL system, really quite small.
Me: I went to the expo Cerveza Mexico twice, in 2012 and 2013, but not in 2014. Can you tell us a little about when you guys have been and how things have changed?
Ernesto: As I mentioned previously, our first year attending was 2011, which was the second year of its existence. There were 19 vendors, 18 breweries and a group of young people who came to spend all their money on a booth (we were those young people).
In 2012, we came back as a full-fledged brewery with our image put together, more offerings, better quality and a bigger booth. On this occasion there were about 45 booths.
In 2013 we came with seven different beers and we decided to focus on draft. We had a line of single hop beers and were recognized highly in the Northern region, and received a lot of great commentary.
In 2014 we came back with nine beers, some limited edition and for the first time competed in the “Copa Cerveza Mexico” winning the gold medal in our collaboration with La Chingoneria/ Nøgne, and won silver for our American Pale Ale.
Me: How do you see the future of Craft Beer in Mexico?
Ernesto: The market here is really very new and has grown very quickly. But there is a lot still to do, in just knowledge, legal issues, infrastructure. But even so I think there is a lot of potential and will grow little by little to a national level and eventually an international level.
Me: Many people here want to know how the craft beer market in Mexico compares to our market here. For example, do you see a lot of American influence? Or influence from other places? Between Mexican breweries, do you guys help each other out or are you more isolated?
Ernesto: The Mexican craft beer market is very influenced by the US, owing to the geographic closeness. The majority of the beer supplies come from the US, the beers we can most easily try ourselves come from there, very few Mexican breweries focus on European styles, at least this what I have noticed.
As I mentioned earlier, the market is so small, it is pretty easy to know everyone, or at least know who they are, and yes many want to help each other out so we can continue to build this small market.
Jeppe actually penned an article himself recounting his brew day in Puebla. You can find it here.